Original publication: September 2016
Authors: Filipa Azevedo, Diána Haase – Research Administrators
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The Concept of Technical Assistance
Technical Assistance at the Initiative of the Commission

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The term ‘technical assistance’ has been widely used by international organisations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in a sense that has been summarised as: ‘the transfer or adaptation of ideas, knowledge, practices, technologies, or skills to foster economic development’. In recent years the term ‘technical cooperation’ has also been used, in a sense similar to that of TA but describing a broader strategy and implying a more equal relationship between countries (a case in point being the OECD).

At the EU level, the Financial Regulation and its rules of application define TA as the support and capacity-building activities necessary for the implementation of a programme or an action, in particular preparatory, management, monitoring, evaluation, audit and control activities. In the context of the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESI Funds), TA supports, among other measures, the institutional strengthening and administrative capacity- building for the effective management of the Funds. The concept was introduced in the Structural Funds regulations in 1988 and has always implied activities at the initiative of either the Commission or the Member States (MS). However, in the 2007-2013 programming period regulations introduced a clearer differentiation of these two types of technical assistance.

The sections that follow provide more detailed information on the evolution of TA between the different reforms of the Structural Funds, since 1988 and up to the current programming period (2014-2020).

Historical and Legislative Evolution in the context of the ESI Funds

The information available on TA in the context of the Structural Funds is highly fragmented. The concept appeared for the first time and in a broad sense with the 1988 reform of the then three existing Structural Funds, i.e. the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the European Social Fund (ESF) and the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund, Guidance Section (EAGGF Guidance Section). Until 2006 the regulations did not clearly separate TA at the initiative of the Commission from TA at the initiative of the MS; the main distinction made was based on the allocation and management of resources within or outside the programming documents. In the 2007-2013 programming period, two distinct articles were introduced into the regulations, clearly differentiating TA activities at the initiative of the Commission and those at the initiative of the MS. From this period on, the scope of TA was significantly enlarged and more types of eligible actions were added.

Link to the full study: http://bit.ly/585-889

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