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How to Deal with Legal Uncertainty: Managing and Audit Authorities in Cohesion Policy


Lysette Meuleman, Alex Brenninkmeijer
Keywords: Managing Authority, Audit Authority, Legal (un)certainty, Shared management, cohesion policy, financial management

Cohesion policy (ERDF, ESF and CF) is implemented in a system of shared management. Signals received from some EU countries indicate that legal uncertainty is created for beneficiaries of cohesion policy funds due to differences in interpretation of, mostly national, regulation. This is a problem because the prospect of legal uncertainty, with the consequence of returning paid subsidies, and the audit burden associated with European funding, may deter organizations from applying for funds. This paper tries to gain a first insight in how this legal uncertainty is created and whether these differences in interpretation are found across the EU. This study focuses on the relationship and communication between the management and audit authorities and the effect of this dialogue on legal certainty and the way audit is carried out under a shared management system. We touch upon the fear of audits, fear because professionals feel they are under constant challenge of being undermined in the future.

Alex Brenninkmeijer is Member of the European Court of Auditors (<> and honorary Professor at Utrecht University Faculty of Law, Economics and Governance (<> Previously, he was Ombudsman and deeply involved in analyses on the relation between citizens and governments and published a report on the ‘incomprehensible government’ (View the report at <> Alex Brenninkmeijer is a graduate of the University of Groningen. Lysette Meuleman studied European Union Studies at the University of Leiden, Netherlands. She joined the Cabinet of Alex Brenninkmeijer in 2016 as part of her traineeship at the Dutch government. The opinions expressed by the authors in this publication in no way commit the European Court of Auditors.


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