Setting-up the Network
Budgets and funding
Over €515 million was committed to the operation of networks (including NRNS and the ENRD) during the 2007-2013 programming period, of which an estimated €268 million came from the EAFRD (less than 0.3% of total EAFRD funding) and €247 million from national co-financing.
The majority of national rural networks (NRNs) are funded from the Technical Assistance budget of the relevant rural development programme (RDP). Indicative financial tables for the NRNs must make a clear distinction between the structure (usually a network support unit) needed to run the network and the cost of implementing the Annual Work Plan (AWP).
In the absence of any specific provisions for 2007-2103, Member States were free to decide how much of their Technical Assistance budget to allocate to the operation of their NRNs. Average EAFRD co-financing was 52%, but varied greatly between Member States from 80% in Bulgaria and Romania to 0% in Luxembourg and Northern Ireland. For most NSUs, staff costs represent the major component of the budget.
There is no clear guidance available on what minimum critical mass the NSUs should have in order to ensure their smooth, efficient and effective running. However it is obvious that the capacity of an NSU to achieve its commitments, promote its visibility and actively serve the needs of the wider community of rural stakeholders will depend upon it having a secure and sound financial allocation.
Budgeting for the NSU should not overlook the possibility that internal resources and expertise possessed by the NSU may need to be complemented with the support of external technical expertise. There must be a balance between the work done by internal staff, and that done by external resources. Good coordination, versatility and flexibility are required to ensure the optimum use of available resources – as well as transparency in all decision-making and management regarding the use of external services / contractors.
In accordance with Article 66 of the EAFRD Regulation 1698/2005, some of the Member States with regionalised RDPs (Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain) chose to operate and finance NRNs in the framework of a programme document (NRN-P). For NRN-Ps the expenditure related to the structure needed to run the network was not permitted to exceed 25% of the total amount of that programme.