BETKOSOL will take place at the LUISS-Libera Università degli Studi Sociali “Guido Carli” during the course of 18 months, from January 2021 to June 2022. The LUISS “Guido Carli” will be the leaders of the comparative law study but, as important research experts and research centers, the Department of Criminology, Criminal Law and Social Law (UGent) will be involved too.
BETKOSOL aims to investigate the limits and perspectives of an improvement of the current regulatory framework in the fight against frauds affecting EU financial interests, in particular in the social, health, and economic sectors, and taking into account how the COVID-19 crisis may affect the status quo. The first step is a legal analysis, both at the EU level of government and at selected national experiences (Belgium, Germany, Italy, and Poland) in a comparative perspective. The MS are chosen for their different economic, administrative, and welfare systems. They also vary in terms of the impact of the COVID-19 crisis. This will ensure greater awareness of the European context. The second is to study how the COVID-19 crisis modifies the multilevel framework. In this view, BETKOSOL will examine the new multiannual financial framework, especially public procurement for sanitary equipment in ESM and RF expenditures; EUSF; SURE; ESF; EIF; ERASMUS+. The third step is to highlight the new risks and causes of fraud, considering that the extreme historical contingencies provide a newfangled point of view to show challenges with the protection of the EU’s financial interests in quite ‘new’ sectors. These steps will be analyzed transversely in the first 3 correspondents WP’s and through a mixed-method (doctrinal/empirical). The WP4 (better regulation) will be based on the outputs from the previous ones (better knowledge and funding). A strategy to improve the long-term outcomes of the European anti-fraud policy will be proposed, in the direction to face risks that the new health crisis will show. The main focus will be on the functioning of (i) the shared administration to prevent fraud; (ii) the territorial control network (iii) the inspection activity for the detection of a (limited) number and typology of cases to be addressed by OLAF and EPPO. BETKOSOL will also have a social impact, involving students (Open Days) and citizens (empirical study).
The research will be articulated along 4 work packages:
- WP1 “examination of the EU framework” will run from M1 to M4 in LUISS in collaboration with the external partner;
- WP 2 “comparative legal analysis of the MS’ framework” will run from M1 to M4
- WP3 “empirical comparative research” will run from M5 to M16;
- WP 4 “recommendations” will run from M17 to M18 at LUISS.
The main objective of BETKOSOL is to contribute to the protection of the public spending of the Union, and thus of its taxpayers by respecting and/or adjusting the existing legal framework. In this historical fragment, dominated by the COVID-19 crisis, proper use of European resources will also guarantee stability, recovery, and solidarity and show a sense of responsibility. This attention for European citizens’ interest is evident under many aspects: the centrality of the social sector, the role of the territorial dimension, and its involvement in the chain of controls. In addition to this, one of the tasks of BETKOSOL is the dissemination in favor of students but, also, the design of empirical research, involving target groups from the civil society in addition to civil servants. From the operational point of view, the joint research aims to provide some directions to improve the detection of frauds and irregularities. For example, it aims to suggest how to shape the procedures under the new multiannual financial framework ex-ante or in itinere or, also, how to prevent fraud, specifically in social sectors. To this end, transnational and multi-disciplinary cooperation is considered of major importance, as well as facilitating the exchange of information, experiences, and best practices. From the legal point of view, BETKOSOL wants to enhance the degree of development of specific legal tools in the field of financial protection using a comparative dimension (administrative control practices, monitoring of the administrative capacity, systems of early warning by citizens, etc.). In this way, BETKOSOL will answer these relevant questions: are European and national current tools sufficient? Is the interplay between both well-balanced? Or do they need to be improved, considering also that the EU has supporting competencies in those sectors at the moment under stress and that will receive a large amount of money in the next years (i.e. health care)?
BETKOSOL team will give more general suggestions on how to improve the European anti-fraud policy in the long term. Firstly, the study will focus on how to improve shared administration in order to prevent fraud and, also, how to strengthen the coordination role of the EC and that of OLAF. Secondly, it will explore the possibility to improve the territorial network of controls in the medium term, in the sense that each actor should have an advantage in controlling (i.e. the discussion of an anti-fraud strategy during the negotiation for MS-EC partnership on EISF). Thirdly, the research wants to understand how to favor a deterrent action in the long term and to highlight experimental administrative procedures to limit the number of cases that will arrive in front of OLAF and EPPO (also investigating how these cases should be selected, whether on the basis of probability, seriousness or supranational relevance and on the basis of risk responsiveness and proportionality). Again, the policies sector analyzed in the first part of BETKOSOL will give fruitful examples. Through this, citizens will benefit from the better spending of EU resources in the future and they will not be penalized by illegal behaviors. The research will not undervalue possibilities of their more direct involvement, mainly through empirical research.
European add value
The European dimension is two-tiers. On the one end, there is a territorial relevance, since the selected MS represents the axes South-North and East-West. On the other hand, there is a “topic” relevance, since not only the new multiannual financial framework is taken into consideration, but also the way in which the COVID-19 emergency overlaps with it. These two levels give BETKOSOL the opportunity to provide context, keeping in mind the financial interest of the EU and that of its citizens and unveiling the core of the problem in the main sectors to which resources will gravitate in the next years. The added value comes precisely from the timeliness of the analysis. Until now, the chosen countries govern differently and have tackled the COVID-19 crisis differently. This allows to BETKOSOL team to distinguish problems more easily and the links between them.