What is the Technical Support Instrument?

The Technical Support Instrument (TSI) is the Commission’s instrument to provide technical support to reforms in EU Member States.

Digital TransitionTSI is part of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) 2021-2027 and of the Recovery Plan for Europe. It has the general objective to promote the Union’s economic, social and territorial cohesion by supporting Member States’ efforts to implement reforms. The TSI builds on the success of its predecessor, the Structural Reform Support Programme (SRSP). Through the SRSP, the Commission has since 2017 provided technical support to all 27 Member States with more than 1000 projects in a broad range of policy areas.

How large is the TSI budget and how much funding does each Member State receive? 

While the SRSP operated with a budget of €222.8 million for the period of 2017-2020, TSI has an increased budget and an extended duration that matches the duration of the MFF (€864 million for 7 years, ca. €115 million per year).

The Commission does not provide direct funding to Member States. Rather, it provides expertise to Member States who then are responsible to carry out the reforms. This expertise delivered by the Commission requires no national co-funding but the success of the reform support relies on the engagement and ownership of the Member State authorities. In many cases, the support is given as a mix of external support, combined with Commission’s own expertise (DG REFORM and/or other Commission services) which is deployed specifically for each case in a tailor-made fashion.

Finally, while the Commission provides expertise for supporting Member States in designing and implementing reforms, the reforms themselves are not funded by the TSI. The actual reforms can be funded by national means or EU funds, such as the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) or the Just Transition Fund (JTF).

Who is responsible for managing the TSI?

The Directorate General for Structural Reform Support (DG REFORM) of the European Commission.

What kinds of reforms are eligible under the TSI? 

The TSI can support a very broad range of potential reforms. Eligible policy areas for reform support are defined in Art. 5 of the TSI. The scope of actions includes:

– Public financial management, tax policies and revenue administration

– Governance, public administration and rule of law

– Business environment, growth, trade and investments

– Labour market, education and social services

– Healthcare, welfare and childcare

– Green and digital policies

– Financial sector and access to finance

– Data and statistics

– Preparation for membership of the euro area

– Public health, security risks, service continuity

Through the TSI, the Commission can also help Member States in preparing, amending and implementing their Recovery and Resilience Plans (RRPs), which are necessary to access financing from the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF).

How can a Member State apply for reform support? 

Member States have the possibility to indicate their needs for support until the end of the month of October every year. The Commission analyses the requests received and enters into dialogue with the national coordinating authorities to assess the country’ specific needs and the options to support the design and implementation of the reforms. The Commission starts deploying the projects on the ground after the adoption of the annual work programme of the TSI. On average, it takes 24 months from the Member State request to the completion of the technical support project.

How does the reform support work in practice?

The support can cover all stages of reforms, from the initial design and conceptualization phase, until the implementation, change management and evaluation phase. It can take the form of strategic or technical advice, studies assessing reform needs or options in specific areas, training or in-country missions by experts (Art. 8 of TSI).

The reform support delivered through the TSI:

  • starts with a request of the Member State. Their ownership and engagement is key for the success of reforms.
  • is tailor-made to each case and each country. The Commission identifies and analyses the exact need in each situation.
  • brings to the country a unique combination of expertise. The Commission matches the best mix of expertise to the needs.
  • is hands-on and concrete in delivery. Upon reception of a request for support, the Commission enters into a dialogue with the Member State to understand the reform need in detail, and how to best deploy the most relevant support in the swiftest possible way.
  • strengthens the institutional and administrative capacity of an EU Member State to (i) design and implement reforms, (ii) facilitate the green and digital transition, (iii) address challenges identified in the European Semester, or (iv) apply EU law. 

What is the Implementing Decision and Annual Work Programme of the TSI that is adopted today? 

The Annual Work Programme of the TSI sets out the priorities, objectives and expected results, and describes the actions that will be implemented in 2021.

The TSI is demand-driven and the support offered is tailor-made to the needs of each Member State. In this first round of TSI, all EU Member States submitted over 700 requests to the Commission for approval.

The Implementing Decision lists the chosen requests for technical support with the highest potential impact on the ground, as well as the strongest link to strategic Union priorities. The projects have been selected following a competitive procedure, in line with the criteria defined by the TSI Regulation.

Which projects have been chosen?

This year, 226 technical support projects were chosen. The main reform challenges signaled in Member States’ requests are the green and digital transitions.

  • 99 selected requests contribute to the digital transition (44% of total selected)
  • 68 selected requests contribute to the European Green Deal (30% of total pre-selected)

Some of the requests support reforms across several Member States.

In addition, 18 Member States will benefit from joint targeted public financial management training in green budgeting.

Which criteria does the Commission use to choose technical support requests in the TSI?

The assessment criteria used to assess the requests are defined in the TSI Regulation:

  • Urgency, breadth and depth of the challenges identified;
  • Support needs in respect of the policy areas concerned;
  • Analysis of socioeconomic indicators, as well as institutional and general administrative capacity of the requesting Member State.

In addition, a number of other elements are taken into account in the assessment, including:

  • The principles of transparency, equal treatment and sound financial management;
  • Prioritisation by the Member State for TSI.

Why is the Commission involved in supporting reforms in Member States?

Through the TSI, the Commission is offering a unique service taking the form of (technical and/or strategic) policy advice. Sometimes the expertise will come from the European Commission, sometimes through recognized experts in the domain. It can also come from other Member States that share their experience of implementing similar reforms.

Can you provide further concrete examples of what the Commission is already doing to help Member States?

For a complete list of projects on the ground, visit the reform support website here.

Detailed brochures for policy areas supported can be found here.

Information on Member States’ specific support for 2021 can be found here.

How does TSI relate to the NextGenerationEU and the Recovery and Resilience Facility?

The financing provided by the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF), the centrepiece of NextGenerationEU (NextGenEU), is a unique opportunity to make the EU economies more sustainable, resilient and better prepared for the challenges posed by the green and digital transitions.

The possibility to provide support through the TSI in using the RRF is foreseen both in the RRF Regulation and the TSI Regulation. Through the TSI the Commission can help Member States in preparing, amending and implementing their Recovery and Resilience Plans (RRPs) which need to set out a coherent package of reforms and public investment projects. The plans should effectively address challenges identified in the European Semester, particularly the Country-specific recommendations adopted by the Council. The plans should also include measures to address the challenges and reap the benefits of the green and digital transitions.

Member States can request technical support under the TSI, which can take the form of Commission led support or external expertise, to help successfully implement specific reforms and investments. Such requests should be addressed to DG REFORM through the national Coordinating Authority for the Technical Support Instrument. In addition, and according to Article 7(2) of the RRF Regulation, Member States may specifically include as estimated costs in their recovery and resilience plan a national voluntary contribution to the TSI to enable additional technical support by the Commission (with a limit of 4%  of the plan’s total allocation). This should be discussed between the Commission and the Member States prior to the submission of the plan. Member States will need to propose specific milestones and/or targets linked to the use of funds for technical support.

The unprecedented volumes of funding available call for particular attention to the quality of public administration, as it will play the key role in the effective implementation of reforms and investments in all policy areas. Through the TSI, the Commission can help Member States to build their administrative capacity by, for example, in assessing internal procedures and improving them, setting up appropriate bodies to manage such funds or develop methodologies to determine costs.

How can the TSI support the preparation and implementation of the Recovery and Resilience Plans?

Through the TSI the Commission can help Member States in preparing, amending and implementing the Recovery and Resilience Plans that are needed to have access to the RRF funds. For these actions, capacity building support may also be provided via the TSI.

In this first round of TSI, 6 Member States have requested support in building their capacity to prepare and implement their RRPs. Several other Member States have also asked for technical support for the design or implementation of reforms expected to be included into the plans. In total more than 60% of 2021 pre-selected TSI projects are related to the implementation of the RRPs.

How does the TSI relate to the European Green Deal objectives and the Just Transition Mechanism?

The TSI can support Member States in carrying out reforms for the green transition in many different areas, ranging from green budgeting and renewable energy to circular economy and sustainable finance. For the TSI 2021, 68 selected requests contribute to the European Green Deal (30% of total pre-selected).

In addition, the TSI can be deployed to support the green transition by supporting Member States to prepare their Territorial Just Transition Plans (TJTP) under the Just Transition Mechanism (JTM). The JTM is an integral part of the European Green Deal, providing targeted support to alleviate the socio-economic impacts of the low-carbon transition. The Commission’s approval of the TJTPs will unlock the support to Member States through the 3 pillars of the Just Transition Mechanism: the Just Transition Fund, a dedicated scheme under InvestEU, and a public sector loan facility. Through the SRSP, the Commission has already provided technical support in the elaboration of these plans in 18 Member States. 

Can you give an example how the TSI/SRSP contribute to the green and digital transitions? 

  • Green Transition: Supporting the Green Transition in the Netherlands

The Commission supports the Netherlands in hydrogen-related reforms. The EU Hydrogen Strategy underlines that low-carbon hydrogen could play an important role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In order to achieve the expected growth of hydrogen applications in the EU and the Netherlands, pilot projects are important to gather insights, increase maturity of the technologies and bring down costs. However, the permit processes for hydrogen pilot projects can be slow due to knowledge barriers, for example regarding the behaviour of hydrogen in certain applications. The Commission will support the Netherlands in addressing this issue through developing practical guidance on the use of precaution in the energy transition and extending the knowledge base for risk regulation of new hydrogen applications. Another selected project is about green shipping, applying fuel cell technology to the Dutch shipping fleet. Both projects tackle reforms at the forefront of clean energy policy and provide strong EU added value by producing and sharing results that could be relevant for other EU Member States.

  • Multi-country support on green budgeting practices

The European Green Deal acknowledges that national budgets play a key role in the green transition. A greater use of green budgeting tools has the potential to redirect public investment, consumption and taxation to green priorities and away from harmful subsidies. In this context, the TSI will develop capacity to introduce a green budgeting tool in 18 Member States through a tailored training. This timely training intervention is part of the Commission’s efforts to support Member States in “greening public finances” and is linked to the Green Budgeting Reference Framework developed by the Commission (DG ECFIN) as well to the requirements set for the Recovery and Resilience Plans of the Member States.

  • Digital Transition: Supporting the ICT strategy and modernization of the state administration in Spain

The Commission supports Spain with the development of the Spanish Digital Plan 2025 to promote the digital transformation of the country as one of the fundamental drivers to relaunch economic growth and increase productivity thus taking advantage of all the opportunities offered by emerging and transformative technologies. The support will focus on the digital transformation of the public administration, addressing strategic and technical recommendations on planning the deployment of investments. The work will also include an analysis of best practices for the deployment of digital strategies in EU Member States and a communication strategy to ensure the buy in of stakeholders.

  • Digital Transition: Ensuring quality digital higher education in Hungary

The coronavirus pandemic has brought to light the urgent need to modernize and internationalise higher education in Hungary. During the crisis, a number of higher education institutions did their best to adapt, and accelerated their digital transition. However, the quality of digital education still varies largely in the country and further efforts remain necessary to ensure that digitalisation does not come at the cost of quality. Quality Assurance (QA) is one of the cornerstones of creating and applying an impactful and sustainable system for learning/teaching/research in the digital environment. The Commission’s support, which builds on existing cooperation, will bring international expertise to build the capacities of the Hungarian authorities to co-design the QA framework with the higher education institutions and other relevant stakeholders. Thus, the support will significantly contribute to the digital transformation of higher education in Hungary, also helping to reinforce its quality, impact and sustainability.   

For more information

Press release – IP/21/747

Source: The European Commission