HOW THE EUROPEAN FOUNDS SUPPORT EUROPE

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Through the European calls the European funds are allocated among the Member states.

They finance the economic and social integration of the countries that are part of it, inviting public and private organisations to apply to obtain non-refundable funding for their projects.

The call for proposal gives the necessary guidelines, with criteria and terms that must be respected to present the project proposal. In addition, the objectives, the activities that can be financed, the terms and conditions are specified. Read on to find out how the calls work and how to participate.

EU CALLS: WHAT THEY ARE AND HOW THEY WORK

The European calls are essentially funds, different according to the types of outright grants, assigned by the European Council of the European Union to those deserving Operational Programs presented by each member country.

Two types of European funds can be distinguished: funds managed directly by the European Commission and funds whose management is entrusted directly to the Member States through their administrations (national, regional or local), the so-called structural funds of the European Union.

In the case of European non-refundable funding, the European Commission itself provides the funds directly to end users, also establishing the operating criteria of the various Community programs envisaged by the calls.

Direct funds are divided into intra-Community programs, which involve the member countries of the Union, and into external cooperation programs, which promote the cooperation of the member countries with countries outside the Union. The calls can concern various sectors, such as research and innovation, the environment, culture, training, social policies and generally have a multi-year duration.

The calls for proposal, commonly called “calls”, are organised by different Agencies, each in its own sector, directly manage the allocation foreseen for the various programs. They do this by periodically publishing these calls in the Official Journal of the European Union. The EU calls for proposals describe the programs in terms of: financial envelope, procedure, deadline for submission, amount of EU financial contribution, minimum requirements, selection criteria and more.

The project proposal will be presented directly to the Directorates General of the European Commission. In most cases, projects must be submitted by a partnership of entities / companies from or outside the EU Member States.

A fundamental requirement for the presentation of projects is their innovative value, also determined by the proposal of solutions that aim to achieve the objectives of the European Union and that are also valid for all the other Member States.

The co-financing percentage ranges from 50% to 100% of the total cost of the project, for this reason the participants in these calls often rely on their own resources or national funds, private sponsors, bank loans or other types of financing.

As regards indirectly managed financing (structural funds), the financial resources are transferred to the regions of the Member States and the Commission pays the approved expenditure and subsequently carries out controls. Instead, the national and regional authorities select the winning projects and manage them. The selected projects receive blended European and national funding. The main objective is to reduce economic, social and territorial disparities between the various European regions.

The deadline set for submitting applications varies from one call to another, as well as the aims and objectives, which meet the evaluation criteria indicated in the call. The task of the European Commission is to ensure that the project idea is in line with the priorities of the call, i.e. with the strategic lines of intervention and the individual activities eligible for funding.

The recipients of the call, or the target groups, are the subjects to whom the calls are addressed and are always indicated in the call, together with the eligibility requirements that they must satisfy. Specific information on the total amount of resources allocated, on the maximum amount of the contribution that can be requested and on the percentage of co-financing that can be granted by the European Commission are also provided in the European calls.

The maximum duration of the project is also indicated in the calls for proposals, for an optimal quality-time ratio that guarantees the complete and effective realisation of the project.

European funds come from the EU’s “own resources”, in particular from:

  • Customs duties on imports from non-EU countries;
  • VAT applied in the EU;
  • European contributions to each member state, the main source of revenue for the EU budget;
  • Taxes on EU staff salaries.

European projects, objectives and sectors

Typically, a project is implemented by a consortium of partners from different EU Member States. The internal organisation and the objective of the individual projects depend on the sector and the subject matter of the call. An EU project can finance and support a range of activities such as: networking, exchanges of good practice, transnational access to infrastructure, studies, conferences and much more. Individual projects can also be financed to support projects with national or transnational work teams, but also training activities.

Beyond the requirements of each individual call, there are common and essential elements that characterise the various European calls:

  • European calls use a technical language typical of planning;
  • The indications are numerous and detailed.

International consortia and cooperation with Third countries

Programs that promote EU collaboration with countries outside the Community are developed to help align these countries with EU standards. Among these programs we want to mention:

  • The IPA program, which supports the actions of countries that want to join the European Union;
  • The ENI program, which supports the actions of countries bordering the EU;
  • The European Development Fund, which supports the actions of the countries of the Cotonou Agreement;
  • The DCI program, which supports the actions of developing countries.

These external cooperation programs are united by common rules and procedures and provide for different areas of intervention and possible beneficiaries. The funds allocated are substantial and distributed over multiple forms of support. As they are the main forms of intervention of the European Union in the field of foreign policy, their institutional aspect is very relevant.

The DG (Directorate General) for International Cooperation and Development is responsible for defining the strategy of these programs and cooperates with partner countries and with the European Commission. It is in charge of international development cooperation, adapting to the evolving needs of partner countries, working closely with the department for neighbourhood policy and enlargement and other Commission services.

The European External Action Service (EEAS), the EU’s diplomatic service, supports the implementation of the Community’s foreign and security policy, while European Union delegations in partner countries put this policy into practice, keep the dialogue and negotiations with partner countries and finally manage the funds for cooperation and for the development of projects.

The government of each partner countries is delegated to manage the funds and supervise the projects in the “indirect management” of the funds.

Therefore, not only the European Commission, but also the beneficiary country, an international or national organisation can deal with the management of European funds:

  • Direct management, when the European Commission is directly responsible for managing the funds;
  • Indirect management, when the European Commission entrusts the management of the funds to the beneficiary country or to other international bodies or organisations;
  • Shared management, when the European Commission also entrusts the co-management of funds to a Member State.

The definition of strategies and priorities for the allocation of funds and the publication of calls for tenders provides for the joint participation of EEAS and EuropeAid. They collaborate together in the development of the strategies, with the authorities of the beneficiary countries, and take care of consulting the organisations in the reference territories. This is how the areas targeted by interventions and funding are defined. At this point the strategic documents are presented by the Commission, which approves them by majority, and submits them to the favourable opinion of the European Parliament.

The definition of strategies and financial allocations takes into account the following aspects:

  • The general guidelines of the EU;
  • The mutual interaction among areas of intervention, through joint programming of interventions.

These are the basic documents and levels in the funds’ programming for external cooperation programs:

  • Financing tools, which define the geographical and thematic tools and the eligible macro-areas of intervention;
  • Strategic documents and multiannual indicative programs, which detail specific financing objectives and areas;
  • Annual action programs, which specify objectives, areas of intervention, expected results, management procedures and the amount allocated for each call;
  • Annual work programs, to define in detail the timetable for the tender procedures.

These are the categories of eligible subjects, the forms of partnership and the requirements that distinguish them:

  • NGOs operating in the development cooperation sector, research institutes, associations and institutions, private companies;
  • These projects are intended for transition and developing countries;
  • The language used for the presentation of the project is not only English, but the language of the country of destination;
  • The geographical eligibility criteria allow the participation of the EU Member States, the countries that are part of the geographical area of reference of the program and the countries with the lowest development rate.

Cooperation programs with third countries are implemented through the following forms of intervention:

  • Grants, which are based on the principle of reimbursement of the eligible costs necessary to achieve the set objectives and on the principle of co-financing;
  • The contracts, awarded through tenders for the supply of services or goods;
  • Financial support, directed to the development strategies of partner countries, to keep political dialogue alive, respect for human rights and democratic values and to guarantee transparency and control in the use of funds;
  • Specific policies, implemented by individual governments through financial support obtained from grants and tenders.

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