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I. EU GRANTS PROGRAMS
The European Union has many different types of grants, delivered in different ways to various forms of recipients. Most EU funding is not paid directly by the European Commission to private beneficiaries, but via the national authorities of the Member States. This is the case of grants under the cohesion policy instruments which make up the great bulk of EU funding.
1.1. INSIDE THE EU
1.1.1. THE STRUCTURAL FUNDS AND THE COHESION FUND
European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) are the EU’s financial instrument for helping EU Member States achieve the “Europe 2020” growth and jobs objectives. ESIF grants total approximately €352 billion for the 2014-2020 period.
ESIF grants cover five funds: the European Regional Development Fund, the Cohesion Fund, the European Social Fund, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund.
While most funds apply to the 28 EU member States, the Cohesion Funds applies only to the following countries: Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.
A general EU regulation covers the common provisions for the five funds under the Common Strategic Framework, thematic objectives and provisions on the Common Strategic Framework on partnership Contracts with each Member State. Common rules also cover eligibility, management and control principles. Separate regulations cover each of the five funds. A chart per country and fund allocation is available here.
Eligibility to receive funding for projects is restricted to Europe-based firms. However, U.S. firms may participate in projects receiving EU funding via two methods. 1) U.S. subsidiaries located in any of the 28 European Union countries, and legally registered in an EU Member State, are considered "European firms", and, as such, are eligible and 2) U.S. firms without European subsidiaries may partner with a European firm to be eligible for a particular project.
An EU-based local partner is required to ensure access to funding.
What types of projects will be funded?
Cohesion policy grants must target EU investments in four key areas for economic growth and job creation:
- Research and Innovation
- Information and Communication Technologies
- Enhancing the competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)
- Supporting the shift towards a low-carbon economy (energy efficiency, increasing the use of renewable energy, promoting smart energy systems, etc.).
How can I locate opportunities relevant to my firm?
There is NO LIST of projects that companies can consult. Instead, interested firms need to research governments priorities to identify opportunities. Lists of Operational Programs for each Member State will be published on the INFOREGIO website as they are gradually being approved.
This website also provides information on the Cohesion Policy for 2014-2020. The website allows searches for programs by country, region and sector.
Who gets the grants?
ESIF funds are not disbursed by the EC to private operators. Once a specific amount has been approved by EU authorities for an Operation Program, projects are procured through national authorities, who disburse funds to project developers.
Once Operational Programs are adopted by regional authorities, they may generate up to dozens of specific projects that will be tendered according to EU public procurement legislation. Tenders are published in the EU Official Journal in TED: http://ted.europa.eu/TED/main/HomePage.do
1.1.2. OTHER TYPES OF GRANTS
The EC makes direct financial contributions in the form of grants in support of projects or organizations which further the interests of the EU or contribute to the implementation of an EU program or policy. Each grant program has its own rules regarding eligibility criteria and application processes.
1.2. OUTSIDE THE EU
1.2.1. THE EUROPE-AID COOPERATION OFFICE
The EuropeAid -“Development and Cooperation” Directorate-General - is responsible for designing European development policy and delivering aid throughout the world, promoting good governance, human and economic development and aiming at issues such as fighting hunger and preserving democracy and natural resources. Its website offers extensive information on the range of grant programs, the kind of projects that are eligible, as well as manuals to help interested parties understand the relevant contract law. However, participation in these calls for tender is reserved for enterprises located either in the EU member states or in the beneficiary countries, and requires that the products and services used to respond to these tenders are manufactured in the EU or in the aid recipient country. European subsidiaries of U.S. firms are eligible to participate in these calls for tender.
1.2.2. NEIGHBOURING COUNTRIES
With a budget of €11,7 billion for 2014-20, IPA II – Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance- is the second EU program of support to political and economic reforms, preparing the beneficiary countries for the rights and obligations that come with EU membership that are linked to the adoption of the acquis communautaire (the body of European Union law that must be adopted by accession candidate countries as a precondition to accession), i.e., building up the administrative and institutional capacities and financing investments designed to help them comply with European Commission law. IPA II finances projects destined to: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Iceland, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia, and Turkey.
With a budget of €15.4 billion for 2014-2020, ENP - the European Neighborhood Policy instrument- covers the EU’s neighbors to the east and along the Southern and Eastern shores of the Mediterranean i.e. Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Egypt, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Moldova, Morocco, the occupied Palestinian territory, Syria, Tunisia and Ukraine.