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 and regional authorities of the Member States. This is the case of payments under the structural policy financial 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
During 2007-2013, the European Union will grant its member states Structural and Cohesion Fund grants totaling US$404 billion (€308 billion) to undertake projects in a variety of sectors. Many of these projects will be performed by the private sector, in partnership with public authorities. U.S. firms may participate in these projects. "Structural Funds" grants are given to national, regional, and local authorities for, among others, infrastructure and industrial projects in such sectors as telecommunications, energy, tourism, environment, transport, health, education etc. Structural Funds are non-reimbursable grants given for projects intended to boost the economic development of underdeveloped regions throughout all of Europe. Most Structural Funds projects are assessed/approved by relevant local and regional authorities. The Cohesion Funds cover only two sectors, environment and transport; and the following countries: Spain, Portugal, Greece, and all the new EU member states from Central and Eastern Europe, and is overseen more directly by the European Commission.
The European Union today is comprised of 27 countries. Romania and Bulgaria became new Member States in January 2007, after the previous enlargement phase of 2004, when ten countries form Central and Eastern Europe were added. All projects financed with EU Structural and Cohesion funds have to be co-financed by local government, the private sector and occasionally the European Investment Bank: this requirement may slow down the capacity of new Member States' administrations to complement EU funding and therefore the project approval process.
U.S. firm eligibility
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 27 European Union countries, and legally registered, 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?
Projects most likely to receive money are those that contribute to EU priority objectives: development and structural adjustment of underdeveloped regions, economic and social conversion of areas facing structural difficulties, and adaptation and modernization of policies and systems of education, training and employment.
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' funds spending priorities to locate opportunities. The first step is to understand where funding will go within the EU and what the recipient's general priorities are for using that funding.
The INFOREGIO website, is administered by the European Commission (Regional Policy department) and provides both general and specific information on EU structural funding.
U.S. firms should search this site to locate programs relevant to their company. The website allows searches for programs by the entire EU, by country, by region, and by sector. Programs are listed at: http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/country/prordn/index_en.cfm
Who gets the grants?
Most funding granted by the EU is not paid by the European Commission directly to a company, but through the national and regional authorities of each Member States. That holds for most grants awarded under structural policy financial instruments.
Once these programs have been adopted by regional authorities, they are turned into a number of specific projects that will be tendered by government authorities according to European public procurement contracting legislation. Tenders are published in the Official Journal of the European Union, the electronic version of which is called the TED (Tenders Electronic Daily). Tenders for these EU-funded programs are published at: http://ted.europa.eu/TED/main/HomePage.do
1.1.2. OTHER TYPES OF GRANTS
The European Union has developed other grants, that are not designed to boost development of a particular region, like the Structural and Cohesion Funds, but to emphasize actions in particular sectors: research & development, education, languages, justice, consumers, etc.
The European Commission has developed website containing fact sheets about each type of grants and the department that manages those grants. Those grant programs each have their own rule regarding eligibility criteria and application processes, which differ according to the department that disburses the money. Go to "Fast jump to Grants and Loans", then to Thematic Index and Acronyms: http://ec.europa.eu/grants/index_en.htm
1.2. OUTSIDE THE EU
1.2.1. THE EUROPE-AID COOPERATION OFFICE
The European Commission has a well-developed website covering all programs of external aid to third countries, with lists of programs and procurement procedures, as well as a list of tenders covering the following grant programs: PHARE, ISPA, SAPARD, TACIS, CARDS (formerly OBNOVA projects), ALA, MEDA, FED, EAfR . Below, you will find details about these programs covered in the site of the Europe-Aid Cooperation Office, which manages most of these programs.
The general website of the Europe-Aid Cooperation Office is: http://ec.europa.eu/europeaid/index_en.htm
The tender search tool, which is extremely easy to use.
1.2.2. ACCESSION COUNTRIES IN CENTRAL & EASTERN EUROPE
For the period 2007-2013, the European Union has replaced the PHARE, ISPA, SAPARD, Turkey and CARDS pre-accession instruments with the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA). IPA includes programs concerning declared EU candidate countries and potential candidate countries. Currently, the EC has allocated EUR 11.468 billion to candidate and potential candidate countries over the next funding period. The candidate countries that benefit from IPA assistance are: Croatia, Turkey, FYR of Macedonia. The potential candidate countries that benefit from IPA are: Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, Kosovo.
1.2.3. OTHER THIRD COUNTRIES
The European Union manages a large number of aid programs throughout the world, grouped by regions.
All external assistance aid programs of the EU are managed by the EuropeAid agency. Information on the financial assistance programs can be found on their website while political and economic relationships between the EU and all non-EU countries can be found on the website of the External Relations Directorate-General of the European Commission."
DG Relex: http://eeas.europa.eu/index_en.htm