The EU bolst a budget of billions of Euro’s. Getting to those billions is however an arduous and complex undertaking that will will require both time and energy. There are roughly said, three moments when lobbying for funds can take place; When regulations are drawn up, when the annual or operation programme is drawn up and at project level.
The Regulation; The root of all funds
Every EU fund has its root in a regulation. There are thee reasons why influencing a regulation might be beneficial; First, because you can try to have your distinctive theme or issue mentioned in the regulation (such as climate change, or SME’s). For this reason regional representations always try to add a territorial or regiona aspect to regulations that govern a certain fund. Secondly, some regulations bear an allocation formula. Such is the case for most structural funds. Tweaking this formula will have an impact on the amount of money that your member state, region or what-not will receive. Finally, lobbying a fund regulation also gives you the opportunity to make a fund more workable. Most funds will need some amount of co-financing. Both the amount as the natura of co-financing (private or public money) is always a matter of debate. Another example would be lump-sums or variable rates for overhead costs of project. Working on a regulation while it is still a proposal will make it will be easier to acces and work with later on. Please mind, that while lobbying at this stage is both sensible and necessary, it is quite difficult. Moreover the opportunity comes along only once every 7 years, when the EU multi-annual budget and it subsequent funding schemes are developed.
Annual or operational programs.
Every regulation will be worked out in a more detailed annual plan or an operational program (in case of the structural funds). These programs highlight the goals, objectives and measures of each and every fund. For the centrally managed project it is the European Commission that draws the programs, for the structural funds it is either the member state or the regions, in both cases in good partnership with stakeholders. There is no uniform way how programmes are drawn up. This differes from fund to fund. What is uniform however, is that all funds will allow for some degree of inpunt by stakeholders. Most of the time the people drawing up the program will appreciate timely and accurate input. So it it very important to identify at an early stage who will draw the annual or operation program and when there are opportunities to provide input. Why are these programmes important. Regulations provide for goals and objectives at a very abstract level. The regulation might for example say that climate change is an objective of a fund, the program makes the regulation more tangible (promotion of electric cars). Secondly, operational programmes sometime provide for gouverning rules which enable or unable you to make use of funds. (the programme area of Interreg is determined in the programmes, so if your region is outside a certain programme area, your tough out of luck).
We have arrived at the most concrete level, that of the project. Most if not all EU funding will in the end need some kind of projectdesign to approve funding. In other words you will need to design a project. While it goes beyond the scope of this blog to write how to write a EU projectproposal I will limit myself to saying that your project needs to be well written. All the lobbying in the world wont help if your project is poorly written and/or designed. A good project can take over a year to develop. When you are the proud owner of a well written project, turn to lobbying. A project is always evaluated either by European Commission evaluators or by steering committees. In both cases try to find out who they are. Try to find out if the person(s) in question are receptive to input. Some project evaluators like to see concept projects in order to give advice and feedback. Some however are absolutely allergic to lobbying and don’t like to be approached under no circumstances. Then its “mission abort”. Secondly, always find political backing for your project. This doesn’t need to be someone with direct decision making power in the project selection process. You can find for example a local deputy or an Member of European Parliament to endorse your project. Finally try to push the theme, goal or objective of your project. If your project is about energy efficiency in your local port, don’t promote your specific port, try to promote energy efficiency in ports in general. By lifting your project to a EU level you can lobby and promote your cause without being accused of promoting just one particular pet-project.