EU Institutions and their work

This seminar is intended for professional associations, government officials, companies, NGOs, local and regional authority officials and civil society wanting to get acquainted with the EU institutions and their working systems.

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The European Union (EU) is unique. It is not a federal state like the United States of America because its member countries remain independent sovereign nations. Nor is it a purely intergovernmental organisation like the United Nations because the member countries do pool some of their sovereignty  and thus gain much greater collective strength and influence than they could have acting individually.

They pool their sovereignty by taking joint decisions through shared institutions such as the European Parliament, which is elected by the EU citizens, and the Council, which represents national government. They decide on the basis of proposals from the European Commission, which represent the interests of the EU as a whole. But what does each of these institutions do? How do they work together? Who is responsible for what?

Course Content:

Introducing the European Union
The Treaties
How the EU takes decisions
The European Parliament: voice of the people
The Council of the European Union: voice of the member states
The European Commission: promoting the common interest
The Court of Justice: upholding the law
The European Court of Auditors: getting value for your money
The European Economic and Social Committee: voice of civil society
The Committee of the Regions: voice of regional and local government
The European Investment Bank: financing economic development
The European Central Bank: managing the euro
The European Ombudsman: investigating your complaints
The European Data Protection Supervisor: safeguarding your privacy

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EU Funding and how to access it

This seminar offers an excellent opportunity to get familiar with the EU grants and loans landscape.

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The EU commits millions of euro to funding projects every year, whether through huge programmes such as that supporting R&D in the Union or through highly specialised projects such as;

MARCO POLO (Transport)
LIFE+ (Environment)
MEDIA (Audiovisual)
Justice, Freedom and Security
DAPHNE II (combat violence against children, young people and women)

For anyone who wishes to access the EU funds it is important to be familiar with the legislation that lies behind the various funding programmes. And if person is serious about accessing EU funding, they will also need to know when the various Calls for Proposals and Calls for Expressions of Interest are published in the Official Journal (OJ).

The EU’s Budget

The three main recipients of EU funding are:

Agriculture through the common agricultural policy (CAP)
R&D through the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7 )
Regional support through the Structural Funds

For the period 2007 to 2013, regional policy is shaped by three main objectives, supported by four funds, as follows:

The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) which is intended to promote economic and social cohesion within the EU through the reduction of imbalances between regions;

The European Social Fund (ESF) which focuses on the strategic objectives of the Union’s employment policy;

The European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAGGF – Guidance Section), which contributes to the structural reform of the agriculture sector and to the development of rural areas;

And, of more specialised interest, the Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance (FIFG), the specific Fund for the structural reform of the fisheries sector.

The course will also discuss the details of the programming period (2007-13) and particularly how the various Funds support the

Convergence Objective, covering the poorest Member States and regions.

Innovation, sustainable development, better accessibility and training projects under the Regional Competitiveness and Employment Objective, and

Cross-border, transnational and interregional co-operation under the European Territorial Co-operation Objective.

EU Project Management  Session content:

Issues and main steps towards successful EU Project

Setting the frame of a project: Prior conditions and ex-ante steps

Developing a convincing idea/proposal and a sound concept to apply for funding

Basic rules, definitions and terminology of EU projects: Call for proposals and its concept note, call for tenders and its procurement process, selection procedure and criteria, etc.

Bottom-up development for regional/local project settings

Creation and functioning of international regional/local partnerships: How to participate in this process: partner finding, consortium building, partnership agreements, methodology etc. Critical success factors

Blueprint for project management once a project has been awarded

Hands-on project cycle management tools / Logical framework approach: analytical and planning tools for project implementation

Financial rules and mechanisms: Invoicing, reviewing, auditing, etc.

V. Valuable accompanying tools for the right project direction

Assessment tools and procedures for project selection (ex-ante) and performance
measurement (mid-term and ex-post)

An example from practice

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Understanding of Structural Funds Implementation

This seminar will provide a theoretical overview on legal provisions, responsibilities and instruments in regards to European Union Structural Funds. Issues regarding the practical implementation of monitoring and evaluation will  be presented and discussed. The main focus is set on Evaluation theory and practice, while the implications for the conception and operation of monitoring systems will also be highlighted.

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More growth and jobs for all regions and cities of the European Union this message is at the heart of cohesion policy and its instruments between 2007 and 2013. During this period, the greatest investment ever made by the EU through cohesion instruments is worth 308 billion (in 2004 prices) to support regional growth agendas and to stimulate job creation. 82% of the total amount will be concentrated on the Convergence objective, under which the poorest Member States and regions are eligible.

In the remaining regions, about 16% of the Structural Funds will be concentrated to support innovation, sustainable development, better accessibility and training projects under the Regional Competitiveness and Employment objective. Another 2.5% are available for cross-border, transnational and interregional cooperation under the European Territorial Cooperation objective. Certain spending targets have been agreed upon to pursue the objectives of the Growth and Jobs Agenda: In the case of the Convergence objective, the target is 60%, and in the case of the Regional Competitiveness and Employment objective, the target is 75% of the total available funding, which needs to be earmarked for interventions supporting, e.g. research and innovation, the information society and sustainable development.

The work of the Structural Funds is based on four principles:

1. The concentration of measures on the priority objectives for development.

2. Programming, which results in multi-annual development programmes, the result of a process leading to a decision taken thorough partnership. The process has a number of stages. The adopted measures then become the responsibility of the managing authority.

3. Partnership, which implies the closest possible co-operation between the Commission and the appropriate authorities at national, regional or local level in each Member State from the preparatory stage to the implementation of measures.

4. Additionality, which means that Community assistance, complements the contributions of the Member States rather than reducing them. Except for special reasons, the Member States must maintain public spending on each Objective at no less than the level reached in the preceding period. Furthermore, relations between the Commission and the member States are governed by the principle of subsidiarity, which is enshrined in the Treaty of Maastricht.

The role of structural funds (transfers from the EU budget) in regional development has been designed for various reasons, mainly because markets left by themselves might fail to ensure economic growth due to externalities (infrastructure, environment issues), market rigidities (lack of labor market mobility), and incomplete information. In such a context, the importance of ensuring high levels of absorption, especially in the deprived regions, is crucial.

Absorption and absorption capacity in the context of the structural funds framework
The issue of absorption capacity is receiving increased attention from policy makers at EC level as well as from policy makers at national levels. Efficiency and  minimizing the risks of shortfalls must be the decisive argument in choosing options for the management and implementation of Structural Funds.

Throughout the EU the threat of under spending when implementing Structural Funds programmes is a common problem.

Main drivers of absorption capacity

In general three main factors determine the absorption capacity at national level:

the amount of Structural Funds allocated taking into account the overall allocation as well as the regional and sectoral breakdown into operational programmes included in the National Reference Strategic Framework 2007-2013;

the managerial-administrative situation at both programme and project level;

the public and private co-financing situation according to the levels negotiated between the European Commission and the Member State.

Main problems affecting the absorption capacity

The main obstacles and problems affecting the absorption processes in the Member States and regions that benefit from the structural funds can be classified according to the level where they occur, namely:

(a) at national level

Lack of stability of institutional, legal and political environment for regional development in general;
Limited availability of national co finance for regional development from the sectoral line ministries;
Unclear responsibilities for and involvement in regional development issues by sectoral line ministries;
Weak links between bottom-up regional development plans and top-down national development plan;
Annual national budgets might conflict with multi-annual planning framework for Structural Funds.

(b) at regional level:

Limited experience with implementing projects, in particular within a programme context;

Wide variety in history, background and experience of the regional
intermediate bodies involved in the management of the structural funds;

Wide variety in the organisation of the intermediate bodies (ownership structures, public versus private functions, number and functions of staff, financial situation);

Limited availability of skilled staff in the regions;

Unclear position of intermediate bodies in relation to other organisations in the field of regional development, in particular the local SME support centers / advisors within individual municipalities;

As yet no critical mass of experience with regional development has been able to develop as in the current situation experience is scattered over different organisations and individuals;

Variety in the extent to which the regional intermediate bodies are supported by the municipalities, in particular by local politicians.

(c) at local level

Weak financial situation of the local beneficiaries/limited local budgets for public co-financing available;

Intermediate bodies of the management authorities in charge with the structural funds are not yet recognized as partners for economic development by the final beneficiaries;

Lack of experience with regional development thinking within municipalities (think local, act local instead of think regional, act local);

Focus on projects with direct, visible, local, short term impact rather than projects with indirect, less visible, regional and medium term impact;

Lack of local private co-financing possibilities, lack of risk capital;

Lack of banking products and services dedicated to cover the amount of private co-financing necessary for the projects budgets.

The following issues should be also taken into account and properly managed in the attempt of maximizing structural funds absorption:

– Managing Authorities often do not  recognize their role: Implementation  needs to be an active one, not a passive one;

– There is a cultural resistance to delegation of both responsibilities and rights/powers;

– Avoidance of blame leads to avoidance of taking decisions;

– Fear of failure results in no risk-taking and so no risk management;

– Lack of experience and lack of confidence builds into a reluctance to seek help

– There is a lack of partnership culture (little understanding of shared
objectives), too much focus on differences and non-existent or weakly developed  partnership structures;

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Policy-making: Legislative processes of the EU

Introduction to EU policy-making structures and procedures. The course explains how the policy-making process in the European Union works and the different legal instruments that are used to make decisions.

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Legislative Processes Of EU

Course content

This course offers the theoretically informed study of the EU policy-making across a selection of key issue areas. The principal aim of the course is to provide a detailed knowledge of how national and EU institutions interact in European policy making. The course introduces principal theories of policy making along three core policy dimensions: agenda setting, decision making and policy implementation. It also provides the conceptual insights used to analyse a number of substantive policy areas. These will typically include: the single market, social and environmental policies, cohesion policies, Common Agricultural Policy, Economic and Monetary Union, Justice and Home Affairs and EU foreign policy.
Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module, participants will:

1. Be able to analyse and explain the development of the main policies of the European Union and in so doing have gained a thorough understanding of these policies;

2. Critically assess the EU’s success in achieving its policy goals;

3. Understand the process of policy making in the EU, from policy formulation and negotiation through to implementation;

4. Appreciate the challenges facing the EU and its policy making process

5. Engage critically with important political issues facing policy makers in the EU both at national and European levels;

6. Be able to produce well-argued and well-informed written and oral analyses of these important issues and their consequences for future policy making in the European Union


Participants will be able to understand issues such as:

EU Integration Process:
EU Law
EU Policies
Policy analysis
Communication technique

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