Examples of EU financing

New experiences for students…

University study is all about broadening horizons, and for many students, time in another country adds a valuable additional dimension to their learning and can enhance their final qualification. For the past 20 years, the Erasmus programme has helped more than 1.5 million undergraduate students from across Europe to spend three months to a year studying at a university in a different Member State from their home institution. The principles of Erasmus exchanges mean that the student does not have to pay tuition fees in the host institution, whilst the home institution gives them full credit for their study abroad. Community funding has brought more than 2 000 universities and higher education institutions into Erasmus - more than 90% of all such institutions in Europe. EU funding is also a major component in providing Erasmus grants to many exchange students, to help them cover the additional costs of studying abroad. (The size of grants depends on the home institution, and varies according to the destination and the time spent abroad.) In 2006, Community funding for Erasmus student exchanges amounted to €190 million, with just over 150 000 students participating in 2005/06.

Advancing scientific knowledge…

For European science to lead the world, scientists need to test their ideas and findings against those of their brightest counterparts. For researchers, working in research teams elsewhere than their home institution and country, perhaps also making use of equipment not available to them in their home base, can be a vital part of advancing scientific knowledge. The EU's Marie Curie scheme, built up over more than a decade, now offers a comprehensive range of support mechanisms to foster mobility of scientists within Europe at all stages of their careers, and to encourage leading scientists to move or return to Europe. In the period 2007-13, a total of €4.75 billion will be devoted to Marie Curie actions, ranging from individual grants to enable a researcher to spend a year or two in a host institution abroad, to major grants enabling institutions to develop training programmes for early-stage researchers from around Europe.

Skills for work…

Good jobs are the key to quality of life, and to get and keep them workers need relevant, up-to-date skills. In the knowledge economy, whatever stage of working life you are at, your knowledge and skills are your biggest attribute. And those who find themselves unemployed may need to make significant efforts to develop their skills to find jobs. The European Social Fund is all about improving the prospects of European workers getting good quality jobs, in particular through training measures. In the five decades since its launch, the ESF has funded countless actions to help young and old, the unemployed and those in jobs, minority groups and those disadvantaged, or those in regions which have to replace vanished heavy industries. In the years since 2000, the ESF has provided €70 billion across the Union. The new Globalisation Adjustment Fund will dedicate up to €500 million per year to helping workers who lose their jobs when companies move to new locations.

Removing transport bottlenecks…

The freedom to travel, or transport goods, in Europe is perhaps the most tangible experience of the European Union, but in too many cases the infrastructure is simply not robust enough for efficient transport. Natural barriers, particularly those which have set national frontiers, present the biggest bottlenecks to transport, and few are as congested as the Alpine and Pyreneen crossings. Restricted capacity for both road and rail transport adds time and cost to every journey between Spain and France, but a new 8.2 km tunnel, set to open in early 2009, will transform journeys on the route. Part of the trans-European transport networks (TENs), the link from Perpignan (FR) to Figueras (ES) is just one section of the high-speed rail line which will eventually link Paris to Madrid in just 7½ hours. The cross-border section is costed at €1.1 billion, and the Community's TENs budget will cover between 10 and 20% of that. On the Spanish side, the line from Madrid to Barcelona has received substantial funding - almost 60% of its €7 billion investment - from the Cohesion Fund and the Regional Development Fund. Work on the remaining section, from Barcelona to Figueras, worth around €2.5 billion, is at an early stage, but the Structural Funds will again contribute a substantial share.

Solidarity helps mop up…

Natural disasters can devastate regions, often with little or no warning. The Union's Solidarity Fund provides a financial resource to relieve the pressure on region's struck by disasters. For example, the Fund provided some €48 million after the Portuguese forest fires of 2003, €8 million to help clean up after the oil spill from the tanker Prestige, and €16 million after the eruption of Mount Etna in the same year. After major storm damage in the Baltic states and Sweden in January 2005 the fund provided a total of €92 million, whilst two incidences of flooding in Bulgaria and Romania in spring and summer 2005 saw a total of almost €90 million contributed by the fund.

Coming to a screen near you …

More than 8 000 films and film projects shared a total of over half a billion euros from the European Union’s MEDIA programme in the period 2000-06. In particular, MEDIA supports the distribution of European films outside their home market, with many of the biggest hits of recent years, such as La vita e bella, Le fabuleux déstin d’Amélie Poulain, Volver or Das Leben der Anderen, all benefiting from MEDIA funding. To support the European audiovisual industry, MEDIA co-finances training initiatives for audiovisual industry professionals, the development of production projects (feature films, television drama, documentaries, animation and new media), as well as the promotion of European audiovisual works.

Protecting our environment…

Environmental damage is a threat all Member States face, and therefore action at EU level is vital. The LIFE programme enables new approaches to mitigating environmental problems to be tried and implemented, thereby helping both the region concerned and providing valuable knowledge for other regions which face similar problems. One such project in the Netherlands, supported the building of a wastewater treatment plant – the first to use membrane bioreactor technology on full-scale operation in the Netherlands. EU funds contributed some €1.5 million (almost 20% of the total cost), and the Varsseveld plant opened in 2005, the first full-scale application of the technology.

Food safety comes first…

In the internal market, consumers can find a wider variety of foods than ever before, but modern processing and logistics technologies and practices mean that new safeguards are essential. Food scares related to foot and mouth disease, dioxins or "mad cow disease" have underlined the need for European solutions, and so the EU is devoting increasing resources to the vital area of food quality and food safety. For example, the LIPGENE research project, with an EU contribution of €12 million, brings together 21 partner research institutes to investigate the influence of genetic make-up on diet and potential for obesity. Other projects are investigating subjects as different as animal feed and seafood processing. Furthermore, the Union has established the European Food Safety Authority to provide independent scientific advice to policy-makers.

Supporting peace in Northern Ireland…

Northern Ireland suffered from nearly three decades of conflict, and whilst the human suffering – more than 3 600 lives lost and countless more touched by tragedy – was catastrophic, the economic damage which accompanied the troubles has made it yet more difficult to rebuild normal life. The EU has been supporting the peace process since 1989, when it became a donor to the International Fund for Ireland (IFI) and through the PEACE programme from 1995 onwards. To date the EU has provided more than €1 billion through PEACE I (1994-95) and PEACE II (2000-06) and €289 million through the IFI. The European Union welcomes the restoration of devolved administration in Northern Ireland in May 2007, but recognising the need to continue its support to the peace and reconciliation process, it has committed €225 million for PEACE III (2007-13) and €60 million euro to the IFI for the period 2007-10. In addition Northern Ireland has received over €2 billion in EU contributions to date from the mainstream Structural Fund programmes.

Showing small businesses the way…

The internal market is one of the EU’s biggest achievements, based on the principle that goods, services, people and capital can move freely around all 27 Member States. For small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) seeking to break out of their regional or national markets, the internal market presents a wonderful opportunity, but taking it up can be a major challenge. Lacking time, experience and even language skills, too many smaller firms will give up before they are able to reap the benefits. To help some of Europe’s 23 million SMEs make more from the opportunities available, the EU funds a network of Euro Info Centres in 46 countries. In total there are over 250 centres, plus a further 340 relays ensuring wide geographical coverage, extending well beyond EU Member States. In 2006, EU operating grants to the centres totalled €11 million. Hosted by organisations such as chambers of commerce, which already have a strong understanding of the conditions in which local businesses operate, EICs can facilitate their clients’ access to information on the internal market, find partners in other countries, and advise them on dealing with potential partners. The EICs also provide a channel for SMEs to express their opinions on EU policies. In 2008, the network will be relaunched, in combination with the existing Innovation Relay Centres network, to provide SMEs throughout Europe with a single point to access information on business and innovation support.

Sustainable future for fishing…

The fishing industry is a vital part of the economy in coastal towns and village throughout Europe, with some 250 000 jobs in the EU directly dependant on fisheries. The common fisheries policy aims to manage Europe’s fisheries in a sustainable way, by protecting fish stocks as well as the social and economic needs of those who depend on fisheries. The European Fisheries Fund supports measures to adjust the European fisheries to today's needs – improve working conditions and safety standards on vessels, match the size of the fishing fleet to the fishing opportunities, further develop the aquaculture industry, and to develop alternative sources of employment in and around fishing communities. In the 2007-13 period, the Fund will have a total of €4.3 billion available to assist fishing communities.

The road to EU membership…

Bringing in new Member States from central and eastern Europe has fundamentally changed both our continent and the European Union itself. In the years prior to their joining, the new Member States received assistance across a wide range of areas, from civil service and legal reform to environmental and infrastructure improvements, as well as agriculture, to help them transform their economies and prepare to join the internal market. In the years from 2000 to their membership, the new members received support totalling €22 billion. Today, the countries of south-eastern Europe also hope to join the Union; in some cases negotiations have already started, whilst for others that stage is further off. The Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance will provide some €11.5 billion in support for these countries in 2007-13.

Fighting cross-border crime…

Member States are resolved to tackle criminal and terrorist activity, a problem which they increasingly share, and whose solution requires cohesive action. Co-operation on justice and security policies is relatively new for the Union, dating back only 15 years. Support initiatives have therefore focused on building formal and informal links between the different authorities – police and security forces, prosecutors and criminal justice agencies. By building mutual trust, and helping them to become familiar with each other’s different working methods and rules, the aim is to make it harder for criminals and terrorists to evade justice wherever they operate in Europe. Co-funding has been provided for many hundreds of individual projects. Examples include €167 000 in EU funding for a 2003 project to develop software which would speed up examination of digital images found on computers in order to identify suspected cases of child pornography. A grant of €95 000 was awarded in 2006 to help Member States share knowledge and expertise through the ATLAS network of special intervention forces.

Safer nuclear reactors…

Nuclear safety is at the heart of the activities of Euratom. Nobody needs to be reminded of the effects of the Chernobyl accident, and even if today’s technologies make a repeat unthinkable, the EU is leading efforts to ensure that all the reactors in and around Europe are maintained at the highest possible safety standards. The European Commission’s own Joint Research Centre was set up to coordinate work in nuclear research, and nuclear safety remains central to its tasks. The EU’s seventh research framework programme includes a budget of €287 million for projects in the areas of nuclear safety, waste management and radiation protection. Moreover, given the poor safety standards of certain older reactors built to Soviet designs, the EU is making substantial contributions to the closure and decommissioning of power plants in Bulgaria, Lithuania, and Slovakia, with a budget of €1.5 billion foreseen in the 2007-13 period.

Aid to disaster-struck peoples…

The Commission's Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO) helps people anywhere outside the EU in the aftermath of natural disasters or armed conflicts, when local resources are unable to alleviate suffering. Its task is to respond rapidly, funding the delivery of supplies (food, medicines, tents, blankets…) and services (medical teams, demining experts…) to the affected region as quickly as possible. One of the biggest tasks ECHO has faced was the Indian Ocean tsunami in December 2004. The Commission rapidly made €123 million available in humanitarian aid (and EU Member States mobilised a further €437 million), to fund emergency assistance to the devastated populations of the affected area. But EU funding did not stop with immediate needs. The Union and its Member States have played a major role in the rebuilding work, with €1.5 billion in aid for reconstruction, of which the EU budget has funded €350 million.

Stronger regions for a stronger Europe…

GDP per capita in the wealthiest regions of the European Union is eight times higher than that in the least wealthy. The cohesion policy aims to narrow the gap in economic performance between the wealthiest and least well-off regions, by helping regions develop and become more competitive. The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Cohesion Fund are the main funding tools to achieve this. Their performance from 1995-2005 demonstrates considerable success in Ireland, Spain and Greece – amongst the Union’s poorest countries at the start of that period. Growth rates in these three countries exceeded the EU average throughout the past decade. Indeed, Ireland now has the second highest GDP per capita in the EU, and Spain has risen above the EU average. In the six years to 2006, the EU invested a total of €164 billion in cohesion spending, with the vast majority going to regions with GDP per capita below 75% of the EU average. In the ears up to 2013, the focus will be on the Member States which have joined the Union in 2004 and 2007. They will benefit from just over half the total budget of €347 billion allocated to cohesion policy, which will enable all regions to contribute to achieving greater growth and competitiveness throughout Europe.

Working with the neighbours…

Peace and stability in the regions bordering the EU – in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and around the Mediterranean – are vital for both our and their long-term development. The EU has long provided funding for initiatives in areas such as strengthening democracy and human rights, reforming legal systems, improving environmental protection, supporting entrepreneurs and rebuilding housing in countries in these regions. The European Neighbourhood Policy brings all these activities under a single umbrella, ensuring consistency in objectives, and true partnership with each of the neighbouring states. In the period 2007-13, around €12 billion will be allocated to support reforms in these countries, in the framework of jointly agreed programmes.

A 21st century agricultural policy…

For almost 50 years, the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has ensured that people have a stable food supply at reasonable prices. Since 1992, however, the CAP has been reformed, meaning that farmers no longer make production choices based on subsidy but on market return. Once the latest reform is fully implemented, 90% of CAP payments will be direct aid to farmers – not linked to production but conditional on respect for environmental, food safety and animal welfare rules – and rural development assistance to rural dwellers. Rural development policy is growing in importance, with rural areas accounting for around half of the EU’s population and 80% of its territory. These areas often lack jobs and infrastructure, and may also be environmentally fragile. Rural development funds, which will continue to grow, will be used to support job creation – in both agricultural and non-agricultural sectors, for example by funding information technology investment. Overall, the CAP costs about €53 billion per year.

Lighting up the world…

Although Ecuador’s Amazonian provinces are the source of the country’s oil wealth, the people of the region lack many of the basic services – electricity, telephones and drinking water, for example – on which modern life has become reliant. Since 2003, a project of the Alliance for Information Society (@LIS) programme has been working with local partners in the region to help them develop 20 community electrification projects and create a regional internet network enabling local residents to improve their access to information and rural development services. With an EU contribution of €63.5 million over the period 2002-06, @LIS has supported 19 demonstration projects of this type throughout Latin America, as well as enabling a range of exchanges between policy-makers, regulators, researchers, manufacturers and operators to ensure better development and deployment of information and communications technologies in Latin America.