There are many projects for the inclusion of migrants and refugees financed by EU funds. Cities nevertheless encounter various problems in accessing EU funds for integration. The Partnership on Inclusion of Migrants and Refugees has therefore developed recommendations on how to improve better access to funds for cities.
What are the main bottlenecks for cities?
Currently, integration projects are funded mainly by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the European Social Fund (ESF), and the Asylum Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF).The main problems concerning the access to these funds are:
- Decisions on the priorities and allocation of EU funds are made by national governments. There is little or no involvement of municipalities within the management of integration funds.
- Cities do not have direct access to AMIF and in some Member States cities are not recognised as a partner within AMIF, making the application procedure overly complex.
- Because cities do not have direct access, they end up in a complex playing field of EU funds. Cities can have different priorities from their national governments, and so the allocation of funds is not always aligned with the needs of municipalities.
- The integration of migrants and refugees can be better prioritised by programmes supported by ESF and ERDF.
- There is little synergy between the different EU funds on integration and the coordination between the European Commission and the ministries of Member States. This makes it difficult for cities to get a comprehensive overview of their possibilities and application procedures.
Related to these bottlenecks are more wide-ranged issues. A general problem is that governing authorities responsible for the management of the funds, especially AMIF, have a lack of capacity to manage the fund properly and efficiently. Moreover, the funds tend to have a narrow approach when it comes to integration. AMIF only focuses on migrants from third countries, but challenges also occur with migrants from other EU Member States and second generation migrants. Moreover, integration is a two-way process and inclusion and social cohesion programmes often target both migrants and the receiving community. This creates bureaucratic hassle because it does not match the narrow approach/definition of the EU fund.
Cities also find it difficult to get funding elsewhere, such as from the Urban Innovative Actions (UIA) and private institutions. Even if integration projects have proved themselves to be successful, they are seldom innovative enough to be granted UIA funding. Moreover, there is a lack of interest from private-sector institutions. Most of the investments needed are not profitable enough.
How can we improve the access to integration funds for the inclusion of migrants and refugees in cities?
The Partnership on Inclusion of Migrants and Refugees has developed 10 recommendations on how to improve better access to European funds dealing with inclusion and integration:
- EU funds should be earmarked and a percentage of the funding is to be set aside for municipalities.
- The Commission should establish a Block Grant that can fund and address specific challenges in cities and municipalities. It would combine resources from AMIF, ESF and ERDF to create a flexible fund that can adjust to local needs and changing challenges, combine sectoral policies and involve all local stakeholders.
- Cities, especially those most in need and struggling with the inclusion of migrants and refugees, should be allowed direct access to AMIF.
- A pilot group should be set up to demonstrate the potential impact of AMIF’s direct funding to cities.
- A Blending Facility which combines money from EU funds and EIB loans should be created. A Blending Facility could give more direct access to EU funds for cities because cities deal directly with the EIB.
- Cities should be eligible for emergency financial assistance under AMIF.
- The Commission should broaden the scope of the UIA and allow for strategic long-term interventions.
- EU funds should align more with the needs of municipalities. This could be achieved by strengthening the partnership principle across EU funds.
- The synergy between funds should be strengthened at the national level. A single set of rules is to be applied to ESIF and AMIF programmes in order to ensure coherence. Moreover, the partnership principle could be applied to ensure a more multilevel governance approach within fund management.
- Widen the target group of AMIF from ‘third-country nationals’ to ‘individuals with a migrant background’.
These recommendations will be used as input during the Commission’s consultation for the EU’s new budget (2021-2027). The final report has been sent to several Commissioners (Timmermans and Crețu), members of the European Parliament and the current Bulgarian EU presidency.
This paper is adopted by the Partnership on the Inclusion of Migrants and Refugees in the framework of the Urban Agenda for the EU. The paper aims to contribute to the discussion on Better Funding, as defined in the Pact of Amsterdam establishing the Urban Agenda for the EU: ‘The Urban Agenda for the EU will contribute to identifying, supporting, integrating, and improving traditional, innovative and user-friendly sources of funding for Urban Areas at the relevant institutional level, including from European structural and investment funds (ESIF) (in accordance with the legal and institutional structures already in place) in view of achieving effective implementation of interventions in Urban Areas.’
This article may not reflect the official positions of individual members of the Partnership.