When someone asks me about what my profession is, I always pause before answering, because it is not always easy to explain what is done in my work: preparing projects financed or co-financed by the European Commission. Normally, the reaction of who has asked me is of perplexity: “Ah…! And what is that?”
It has been many years since I learned that it is not always easy to explain what I do, nor do I assume that people know the complexities (or simplicities) of everything behind what is called “the Europe of 27”, the “European Union”, the “European Commission” or the still used (although not due) “European Economic Community”
In my training courses I always start by asking if someone can tell me what the European Union is, in order to know which type of audience I have in front of me, at what level of knowledge or mix of knowledge I have to set the level. In general, my explanation is always the same: the European Union is like a private club, with 27 members, who pay a multiannual fee and with it pay everyone’s expenses, also inviting other countries that are not part of the club to participate. club.
This simplistic way of defining the network of organizations, policies, procedures, budgets, etc. … is usually the one that, from my experience, everyone understands and from which they begin to ask and I can adapt the training to the needs of the audience.
I do not want to elaborate here with all the explanations, because if there is something good about the European Union, it is the official website, in all its official languages, accessible and understandable, which I recommend visiting and dedicating a couple of afternoons to research, because if you cannot find what you are looking for, there is always an email address (a helpdesk) that usually answers quickly and specifically what is asked. This website can be found at the address https://europa.eu/european-union/index_es
Another issue that also tends to cause confusion is the term “European funds”, more in vogue still by the famous “Funds for Recovery and Resilience” as a result of the already known pandemic throughout the world.
Here it is also simple to make a differentiating nuance between what are the funds and what is the financing by programs. In the first case, the funds (the “big money” like the Funds for Recovery) are a part of that fee paid by members, set aside in a common bag that serves to support major European policies in terms of cohesion, such as the European Social Fund – ESF (focused on people, employment, education), the European Regional Development Fund – ERDF (infrastructures, highways, airports) and others, which Brussels sends directly to the member states so that the managed through the corresponding government mechanisms: only public authorities and public utility entities can enter here.
The other major financing channel, the programs, is based on the design of a set of measures that finances or co-finances (not always the European Union subsidizes 100% of the expenses) projects aimed at responding to the needs within the framework of European Commission education policies, as in the case of the ERASMUS + program, research, such as HORIZONTE EUROPA, or SMEs, such as COSME. Each and every one of them normally managed by a series of executive agencies that, to understand it better, do the same as the Spanish tax agency in favour of the Ministry of Finance: publish calls, manage applications, subsidize approved projects, control justified expenses … Really, nothing new.
So why is it so difficult to understand what my profession is about?
Very simple: there is a combination of excess information (especially in the networks) with a lack of it in terms of how the European Union really benefits, through the European Commission (its executing hand) and its Directorates General (as in any Spanish autonomous community) that, in short, form a forest so dense that it is impossible to see the tree.
And then the multitude of actors involved (member states, public authorities, private institutions, consultants, local development agencies) create a somewhat motley menu, in which one gets a little lost when asking for the command.
It is not that complicated. You just have to spend a couple of afternoons on it, ask the right people, and select the right information.
And if you are still lost, do not hesitate to call us. We will surely give you the answer you are looking for, or we know who could give it to you.