It doesn’t matter if the city is big or small, they all face significant challenges when trying to secure European funding. When it comes to funding to welcome, settle, and integrate migrants, cities face red tape, bureaucracy, strict deadlines and there’s a lot of leg work involved.
Often cities don’t have enough staff to aggregate all the information required in the calls for tender, or staff with sufficient experience. the process is long and complicated, very demanding, not to mention that even when funding is secure, cities face difficulties in maintaining projects and initiatives in the long term.
This article is the first of a two-part series.
Shortage of staff and lack of clarity
In Munich, for example, Magdalena Ziolek-Skrzypczak, from the Department of Labor and Economic Development, explains that often the problem is not even the procedures in themselves, “but because of our staff capacities.”
“If the city could have more staff capacities, the funds would be more often applied for by the city. It is hard to think about any possible action on the EU side that would solve the staff problem other than financial support for example for ‘EU programme agents,’ however, we are aware that it might be more wishful thinking than a realistic plan.”
She also notes that “the big issue is changing priorities in programmes so that the continuation of the same successful projects is a challenge. Requirements for innovations are in this respect not helpful, as it is hard and not reasonable to give up established programs for new ones if it is not necessary.”
“It is often not easy to differentiate between EU and Non-EU Migrants, so programmes exclusively for Third Country Nationals are unfortunately not really a good solution. In our practical work, we experience that EU migrants often face similar challenges and establishing projects only for people coming from outside the EU leads to discrimination,” adds Ziolek-Skrzypczak.
Echoing Ziolek-Skrzypczak’s complaints, Niels Tubbing, Senior Policy Advisor for Civic Integration of Migrants & Refugees at the City of Amsterdam, notes that “most funding is aimed at innovative approaches. While cities acknowledge the need for further developing and progressing policies, it is a shame that tried and tested approaches to integration cannot benefit from EU funding. Often cities lack financial means to continue those programmes, EU funding could help continue and improve the policies that work.”
Bureaucracy and direct funding
Another common problem for cities is that most funds don’t have cities as targets. That is, cities don’t have full direct access to such funds, having to rely on national and regional governments. Tubbing explains that “many funding programmes (AMIF, ESF+, ERDF) go through the national government’s agencies. The identified needs and challenges on the local level do not always coincide with those on the national level.”
From the city of Utrecht, Jan Braat, Senior Policy Advisor on Migration, Diversity and Integration, agrees, noting that “the national channels always make funding for cities very difficult, adding bureaucracy to the call. And bureaucracy is often incredible, some funds demand a lot of detail that we don’t often have beforehand. It should be much simpler; we need more direct funding for cities without going through national governments.”
He explains that despite having a lot of experience with EU funding, “it still takes a lot of preparation and a lot of organisation and in the end, you manage the project in a financial organisational way that takes a lot of effort.”
Tubbing also mentions yet another obstacle, that is, the “amount of red tape that cities or other actors have to deal with in applying for funding. Of course, it is essential that the money is well spent, but the amount of administrative efforts sometimes seem to surpass the actual activities that are taking place.”
The complexity of things
From Lyon, the Equality and Hospitality Officer, Elshaday Tekle Zapelli, explains that, for the city, “the most complicated thing is to know the different funding channels, to understand the distinction between each but also to ensure that this funding corresponds to the policies that we put in place.”
Valeria Lemaitre Fortun, Staff Officer Projects at the Policy & Strategy Department of the City of Antwerp, sums up their most common issues, asking for “prior notice, better communication, more resources to work on the proposals and plan ahead, evaluate, etc.” also noting that “some calls are too demanding in terms of complexity and bureaucracy.”
For her, what she always finds difficult “is that although we do monitoring, it would help to have prior notice to when the offers are published, although we have good contact with project officers in Brussels, so it’s easy for us just to give a call whenever we have doubts on whether we should apply for specific funding and the procedures. It helps to have a line of communication.”
With projects such as CONNECTION and UNITES, Eurocities seeks to help cities get funding in a simpler and more straightforward way. Antwerp and Utrecht, for example, are part of CONNECTION and have been able to secure funding more easily thanks to the efforts of Eurocities during the whole process, from preparing for the tender to its execution.