Following last week’s article on the many challenges cities face when trying to secure funding for migration-related projects, we present you with tips and hints from cities on how to better prepare to secure funding and how Eurocities has helped them, as well as the role of projects such as EU-funded UNITES and CONNECTION that are led by Eurocities.
This article is the second of a two-part series. Here’s the first part.
A network to support cities
Jan Braat, Senior Policy Advisor on Migration, Diversity and Integration, explains that Utrecht is “lucky to have Eurocities, a good platform to find cities to do partnerships. We sometimes do a lot of work and it ends in nothing, so we need to have more channels of communication with the EU institutions before wasting time with huge projects for nothing. And the financial plan scares a lot of cities. Cities want to take part when another city is the leading partner and takes care of a load of bureaucracy.”
He also notes that “the bureaucracy around it is too intensive for smaller cities and inexperienced cities.” Therefore he suggests that cities hire experts or “go to a call with a group of cities where they can share the burden. Let the more experienced partner make the call and write the project.”
“Eurocities has been helpful in letting us know when calls are in the market or will go in the market as a lot of preparation is needed, so Eurocities is very useful in this sense. Finding other cities with similar topics who could be partners, I think that Eurocities is ideal for that, otherwise, outside the network, you have no idea how to find other cities.”
“And I think in the end lobbying for direct funding and for not so bureaucratic a system, and telling the EU about the importance of cities in integration and migration policies are also major roles of Eurocities,” Braat adds.
As part of CONNECTION, Antwerp shared the city’s experience with the welcome and integration of migrants with other cities participating in the project, such as Madrid, Tampere and Sofia. Also, Utrecht learned from the experience of Gothenburg and focus on integrating migrant women, creating special projects for that purpose.
Through CONNECTION, cities are able to exchange experiences and learn from each other with a focus on employment and with a clear gender dimension, and those still taking their first steps can benefit from the experience of more experienced cities with more advanced projects.
Similarly, UNITES promotes the exchange of experience and the co-design of integration strategies with city partners setting up mechanisms for stakeholder consultation and developing their local integration strategy through co-design with stakeholders and migrants.
Partnering with others
Niels Tubbing, Senior Policy Advisor Civic Integration of Migrants & Refugees at the City of Amsterdam, a city with large experience securing EU funding, shares some tips and demands for the EU:
- Make more funding directly accessible for cities.
- Make funding available to continue and improve existing programmes that have proven their worth.
- Don’t only focus on short-term integration measures, but make funding available that looks at medium to long-term measures. Integration is not something that happens overnight or within the first few months or years. Integration is a long process and cities play a role of paramount importance.
- Decrease the amount of red tape, and make it easier for cities or NGOs that don’t have a lot of experience in applying for these kinds of funds.
Elshaday Tekle Zapelli, Equality and Hospitality Officer of the City of Lyon asserts that “if we had a benchmark of the actions that have already been supported within the framework of EU funding, and also personalised follow-up with cities, it would make things easier.” She notes that Lyon is “just beginning to get involved in the Eurocities network,” but expects great things to come from this partnership.
Antwerp is a city that has invested a lot in getting ready for applying for funding. Atlas, the agency responsible for integration in the city has had a centralised area to deal with funding since 2016 and Valeria Lemaitre Fortun, Staff Officer Projects at the Policy & Strategy Department of the City of Antwerp, is in charge of this area. “I receive several e-mails from colleagues with their needs and I spot opportunities for the city,” she explains.
The importance of regional projects
She further explains that Antwerp has been “participating in many ESF [European Social Fund] and AMIF [Asylum, Migration & Integration Fund] projects as Atlas alone, preparing the proposals as Atlas, but for the AMIF Transnational Call, because those are complex procedures, we have Eurodesk, a specific team in the city that ensures that Antwerp participates or has access to European funding, but also to follow up the evolution of projects, policies at the EU level, etc.”
Lamaitre Fortun believes that “it’s important for authorities to have a central service or person specialised in procedures and calls, that’s an advantage for us,” and mentions the differences between calls, noting that “transnational calls are much more complex. We found it difficult at the time to find the right partners. We had access via Eurocities to different organisations. Still, it’s important to find partner organisations who are interested in the type of topic you’re dealing with and also to align the vision and expectations of the partners, which is something still difficult.”
Finally, she gives an important tip for cities, echoing Braat: “Start with smaller projects, with calls of national or regional funding, the ones that can be made in partnership with more experienced cities and institutions. It’d be a good start to take part in projects not as a leader, but in a consortium, to know the dynamics, the requirements and so on.”