EU update on funding opportunities, and various other matters
The European Union has a large variety of different funding schemes designed to provide support for projects coinciding with the EU’s policy aims. Some of these schemes are directed at specific groups or professions, others are much more general in their objectives.  A number of them are targeted at the legal profession and others cover areas of interest to the profession.

This article seeks to give some practical advice on how to go about obtaining EU funds for projects, conferences, exchanges, meetings and other events which organisations or special interest groups in the Scottish legal profession may wish to organise.  This is not an exhaustive list of all the EU funding opportunities available but should provide some basic guidelines to bear in mind when considering applying to the EU for funding.

What types of projects will the EU fund?

Unfortunately, there is no straightforward answer to this question. However, in general terms, the EU will consider funding most projects provided certain basic criteria are met (see below for further information on the basic criteria).

Examples of legal projects in the UK which have been funded by the EU include:

  • Robert Schuman Programme: a series of evening seminars on EC law run by the Society and the Faculty of Advocates for Scottish lawyers;
  • Leonardo Da Vinci Programme 1996-2000: a pilot project to set up a trainee lawyer placement and exchange programme in the UK, Germany, Spain and Belgium;
  • PHARE Democracy Programme 1992: a programme of seminars held by the Law Society of England and Wales in eight Central & Eastern European countries to promote democracy and the rule of law;
  • TACIS Democracy Programme 1994: four week residential legal training programme in Moscow followed by placements for 20 lawyers in the UK, to teach Russian lawyers how to compete in a market economy;
  • British Middle East Law Council: a major legal conference which was held in Abu Dhabi on 26-27 April 1997.  The purpose of the event was to promote UK and EU law in the region and to forge links and greater understanding between the British, European and Gulf States legal professions.

These examples are not exhaustive but should give an indication of the sort of projects that receive EU funds.

Criteria that need to be met in order to receive EU funds?

1.  Link to an EU policy objective

For a project to receive EU funding, it must relate to and assist the EU in achieving one or more of its policy objectives.  There are numerous of these, but examples include:

  • education and training;
  • social affairs and employment;
  • external relations;
  • tourism and enterprise policy;
  • justice and home affairs.

2.  Pan-European dimension

In order to receive funds, it is usual for the EU to require that the project involves partners from at least two Member States.  There are exceptions to this rule, but generally the EU is keen to encourage pan- European co-operation.  Even where a pan-European dimension to the project is not stipulated by a particular funding scheme, it does no harm for the project to involve organisations from several Member States.

3.  Co-financing

The EU will not usually fund the entire cost of a project and normally requires the recipients to make a contribution.  The amount the EU will contribute varies but is usually between 50-80% of the total cost of the project; the balance, which must be contributed by the recipients, may either be a contribution in cash or in kind (for example, speakers’ time and fees).

4.  Multiplier effect

The EU is keen that the benefits of the project extend beyond the participants directly involved.  It is for this reason there is usually a requirement for some sort of follow-up or dissemination of the results obtained.  Provision should therefore be made for this in both the application form and the budget.

How do I find out whether the EU will fund my project?

As a first port of call, there are a series of guides and reference material on EU funding which can help point you in the right direction.  Moreover, some of the EU’s budget lines may be advertised and/or commonly known about (for example, the PHARE Democracy Programme).

In general, there are two types of EU budget lines.  Firstly, specific EU programmes (such as the PHARE and TACIS Democracy Programmes or the GROTIUS and ROBERT SCHUMAN Programmes) which clearly set out the objectives of the programme and what the funding criteria are.  They may also have an application form and instructions on how to prepare the budget.  If your project fits in with one of these EU programmes, all you need to do is identify the relevant programme and follow the application procedure.

If your project does not fit within a specific EU programme, this does not mean that EU funding is not available.  Rather, it means that you will have to engage in more research and persuasion than would otherwise be the case.  As a general rule, if your project satisfies the basic EU criteria (see above) it should be possible in most cases to identify an EU budget line which will help fund the project.  It is simply a question of identifying the relevant budget line and tracking down the competent EU official.

If you are finding it difficult to identify an EU budget line which matches with your project and/or tracking down the competent EU official, the best way to start is to approach EU officials on an informal basis and ask them for their views and advice.  Although this may seem a little obscure and unorthodox, it generally produces a result: either you find out that the possibility of funding is remote or you find out that funding is likely, in which case you need to set the application process in motion.

The Society’s Brussels Office

The Brussels Office can help in a number of ways:

  • it can give you its views on whether a specific project meets the basic funding criteria;
  • it can provide you with information on specific EU programmes and budget lines of which it may be aware;
  • if it is not aware of a specific EU programme or budget line for your project, the Brussels Office can put you in contact with EU officials who would be able to assist you;
  • it can look over your project application and budget and provide you with advice and comments;
  • it can liaise with the relevant EU officials during the application procedure.

The Brussels Office cannot, however create specific projects nor draft individual application forms and budgets.

European Commission

The European Commission will shortly publish a call for proposals for two funding initiatives specifically targeted at lawyers.  The first of these is the Grotius programme which makes money available for projects to further judicial co-operation in the fields of civil and criminal law.  Projects must involve at least two EU Member States and must involve a comparison of national laws in order to be eligible.  The second programme which would also be of interest to solicitors is the Robert Schuman programme.  This programme is aimed at raising the level of awareness of Community law amongst legal practitioners.  Neither of the programmes are open to private law firms but are targeted at Bars, Law Societies, Ministries of Justice and non-profit making legal organisations.

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