December 16, 2015
Since the spark of the financial crisis, Greece has been weak in building a sound business environment. In this fragile context, disastrous austerity came to give a final blow. The last three years of EU funds 2007-13 period were not as efficient as the domestic governments or the European Commission could expect, but this was not directly or solely associated with the financial downturn in the country. Proper and inclusive communication on the specific programs along with the confusing application process were considered as major drawbacks for a big number of interested parts.
During 2007-13 Greece had an average absorption rate of around 57%. Access to EU funds was always considered a big issue for a number of domestic NGOs, SMEs that did not have the capacity or the proper experience to prepare a proposal and follow every part of the application chain. This is not a problem observed only in the Greek case, but an issue of wider concern for a growing number of applicants in other member-states. The complexity of the system is an impeding factor for an entity to submit a proposal no matter how interesting or innovative this x or that y proposal might be.
Beside the confusing application process, many businesses and NGOs in Greece were and still suffering from vital, economically-related problems that consume time that could be otherwise invested in the quest of a proper program. The good thing with EU funds is that they offer a variety of different actions addressed through different funds that concern different organizations — but this remains an unfulfilled promise as long as operational hurdles come into surface. In this respect, with special emphasis on the civil society, a growing number of NGOs resorts to start-up technological seminars or other gatherings with special tutors invited to find the way out. Therefore, many organizations seek for innovative ideas outside the framework of EU programs and try to get financed either via donations or after entering into private-led competitions organized by hedge funds, private banks, or other non-EU institutions.
Vice President of the European Parliament and SYRIZA MEP Dimitris Papadimoulis came up with the idea of bringing together dispersed information on EU funds for the period 2014-2020. In order to simplify the life of applicants, MEP Papadimoulis gathered all necessary information into a 30-page informative edition, thus designing a complete guide for all programs. The edition (in Greek) was released on June 2015 and since then it has been truly successful as many organizations have been informed in an easy and user-friendly way. Local authorities, professional unions have so far praised this initiative as it also “unlocked” crucial and priceless elements of our era: time, simplicity, and a target-oriented mindset. Interesting enough, this edition can be easily translated into other EU languages so that everyone can benefit from it.
Behind this valuable effort lies another story: the effort of MEP Papadimoulis to address the lack of knowledge and experience from a big number of potential applicants that have thirst for bringing a fresh air in the domestic economy, grow their leverage, create and expand. And this without resorting to long-lasting or expensive seminars on EU funds that often end up with no specific results.
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Twitter: @rapidisDimitris Rapidis