Allow me to get back to what seems to be a favourite subject with many - EU funds. For years we’ve been hearing of the availability of EU funds. It’s a subject that tops the list of every poll that takes place. But how does one get his hands on it?
I thought that it was high time we published a booklet that sets the record straight. Funds - and lots of them - are available but there is a process one has to follow to get to the money. My aim is to highlight the opportunities available and to make suggestions that might help potential beneficiaries.
The spectrum of fields that can benefit from EU funds is wide ranging. One can apply for funds as grants to finance a service or products following a call for tenders by the Commission. A project can be funded under different programmes. Centralised programmes are managed by the Commission. These normally seek to accomplish common targets. Here, one must propose a project that will have a European added value and in most cases will need to team up with others from different countries.
There are then funds which are granted directly to member states - meaning to governments.
Thirdly there are funds to finance external relations or for specific reasons like for example the development of certain regions. Difficult? Don’t be put off.
Our booklet will tell you how to approach the subject - on whether your organisation can possibly benefit from one funding opportunity or the other. It tells you how to apply, what steps to take, how to draft a proposal, how to join up with projects proposed by others. Take my word for it - apply for a copy (a copy should be delivered directly to your home anyway). It could make all the difference on whether your project ends up having enough funds to succeed or not.
Our thanks to the Fondazzjoni Temi Zammit for their help in putting the brochure together.
As I say – I know it sounds corny but it is true - together we can and shall.
Roll up! Roll Up!
Even before we had time to take down the Christmas decorations most of us were shifting into top gear preparing for this month’s annual Europe “Close To You Fair”. The fair, which takes place in Valletta from Friday 20 till the 24, is one of our annual mainstay activities. It is designed to get people to acquaint themselves better with how the EU works - and what it does to improve our living standards.
This year we plan to outdo ourselves in making the fair more attractive. Taking a leaf out of a set of creative postcards published by the EU Commission last year pegged to circus artists - if you haven’t seen them yet write in, they’re a real treat - we decided this year’s 17 fair stalls will be decorated in the style of a circus. The idea is to make them colourful and fun. Again, very much in the spirit of the EU postcards, we have chosen as one of this year’s themes, the EU’s Social Agenda.
Needless to say coming up with a circus theme for the stalls can be fun but to add to the jollity of the affair we shall be staging, again, Krexx, the highly relevant stage play created by the Education Department’s Drama Unit. Krexx was a hit last year and we have tweaked the script slightly to make it fit into this year’s specific themes.
More than that we shall have Winter Moods- they must be Malta’s foremost rock band - in concert on the Friday.
The overall objective of our fair is to provide visitors with the widest possible choice of information about the EU - so don’t be afraid to ask however silly you might think your question is: that’s what the information booths are there for.
Our other theme this year are the EU’s anti-discrimination efforts and plans on how to and promote equality. Organisations fighting the corner of these two very important subjects will be at the fair to deal with your questions-and to make their point. Many of you will know the EU is forever raising its anti -discrimination bar by taking additional tacks, not least by bolstering legislation. The objective is to eradicate this problem. Discrimination can take many forms- not only racial. People can be discriminated against in various ways, including by gender, at the place of work or across age groups. Like every other handicap it will not mean much to people who have never suffered from being locked out of jobs or benefits on account of the colour of their skin, their religion, their gender or their age. But it can be devastating to those who have. In a fast moving competitive world discrimination is more possible than one imagines and the EU’s objective is to stamp this out at every juncture. Believe me.
One other theme we chose was the European Parliament. A new parliament will be voted in later this year for the next five years.
I believe people should take a keen interest in deciding who represents them at the EU parliament in Brussels. The EU parliament is now a very potent and powerful institution whose deliberations hold sway over several of the Commission’s key decisions. These range from how much of your money is spent in fighting illegal immigration to what decisions are taken to ensure that the quality of your life improves at the same rate as those living in Paris or Rome or in anyone living in the other member states.
Still, to ensure all of this happens one has to go out and vote. That old saying that people get the government they deserve is a myth. People get the government they choose and the same applies to the EU parliament. At this year’s Europe ‘Close To You fair’ you will have every opportunity to discuss how the EU parliament can work in you interest.
We shall also be staging a number of discussions in which local political party leaders will take part on issues that are certain to impact on your lives, including jobs and unemployment. This threatens to be a difficult year ahead and the EU has already set aside several billions of Euros to avoid massive unemployment- including hefty financial bailouts of banks and companies that are in difficulty. There are steps that have to be taken by every single government. I will be very happy to see as many of you as possible if only to answer your questions on how Brussels plans on avoiding an economic collapse coming to your doorstep. For example will the EU bailouts help Maltese couples who can’t cope with their mortgages?
How could you possibly stay away? See you at the fair.
Just when one was beginning to wonder how long it will take before the Palestinians manage to raise themselves out of their predicament comes another war with Israel. TV coverage of the conflict couldn’t be more heart - wrenching. How many more people, women and children must die before a solution is found? As I traipse from one TV news channel to the other the notion strikes me that however much both sides try to change the equation by going to war nothing ever really changes.
I am buoyed however by the efforts being made by the EU which is viewed as an honest broker by both sides. The diplomatic pressure mounted by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Javier Solana and the current EU President Mirek Topolanek seem to be reaping rewards. The news is that Israel will suspend its bombings for three hours a day to allow humanitarian supplies to get through, a ray of hope for the one and half million people living in Gaza. Hopefully the joint efforts of the United Nations and the EU will soon provide us all with better news.