European Community Funds

The European Commission

The European Commission is one of the worlds largest financial contributors to voluntary organisations around the world. They support a diverse range of projects such as a agricultural support to the prevention of torture. The Commission is divided inFlag of the EUto departments known as Directorates-General (DGs or the services), each headed by a director-general, and various other services. Each covers a specific policy area or service such as External Relations or Translation responsible or a European Commissioner. DGs prepare proposals for their Commissioners which can then be put forward for voting in the college of Commissioners. Each DG has pots of money which they use to support specific policies. These are usually laid out in policy documents While they can be likened to national departments or ministries they are the product of a number of national administrative traditions rather than any single system. They are held together through this by a “common mission” which gives DGs a particularly enthusiastic attitude to the production of draft legislation regardless of the intentions of the Commissioner. They are also notably bound by their common procedures, which have become a sacred rite in the absence of a common administrative culture.
Most funding is available through annual calls for proposals whereby NGO project proposals are ‘scored’ against a set criteria. The main funding areas are:


EuropeAid is the Directorate-General of the European Commission that is responsible for implementing external aid programmes and projects across the world. It works closely with EU neighbouring countries, Russia, the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) regions, Latin America and Asia. EuropeAid aims to deliver development aid in an efficient and effective way. The focus is on maximising the value and impact of aid funding by making sure support is provided in a speedy and accountable fashion. EuropeAid works hard to ensure that the aid it distributes makes a significant contribution to the development objectives of both the EU and the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals. Effective implementation of aid also helps the Commission and the EU as a whole to attain a higher profile on the world stage. EuropeAid is responsible for all the steps of an aid delivery project: after identifying needs, it carries out feasibility studies and prepares all the necessary financial decisions and controls. It then moves on to drawing up the required tendering, monitoring and evaluation procedures.
When implementing projects, EuropeAid takes account of EU strategies and long-term programmes for the delivery of aid. These strategies and related policies are designed by other directorates-general of the European Commission, including DG Development for the ACP regions and DG External Relations for the other regions and countries of the world. Humanitarian aid is managed by a separate Directorate-General, because its immediate and short-term relief activities are very different from the long-term objectives of development aid.

Promoting joint effort

EuropeAid, together with the delegations, adapts to changing circumstances. It trains staff to be able to take up new challenges, and liaises with other bilateral and multilateral donors, such as the United Nations. It works closely with Member States’ development agencies and with international financing institutions, such as the World Bank. EuropeAid also maintains a dialogue with NGOs, consultancies and other non-state actors both in the EU and in the beneficiary countries. The results of EuropeAid’s work allow the European Commission, and the EU as a whole, to formulate better policies and strategies, which, in the long run, should lead to a world free of poverty as defined by the Millennium Development Goals. EU activities in this area also support sustainable development for all nations and show a commitment to strengthening human rights across the world.

European Social Fund

The European Social Fund is the European Union’s main financial instrument for supporting employment in the Member States as well as promoting economic and social cohesion. ESF spending amounts to around 10% of the EU’s total budget. The ESF is one of the EU Structural Funds, which are dedicated to improving social cohesion and economic well-being across the regions of the Union. The structural funds are redistributive financial instruments that support cohesion within Europe by concentrating spending on the less-developed regions. The particular aim of ESF spending is to support the creation of more and better jobs in the EU, which it does by co-funding national, regional and local projects that improve the levels of employment, the quality of jobs, and the inclusiveness of the labour market in the Member States and their regions.

From policy to action

EuropeAid is responsible for translating policies into practical actions and for developing new ways of delivering aid, such as budget support and through sectoral approaches. It also issues guidelines and makes evaluations of aid implementation. In addition, it is responsible for the proper management of funds and must use clear and transparent tendering and contracting procedures. Despite the complexities of its work, EuropeAid aims to keep procedures as simple and harmonised as possible. In order to achieve all this, EuropeAid develops and manages an array of information, accounting, control, reporting and auditing systems. EuropeAid is a highly decentralised organisation. Two out of three Commission staff members working on aid implementation are based in the field. That is why most of the preparatory and implementation work is done through the Commission delegations in the recipient countries.