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EU4Business : Connecting Companies (Eastern Europe Region) - EuropeAid/161515/DH/ACT
Deadline: 15 Feb 2019   CALL EXPIRED

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EU4Business : connecting companies

1.1. Background

Boosting sustainable economic development and supporting job creation is at the heart of EU's contribution to stabilising its neighbourhood. In the past years the Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries have achieved significant progress in reforming their economies and integrating into global market place. Since 2010 overall business climate in the EaP countries has also improved and EaP countries as a whole made substantial efforts to encourage the growth of their Small and Medium Size Enterprises (SMEs). 

Many SMEs in the region however, remain tied to low value-added sectors and still don't contribute as they could to job creation and export. There is a need to support them to increase their share in value added production and employment rates, aiming in particular at increasing export potential of SMEs.  

The European Union is a key trading partner for most of the EaP countries. According to a recent Commission analysis, intra-regional trade in the EaP is relatively limited, although liberalization of trade in goods on the basis of regional (Free Trade Agreement with the Community of Independent States) and several bilateral Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) concluded in the past already exist. It seems that the intra-regional demand for EaP products is currently low considering their limited and similar range of traded goods (with the exception of Azerbaijan, which differs due to an economy with a strong component on energy products and trade), hence diversification and specialization in some intermediate products are needed for trade enhancement in the region. Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia recently joined the Regional Convention on pan Euro Mediterranean preferential rules of origin which could improve potential for intra-regional trade.  

The role of local business associations in promoting economic development is essential for the sustainable development of the economies of the six EaP countries. However, the business organisations in the six countries have been found to be fairly weak: they generally suffer from lack of resources, limited services on offer and limited participation and impact on public policies. This applies both to Chambers of Commerce and employers' federations; specialised organisations, such as women associations or sector federations, are even weaker, often with no permanent staff, very low membership and no operating budget. Continuing support to business associations to enhance their management capacities and the quality of their services is essential.

 

The recently ended East Invest project (2010-2017) was a regional investment and trade facilitation project for the economic development of the Eastern Neighbourhood region. It provided direct support to both SME and Business Support Organizations across the region to increase trade and networking opportunities with the EU via the organisation of trade fairs, investment forum and participation of SMEs in the so called "road-shows". East Invest identified six sectors as having the greatest potential for export to the EU and investment from a regional perspective: agro-food, sustainable construction, Information and Communication Technologies, transport & logistics, textiles and tourism. The project was monitored in 2017 and found that East Invest was a very useful first step to boost Business Support Organisations in the East. As on the EU side, private enterprises are still very cautious with trade environment and investment opportunities in the EaP countries the evaluation recommended the next programme to focus on linking under a sectoral appraoch of Eastern Partners’ BSOs directly with EU Member States BSOs. 

A 2014 study showed that the majority of SMEs surveyed in EaP countries wanted to export to the EU; most SMEs and BSOs had however a very limited understanding of the implications of AA/DCFTA for them and how they could benefit from it.  The study therefore recommended to:  

 

• Provide very specific know how and support to SMEs and BSOs by taking a more sectorial approach to accompany EaP SMEs to increase their export competitiveness. 

• Guidance manuals and best practise should be developed on a sector by sector basis.  

• The sectors to be targeted in each country have to be large enough to make the formation of associations sustainable, meaning sectors with a large number of SMEs in each country. 

 

1.2. Objectives of the programme and priority issues 

The global objective of this call for proposals is to contribute towards the development of sustainable and equitable economic growth models in the EaP countries, which can generate more investments and improve socio-economic conditions and employment opportunities for citizens. 

The specific objective of this call for proposals is to support capacity of sectorial Business Support Organisations to enhance EaP SMEs internationalisation, export capacities and access to new markets. The assistance will focus on sectors that have most potential for export to the EU and EaP intra-regional trade. 

In concrete terms, this means supporting the development of quality business networks including the provision of adequate support and linkage services for SMEs, including but not limited to agro-food, sustainable construction, ICT, transport & logistics, textiles and tourism. The main bulk of this component will consist of financial support to third parties activities to reinforce the action of sectorial BSOs notably the internationalisation of their SMEs.

Furthermore, the programme should reach the following results: 

Result 1: Increased number of business deals between EaP SMEs and international companies. 

Result 2: Capacity of participating sectorial Business Support Organisations (BSOs) has been strengthened to provide improved services towards their members in view of increasing international trade and attract investment.    

Priority issues to be addressed include: 

 

• SME's limited access to markets (local & international). Whether at national or international level, most SMEs in EaP countries lack an adequate knowledge of market requirements. This is  particularly relevant for countries with an AA/DCFTA which need to meet EU market requirements to reap the full benefits of these agreements.  

• Lack of understanding on how to export (to the EU and to the EaP region) and lack of understanding on the sector potential and on the demand for EaP products/services (export promotion): SMEs in the EaP countries often lack the ability to locate, analyse, and pursue commercial opportunities in the local and foreign markets. While limited analysis, strategy, marketing and sales capacities within SMEs are key constraints, the inadequate sector-specific business support services represent an additional hindrance.  

• Limited availability of quality sector-specific services to SMEs: There are only a very few sectoral Business Support Organisations (BSOs) capable to provide adequate 

The programme is expected to:

• Devise a strategic concept of intervention for the achievement of the specific objective, which will provide guidance and orient the choice of projects in the countries which will receive subgranting. 

• Provide financial support to third parties to implement these projects.

• Coherently with the strategy, the programme shall provide and implement a communication strategy, that will ensure proper dissemination of the results achieved through the projects among BSOs and SMEs.

Since the main purpose of this grant is to provide financial support to third parties, at least 3.5 million EURO of the EU contribution must be reserved for this end. This should ensure broad participation of eligible organisations from the different eligible countries. 

The proposals must clearly outline the strategic concept which will guide the choice of projects for third parties funding and ensure an adequate usage of these funds. For the financial support to third parties, the same eligibility criteria as defined for actions and activities in these guidelines in chapter 2.1.4 will apply. The consortium will have to demonstrate that it has the strategy, networks, the reputation and the administrative capacity to be able to provide financial assistance to other eligible entities from other EaP countries. An Advisory Board that will be chaired by the European Commission will have to give its approval in order to grant financial support to a third party.  

The remaining funds of the EU contribution should be directly implemented by the consortium in line with the operational objective and the results of the guidelines.

Activities will have to be presented in the form of integrated multiannual plans. The plans must provide a description of specific activities to be carried out in the first year and forecasts of activities to be implemented in the following years. 

Special attention will be paid during the evaluation process to proposals that: 

o have a clear strategy for supporting women entrepreneurs, to support actions that aim at providing solutions to (country and sector specific) challenges faced by women in business and creating decent employment for women; 

o propose a strategy to promote intraregional initiatives and take advantage of opportunities created by agreements between the target countries and the European Union, such as the Association Agreements; 

o demonstrate how to create European added value, for example fostering exchanges between EU and EaP countries, strengthening institutional networks between both regions, sectors, promote knowledge transfer, and create synergies with existing initiatives, such as COSME and the Enterprise Europe Network. 

o in order to support job creation and poverty reduction attention should be given to women and men who run businesses in rural areas.   

 

1.3. Financial allocation provided by the contracting authority

The overall indicative amount made available under this call for proposals is EUR 6,500,000. The contracting authority reserves the right not to award all available funds.

The present Call for Proposals aims at selecting and financing only one contract.

Any grant requested under this call for proposals must fall between the following minimum and maximum amounts:

• minimum amount: EUR 6.000.000

• maximum amount: EUR 6.500.000

The maximum percentage of total eligible costs of the action allowed is 95 % (see also Section 2.1.5). 

The balance (i.e. the difference between the total cost of the action and the amount requested from the contracting authority) must be financed from sources other than the general budget of the Union.

 

2. Rules FOR thIS call for proposalS

These guidelines set out the rules for the submission, selection and implementation of the actions financed under this call, in conformity with the practical guide, which is applicable to the present call (available on the internet at this address http://ec.europa.eu/europeaid/prag/document.do?locale=en).

 

2.1. Eligibility criteria

There are three sets of eligibility criteria, relating to:

 

(1) the actors:

• The ‘lead applicant’, i.e. the entity submitting the application form (2.1.1),

• if any, its co-applicant(s) (where it is not specified otherwise the lead applicant and its co-applicant(s) are hereinafter jointly referred as ‘applicant(s)’) (2.1.1), 

• and, if any, affiliated entity(ies) to the lead applicant and/or to a co-applicant(s). (2.1.2);

(2) the actions:

Actions for which a grant may be awarded (2.1.4);

 

(3) the costs:

    • • types of cost that may be taken into account in setting the amount of the grant (2.1.5).

2.1.1. Eligibility of applicants (i.e. lead applicant and co-applicant(s))

Lead applicant

(1) In order to be eligible for a grant, the lead applicant must:

  • • be a legal person and
  • • be non-profit-making and
  • • be a specific type of organisation such as public sector operator and international (inter-governmental) organisation as defined by Article 43 of the rules of application of the EU Financial Regulation 
  • • be established in a Member State of the European Union or  a country that is a beneficiary of the ENI Regulation, a country that is a beneficiary of an Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance set up by Council Regulation (EC) No 1085/2006 (IPA) or a Member State of the EEA.

For British applicants: Please be aware that eligibility criteria must be complied with for the entire duration of the grant. Unless sector-specific eligibility rules provide otherwise, if the United Kingdom withdraws from the EU during the grant period without concluding an agreement with the EU ensuring in particular that British applicants continue to be eligible, you will cease to receive EU funding (while continuing, where possible to participate) or will be required to leave the project on the basis of Article [insert reference to the Article allowing termination of the grant agreement (change of the legal situation of the beneficiary)] of the grant agreement’. This obligation does not apply to international organisations and

• [not applicable to international organizations] be directly responsible for the preparation and management of the action with the co-applicant(s) and affiliated entity(ies), not acting as an intermediary and

 (2) Potential applicants may not participate in calls for proposals or be awarded grants if they are in any of the situations listed in Section 2.6.10.1 of the practical guide;

Lead applicants, co-applicants, affiliated entities and, in case of legal entities, persons who have powers of representation, decision-making or control over the lead applicant, the co-applicants and the affiliated entities are informed that, should they be in one of the situations of early detection or exclusion according to Section 2.6.10.1 of the practical guide, personal details (name, given name if natural person, address, legal form and name and given name of the persons with powers of representation, decision-making or control, if legal person) may be registered in the early detection and exclusion system, and communicated to the persons and entities concerned in relation to the award or the execution of a grant contract. 

In Part A, Section 3 and Part B Section 8 of the grant application form (‘declaration(s) by the lead applicant’), the lead applicant must declare that the lead applicant himself, the co-applicant(s) and affiliated entity(ies) are not in any of these situations.

If awarded the grant contract, the lead applicant will become the beneficiary identified as the coordinator in Annex E3h1 (special conditions). The coordinator is the main interlocutor of the contracting authority. It represents and acts on behalf of any other co-beneficiary (if any) and coordinate the design and implementation of the action.

Co-applicant(s)

Co-applicants participate in designing and implementing the action, and the costs they incur are eligible in the same way as those incurred by the lead applicant. 

Co-applicants must satisfy the eligibility criteria as applicable to the lead applicant himself.

Co-applicants must sign the mandate in Part B Section 4 of the grant application form.

In addition to the categories referred to in section 2.1.1, the following are however also eligible: 

Business Support Organizations, business associations, SMEs, Chambers of Commerce and employers' federations, women associations, sector federations, local and regional economic development agencies established in the country where the action will take place.

 

(3)  Applicants included in the lists of EU restrictive measures (see Section 2.4. of the PRAG) at the
        moment of the award decision cannot be awarded the contract.

If awarded the grant contract, the co-applicant(s) (if any) will become beneficiary(ies) in the action (together with the coordinator) 

 

2.1.2. Affiliated entities

The lead applicant and its co-applicant(s) may act with affiliated entity(ies).

Only the following entities may be considered as affiliated entities to the lead applicant and/or to co-applicant(s):

Only entities having a structural link with the applicants (i.e. the lead applicant or a co-applicant), in particular a legal or capital link.

This structural link encompasses mainly two notions:

(i) Control, as defined in Directive 2013/34/EU on the annual financial statements, consolidated financial statements and related reports of certain types of undertakings:

Entities affiliated to an applicant may hence be:

- Entities directly or indirectly controlled by the applicant (daughter companies or first-tier subsidiaries). They may also be entities controlled by an entity controlled by the applicant (granddaughter companies or second-tier subsidiaries) and the same applies to further tiers of control;

- Entities directly or indirectly controlling the applicant (parent companies). Likewise, they may be entities controlling an entity controlling the applicant;

- Entities under the same direct or indirect control as the applicant (sister companies).

(ii) Membership, i.e. the applicant is legally defined as a e.g. network, federation, association in which the proposed affiliated entities also participate or the applicant participates in the same entity (e.g. network, federation, association) as the proposed affiliated entities.

 

The structural link shall as a general rule be neither limited to the action nor established for the sole purpose of its implementation. This means that the link would exist independently of the award of the grant; it should exist before the call for proposals and remain valid after the end of the action.

 

By way of exception, an entity may be considered as affiliated to an applicant even if it has a structural link specifically established for the sole purpose of the implementation of the action in the case of so-called ‘sole applicants’ or ‘sole beneficiaries’.  A sole applicant or a sole beneficiary is a legal entity formed by several entities (a group of entities) which together comply with the criteria for being awarded the grant. For example, an association is formed by its members.

 

What is not an affiliated entity? 

 

The following are not considered entities affiliated to an applicant:

 

- Entities that have entered into a (procurement) contract or subcontract with an applicant, act as concessionaires or delegatees for public services for an applicant,

- Entities that receive financial support from the applicant,

- Entities that cooperate on a regular basis with an applicant on the basis of a memorandum of understanding or share some assets,

- Entities that have signed a consortium agreement under the grant contract (unless this consortium agreement leads to the creation of a ‘sole applicant’ as described above).

 

How to verify the existence of the required link with an applicant?

 

The affiliation resulting from control may in particular be proved on the basis of the consolidated accounts of the group of entities the applicant and its proposed affiliates belong to.

 

The affiliation resulting from membership may in particular be proved on the basis of the statutes or equivalent act establishing the entity (network, federation, association) which the applicant constitutes or in which the applicant participates.

If the applicants are awarded a grant contract, their affiliated entity(ies) will not become beneficiary(ies) of the action and signatory(ies) of the grant contract. However, they will participate in the design and  in the implementation of the action and the costs they incur (including those incurred for implementation contracts and financial support to third parties) may be accepted as eligible costs, provided they comply with all the relevant rules already applicable to the beneficiary(ies) under the grant contract.

Affiliated entity(ies) must satisfy the same eligibility criteria as the lead applicant and the co-applicant(s).  They must sign the affiliated entity(ies) statement in Part B Section 5 of the grant application form.

2.1.3. Associates and contractors

The following entities are not applicants nor affiliated entities and do not have to sign the ‘mandate for co-applicant(s)’ or ‘affiliated entities' statement’:

  • • Associates

Other organisations or individuals may be involved in the action. Such associates play a real role in the action but may not receive funding from the grant, with the exception of per diem or travel costs. Associates do not have to meet the eligibility criteria referred to in Section 2.1.1. Associates must be mentioned in Part B Section 6 — ‘Associates participating in the action’ — of the grant application form. 

The involvement of local authorities and their associations established in one or several countries listed below, in quality of associates is encouraged if well justified (i.e. based on existing twinnings, specific expertise in fields relevant to the action etc.):

- Members State of the European Union;

- Countries of the European Economic Area;

- Countries covered by the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI) and the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA).

• Contractors

The beneficiaries and their affiliated entities are permitted to award contracts. Associates or affiliated entity(ies) cannot be also contractors in the project. Contractors are subject to the procurement rules set out in Annex IV to the standard grant contract.

2.1.4. Eligible actions: actions for which an application may be made

Definition: 

An action is composed of a set of activities.

Duration

The initial planned duration of an action may not be lower than 36 months nor exceed 48 months.

Extensions of the implementation period may be agreed by the Commission’s authorising officer responsible by amending this decision and the relevant contracts and agreements.  

Sectors or themes

Support to Business Support Organisations.

Location

Actions must take place in at all 6 Eastern Partnership Countries, namely Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. 

In concrete terms, this means supporting the development of quality business networks including the provision of adequate support and linkage services for SMEs, including but not limited to. The main bulk of this component will consist of financial support to third parties activities to reinforce the action of sectorial BSOs notably the internationalisation of their SMEs and to related capacity building, networking of these supported organisations as well as communication and visibility.

Types of action

A project contributing to:

• Develop Business Support Organizations internal capacity to enhance SME’s internationalisation and export capacities

• Foster EU and EaP Business Support Organizations’ cooperation

• Develop quality business networks including providing adequate support and business linkages for SMEs (including but not limited to agro-food, sustainable construction, ICT, transport & logistics, textiles and tourism)

• Develop sector specific Business Support services availability; ensure relevance and appropriateness to EaP context.

• Offer tailor made services to SMEs that contribute to improving their competitiveness and productivity ; 

• Strengthen support networks for SMEs, for example, Business Membership Associations

• Contribute to a more conducive business environment for SMEs or to better policies for SMEs

• Improving gender equality in the aforementioned actions 

• Supporting development of new/expanded services to BSOs and SMEs

The following types of action are ineligible:

• actions concerned only or mainly with individual sponsorships for participation in workshops, seminars, conferences and congresses;

• actions concerned only or mainly with individual scholarships for studies or training courses;

Types of activity

Activities eligible under this call are those contributing to the achievement of its specific objectives and providing significant and tangible results for the citizens.

Actions targeting directly women and/or youth employment and entrepreneurship will be considered as bringing a significant added-value.

As a matter of example, indicative activities can include the following:

  • Developing better business linkages including through encouraging the creation of "clusters" of companies that co-operate with each other to launch new, better and cheaper products, or initiating forums to consider how local companies can improve the linkages between them.
  • Trainings to increase BSOs internal capacity and ability to provide sector specific support to SMEs for export purposes, with the specific objective of increasing cooperation and interlinkages between EaP and EU BSOs. 
  • Developing Guidance and Best Practice Manuals on a sector by sector basis, although in an overall working framework. 
  • Establishing direct links between EU Member States BSOs and EaP BSOs, to increase knowledge and trust from EU BSOs side on trade environment and investment opportunities available in EaP countries. In this framework, implement more long-term partnerships between EU and EaP BSOs in the region. 
  • • Organize Business to Business meetings between EU and EaP countries but also within EaP countries, in line with the 20 Deliverables for 2020’s objective to enhance people to people contacts and trade opportunities.  
  • Expand and develop communication towards EU BSOs/in the EU to diversify and attract more expertise and exchange of experience between EU and EaP SMEs and BSOs. 
  • Supporting gender balance at BSOs level as well as the development of women entrepreneurship(encouraging creation of women committees; granting management positions to women in EaP BSOs for example). 
  • Facilitating peer exchanges among SMEs, to ensure sharing of information and best practices, building on existing networks. 

Financial support to third parties 

Applicants must propose financial support to third parties in order to help achieving the objectives of the action. 

The maximum amount of financial support per third party is 60 000 EUR.

Under this call, financial support to third parties is considered essential to achieve the objective of the action.

In compliance with the present guidelines and notably of any conditions or restrictions in this Section, the lead applicant should define mandatorily in Section 2.1.1 of the grant application form: 

(i) the overall objectives, the specific objective(s) and the outputs (i.e. the results) to be achieved with the financial support 

(ii) the different types of activities eligible for financial support, on the basis of a fixed list 

(iii) the types of persons or categories of persons which may receive financial support  

(iv) the criteria for selecting these entities and giving the financial support  

(v) the criteria for determining the exact amount of financial support for each third entity, and 

(vi) the maximum amount which may be given.

In all events, the mandatory conditions set above for giving financial support (points (i) to (vi)) have to be strictly defined in the grant contract as to avoid any exercise of discretion.

Moreover, there apply specific conditions and restrictions for financial support to third parties for this Call for Proposal:

In order to be eligible for financial support, entities must fulfil the same eligibility criteria as co-applicants as defined in chapter 2.1.1.

In the same sense, in order to be eligible for financial support, the activities implemented by those entities must fulfil the eligibility criteria as defined in chapter 2.1.4.

At least 3.5 million EURO of the total amount of the financial contribution to the grant from the European Commission must be reserved as financial support to third parties.  

Visibility

The applicants must take all necessary steps to publicise the fact that the European Union has financed or co-financed the action. As far as possible, actions that are wholly or partially funded by the European Union must incorporate information and communication activities designed to raise the awareness of specific or general audiences of the reasons for the action and the EU support for the action in the country or region concerned, as well as the results and the impact of this support.

Applicants must comply with the objectives and priorities and guarantee the visibility of the EU financing (see the Communication and Visibility Manual for EU external actions specified and published by the European Commission at http://ec.europa.eu/europeaid/funding/communication-and-visibility-manual-eu-external-actions_en).

Number of applications and grants per applicants / affiliated entities

The lead applicant may not submit more than one application under this call for proposals.

The lead applicant may not be awarded more than 1 grant under this call for proposals.

The lead applicant may not be a co-applicant or an affiliated entity in another application at the same time.

A co-applicant/affiliated entity may not be the co-applicant or affiliated entity in more than 1 application  under this call for proposals.

A co-applicant/affiliated entity may not be awarded more than 1 grant under this call for proposals.

2.1.5. Eligibility of costs: costs that can be included 

Only ‘eligible costs’ can be covered by a grant. The categories of costs that are eligible and non-eligible are indicated below. The budget is both a cost estimate and an overall ceiling for ‘eligible costs’. 

The reimbursement of eligible costs may be based on any or a combination of the following forms:

  • − actual costs incurred by the beneficiary(ies) and affiliated entity(ies);
  • − one or more simplified cost options.

Simplified cost options may take the form of:

  • unit costs: covering all or certain specific categories of eligible costs which are clearly identified in advance by reference to an amount per unit.
  • lump sums: covering in global terms all or certain specific categories of eligible costs which are clearly identified in advance.
  • flat-rate financing: covering specific categories of eligible costs which are clearly identified in advance by applying a percentage fixed ex ante.

The amounts or rates have to be based on estimates using objective data such as statistical data or any other objective means or with reference to certified or auditable historical data of the applicants or the affiliated entity(ies). Determining SCO is possible also through ‘expert judgement’ provided by internally available experts or procured in accordance with the applicable rules. Experts must be either commissioned auditors or chartered accountants, or staff of the Commission but cannot be staff of the beneficiary. The methods used to determine the amounts or rates of unit costs, lump sums or flat-rates must comply with the criteria established in Annex K, and especially ensure that the costs correspond fairly to the actual costs incurred by the beneficiary(ies) and affiliated entity(ies), are in line with their accounting practices, no profit is made and the costs are not already covered by other sources of funding (no double funding). Refer to Annex K for the details of the procedure to be followed depending on the type and amount of the costs to be declared as SCO.

Applicants proposing this form of reimbursement, must clearly indicate in worksheet no.1 of Annex B, each heading/item  of eligible costs concerned by this type of financing, i.e. add the reference in capital letters to ‘UNIT COST’ (per month/flight etc.), ‘LUMPSUM’, ‘FLAT RATE’ in the Unit column (see example in Annex K). 

Additionally in Annex B, in the second column of worksheet no.2, ‘Justification of the estimated costs’ per each of the corresponding budget item or heading applicants must:

  • − describe the information and methods used to establish the amounts of unit costs, lump sums and/or flat-rates, to which costs they refer, etc for output or result based SCO.
  • − clearly explain the formulas for calculation of the final eligible amount for output or result based SCO
  • − make reference to the previously obtained ex-ante assessment for other/recurrent SCOs.

Recommendations to award a grant are always subject to the condition that the checks preceding the signing of the grant contract do not reveal problems requiring changes to the budget (such as arithmetical errors, inaccuracies, unrealistic costs and ineligible costs). The checks may give rise to requests for clarification and may lead the contracting authority to impose modifications or reductions to address such mistakes or inaccuracies. It is not possible to increase the grant or the percentage of EU co-financing as a result of these corrections.

It is therefore in the applicants' interest to provide a realistic and cost-effective budget. In particular, applicants are invited to submit balanced proposals regarding the repartition between human resources and investment.

Eligible direct costs

To be eligible under this call for proposals, costs must comply with the provisions of Article 14 of the general conditions to the standard grant contract (see Annex G of the guidelines).

Contingency reserve

The budget may include a contingency reserve not exceeding 5 % of the estimated direct eligible costs. It can only be used with the prior written authorisation of the contracting authority.

Eligible indirect costs

The indirect costs incurred in carrying out the action may be eligible for flat-rate funding, but the total must not exceed 7 % of the estimated total eligible direct costs. Indirect costs are eligible provided that they do not include costs assigned to another budget heading in the standard grant contract. The lead applicant may be asked to justify the percentage requested before the grant contract is signed. However, once the flat rate has been fixed in the special conditions of the grant contract, no supporting documents need to be provided.

If any of the applicants or affiliated entity(ies) is in receipt of an operating grant financed by the EU, it may not claim indirect costs on its incurred costs within the proposed budget for the action.

Contributions in kind

Contributions in kind mean the provision of goods or services to beneficiaries or affiliated entities free of charge by a third party. As contributions in kind do not involve any expenditure for beneficiaries or affiliated entities, they are normally not eligible costs. 

As an exception, contributions in kind may include personnel costs for the work carried out by volunteers under an action or work programme (which are eligible costs).

Contributions in kind from third parties in the form of volunteers' work, valued on the basis of unit costs defined and authorised by the contracting authority, shall be presented in the estimated budget, separately from the other eligible costs (i.e. as an accepted costs together with other contributions in kind). 

Volunteers' work may comprise up to 50 % of the co-financing. For the purposes of calculating this percentage, contributions in kind and other co-financing shall be based on estimates provided by the applicant.

When the estimated costs include volunteers' work, the grant shall not exceed the estimated eligible costs other than the costs for volunteers' work.

Contributions in kind may not be treated as co-financing. However, if the description of the action as proposed includes contributions in kind, the contributions have to be made.

Ineligible costs

The following costs are not eligible:

− debts and debt service charges (interest);

− provisions for losses or potential future liabilities;

− costs declared by the beneficiary(ies) and financed by another action or work programme receiving a European Union (including through EDF) grant;

− purchases of land or buildings, except where necessary for the direct implementation of the action, in which case ownership must be transferred in accordance with Article 7.5 of the general conditions of the standard grant contract, at the latest at the end of the action;

− currency exchange losses;

Ethics clauses and Code of Conduct

a) Absence of conflict of interest

The applicant must not be affected by any conflict of interest and must have no equivalent relation in that respect with other applicants or parties involved in the actions. Any attempt by an applicant to obtain confidential information, enter into unlawful agreements with competitors or influence the evaluation committee or the contracting authority during the process of examining, clarifying, evaluating and comparing applications will lead to the rejection of its application and may result in administrative penalties according to the Financial Regulation in force. 

b) Respect for human rights as well as environmental legislation and core labour standards 

The applicant and its staff must comply with human rights. In particular and in accordance with the applicable act, applicants who have been awarded contracts must comply with the environmental legislation including multilateral environmental agreements, and with the core labour standards as applicable and as defined in the relevant International Labour Organisation conventions (such as the conventions on freedom of association and collective bargaining; elimination of forced and compulsory labour; abolition of child labour).

Zero tolerance for sexual exploitation and sexual abuse:

The European Commission applies a policy of 'zero tolerance' in relation to all wrongful conduct which has an impact on the professional credibility of the applicant.  

Physical abuse or punishment, or threats of physical abuse, sexual abuse or exploitation, harassment and verbal abuse, as well as other forms of intimidation shall be prohibited. 

 

c) Anti-corruption and anti-bribery 

The applicant shall comply with all applicable laws and regulations and codes relating to anti-bribery and anti-corruption. The European Commission reserves the right to suspend or cancel project financing if corrupt practices of any kind are discovered at any stage of the award process or during the execution of a contract and if the contracting authority fails to take all appropriate measures to remedy the situation. For the purposes of this provision, ‘corrupt practices’ are the offer of a bribe, gift, gratuity or commission to any person as an inducement or reward for performing or refraining from any act relating to the award of a contract or execution of a contract already concluded with the contracting authority.

      d)  Unusual commercial expenses 

Applications will be rejected or contracts terminated if it emerges that the award or execution of a contract has given rise to unusual commercial expenses. Such unusual commercial expenses are commissions not mentioned in the main contract or not stemming from a properly concluded contract referring to the main contract, commissions not paid in return for any actual and legitimate service, commissions remitted to a tax haven, commissions paid to a payee who is not clearly identified or commissions paid to a company which has every appearance of being a front company.

Grant beneficiaries found to have paid unusual commercial expenses on projects funded by the European Union are liable, depending on the seriousness of the facts observed, to have their contracts terminated or to be permanently excluded from receiving EU/EDF funds.

e) Error, irregularities or fraud

The contracting authority reserves the right to suspend or cancel the procedure, where the award procedure proves to have been subject to substantial errors, irregularities or fraud. If substantial errors, irregularities or fraud are discovered after the award of the contract, the contracting authority may refrain from concluding the contract.

 

2.2. How to apply and the procedures to follow

To apply for this call for proposals the lead applicants need to:

 

I. Provide information about the organisations involved in the action. Please note that the registration of this data in PADOR is obligatory for this call for proposals:

Concept note step: Registration is obligatory for lead applicants applying for EU contributions of more than EUR 60 000.

Full application step: Registration is obligatory for co-applicant(s) and affiliated entity(ies). Lead applicants must make sure that their PADOR profile is up to date. 

 

II. Provide information about the action in the documents listed under sections 2.2.2 (concept note) and 2.2.5 (full application). Please note that online submission via PROSPECT is obligatory for this call,

PADOR is an on-line database in which organisations register and update information concerning their entity. Organisations registered in PADOR get a unique ID (EuropeAid ID) which they must mention in their application. PADOR is accessible via the website: http://ec.europa.eu/europeaid/pador_en 

It is strongly recommended to register in PADOR well in advance and not to wait until the last minute before the  deadline to submit your application in PROSPECT. 

If it is impossible to register online in PADOR for technical reasons, the applicants and/or affiliated entity(ies) must complete the ‘PADOR off-line form attached to these guidelines. This form must be sent together with the application, by the submission deadline (see sections 2.2.2 and 2.2.5). 

Before starting using PADOR and PROSPECT, please read the user guides available on the website. All technical questions related the use of these systems should be addressed to the IT helpdesk at EuropeAid-IT-support@ec.europa.eu via the online support form in PROSPECT.

2.2.1. Concept note content  

Applications must be submitted in accordance with the concept note instructions in the grant application form annexed to these guidelines (Annex A). 

Applicants must apply in English. 

Please note that:

1. In the concept note, lead applicants must only provide an estimate of the requested EU contribution as well as an indicative percentage of that contribution in relation to the eligible costs of the action. A detailed budget is to be submitted only by the lead applicants invited to submit a full application in the second phase. 

2. The elements outlined in the concept note may not be modified in the full application. The EU contribution may not vary from the initial estimate by more than 20 %. Lead applicants are free to adapt the percentage of co-financing required within the minimum and maximum amount and percentages of co-financing, as laid down in these guidelines in Section 1.3. The lead applicant may replace a co-applicant or an affiliated entity only in duly justified cases (e.g. bankruptcy of initial co-applicant or affiliated entity). In this case the new co-applicant/affiliated entity must be of a similar nature as the initial one. The lead applicant may adjust the duration of the action if unforeseen circumstances outside the scope of the applicants have taken place following the submission of the concept note and require such adaptation (risk of action not being carried out). In such cases the duration must remain within the limits imposed by the guidelines for applicants. An explanation/justification of the relevant replacement/adjustment shall be included in an accompanying letter or email. 

Own contributions by the applicants can be replaced by other donors' contributions at any time.

3. Only the concept note form will be evaluated. It is therefore of utmost importance that this document contains ALL relevant information concerning the action. No additional annexes should be sent.

Any error or major discrepancy related to the concept note instructions may lead to the rejection of the concept note.

Clarifications will only be requested when information provided is not sufficient to conduct an objective assessment. 

Hand-written concept notes will not be accepted.

2.2.2. Where and how to send concept notes

The concept note together with the declaration by the lead applicant (Annex A.1 section 2) must be submitted online via PROSPECT https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/europeaid/prospect following the instructions given in the PROSPECT user manual.

Upon submission of a concept note online, the lead applicant will receive an automatic confirmation of receipt in its PROSPECT profile. 

 

Concept notes sent by any other means (e.g. by fax or by e-mail) or delivered to other addresses will be rejected. Hand-written concept notes will not be accepted.

Please note that incomplete concept notes may be rejected. Lead applicants are advised to verify that their concept note is complete by using the checklist for concept note (Annex A.1, Instructions).

2.2.3. Deadline for submission of concept notes 

The deadline for the submission of concept notes is 08/01/2019 at 12:00 (Brussels date and time). In order to convert this deadline to local time you can use any online time converter tool that takes into account timezones and winter/summer time changes (example available here) The lead applicant is strongly advised not to wait until the last day to submit its concept note, since heavy Internet traffic or a fault with the Internet connection (including electricity failure, etc.) could lead to difficulties in submission. The Contacting Authority cannot be held responsible for any delay due to such afore-mentioned difficulties. 

Any concept note submitted after the deadline will be rejected.

However, for reasons of administrative efficiency, the Contracting Authority may also reject any concept note sent in due time but received after the effective date of approval of the concept note evaluation (see indicative calendar under section 2.5.2).

2.2.4. Further information about concept notes

No information session on this call for proposals will be held.

Questions may be sent by e-mail [or by fax] no later than 21 days before the deadline for the submission of concept notes to the address(es) below, indicating clearly the reference of the call for proposals:

E-mail address: NEAR-ENI-EAST-TENDERS@ec.europa.eu

Fax number: +32 2 292 14 81

 The contracting authority has no obligation to provide clarifications to questions received after this date.

Replies will be given no later than 11 days before the deadline for submission of concept notes. 

To ensure equal treatment of applicants, the contracting authority cannot give a prior opinion on the eligibility of lead applicants, co-applicants, affiliated entity(ies), an action or specific activities.

No individual replies will be given to questions. All questions and answers as well as other important notices to applicants during the course of the evaluation procedure will be published on the website of DG International Cooperation and Development: https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/europeaid/online-services/index.cfm?do=publi.welcome, as the need arises. It is therefore advisable to consult the abovementioned website regularly in order to be informed of the questions and answers published.

All questions related to registration in PADOR or the online submission via PROSPECT should be addressed to the IT helpdesk at EuropeAid-IT-support@ec.europa.eu via the online support form in PROSPECT: Please note that the working languages of the IT support are: English French and Spanish. Therefore users are invited to send their questions in English, French or Spanish should they wish to benefit from an optimum response time.

2.2.5. Full applications 

Lead applicants invited to submit a full application following pre-selection of their concept note must do so using Part B of the grant application form annexed to these guidelines (Annex A). Lead applicants should then keep strictly to the format of the grant application form and fill in the paragraphs and pages in order.

The elements outlined in the concept note cannot be modified by the lead applicant in the full application. The EU contribution may not vary from the initial estimate by more than 20 %. The lead applicant may replace a co-applicant or an affiliated entity only in duly justified cases (e.g. bankruptcy of initial co-applicant or affiliated entity). In this case the new co-applicant/affiliated entity must be of a similar nature as the initial one. The lead applicant may adjust the duration of the action if unforeseen circumstances outside the scope of the applicants have taken place following the submission of the concept note and require such adaptation (risk of action not being carried out). In such cases the duration must remain within the limits imposed by the guidelines for applicants. An explanation/justification of the relevant replacement/adjustment shall be included in an accompanying letter or email.

Lead applicants must submit their full applications in the same language as their concept notes. A copy of the lead applicant’s accounts of the latest financial year (the profit and loss account and the balance sheet for the last financial year for which the accounts have been closed) must be uploaded in PADOR by the full application deadline. A copy of the latest account is neither required from (if any) the co-applicant(s) nor from (if any) affiliated entity(ies)).

Please complete the full application form carefully and as clearly as possible so that it can be assessed properly. 

Any error related to the points listed in the checklist (Part B, Section 7 of the grant application form) or any major inconsistency in the full application (e.g. if the amounts in the budget worksheets are inconsistent) may lead to the rejection of the application.

Clarifications will only be requested when information provided is unclear and thus prevents the contracting authority from conducting an objective assessment.

Hand-written applications will not be accepted.

Please note that only the full application form and the published annexes which have to be filled in (budget, logical framework) will be transmitted to the evaluators (and assessors, if used). It is therefore of utmost importance that these documents contain ALL the relevant information concerning the action. 

With the full application the lead applicant also has to submit completed organisation data forms (Annex F) for the lead applicant, each (if any) co-applicants and each (if any) affiliated entities.

No additional annexes should be sent.

2.2.6. Where and how to send full applications 

Full application forms together with the budget, the logical framework and the declaration by the lead applicant must be submitted online via PROSPECT https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/ europeaid/prospect following the instructions given in the users’ manual.

Upon submission of the full application online, the lead applicants will receive an automatic confirmation of receipt in their PROSPECT profile. 

Please note that incomplete applications may be rejected. Lead applicants are advised to verify that their application is complete using the checklist (Annex A.2, Instructions).

2.2.7. Deadline for submission of full applications 

The deadline for the submission of full applications will be indicated in the letter sent to the lead applicants whose application has been pre-selected. This letter will appear online automatically in the PROSPECT profile of the lead applicant. 

Lead applicants are strongly advised not to wait until the last day to submit their full applications, since heavy Internet traffic or a fault with the Internet connection (including electricity failure, etc.) could lead to difficulties in submission. The Contacting Authority cannot be held responsible for any delay due to such afore-mentioned difficulties. 

Any application submitted after the deadline will be rejected. 

However, for reasons of administrative efficiency, the Contracting Authority may also reject any full application sent in due time but received after the effective date of approval of the full application evaluation (see indicative calendar under section 2.5.2)

2.2.8. Further information about full applications 

Questions may be sent by e-mail [or by fax] no later than 21 days before the deadline for the submission of full applications to the addresses listed below, indicating clearly the reference of the call for proposals:

E-mail address: NEAR-ENI-EAST-TENDERS@ec.europa.eu

Fax number: +32 2 292 14 81

The contracting authority has no obligation to provide clarifications to questions received after this date.

Replies will be given no later than 11 days before the deadline for the submission of full applications. 

To ensure equal treatment of applicants, the contracting authority cannot give a prior opinion on the eligibility of lead applicants, co-applicants, affiliated entity(ies), or an action.

No individual replies will be given to questions. All questions and answers as well as other important notices to applicants during the course of the evaluation procedure, will be published on the website of DG International Cooperation and Development: https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/europeaid/online-services/index.cfm?do=publi.welcome, as the need arises. It is therefore advisable to consult the abovementioned website regularly in order to be informed of the questions and answers published.

All questions related to registration in PADOR or the online submission via PROSPECT should be addressed to the IT helpdesk at EuropeAid-IT-support@ec.europa.eu via the online support form in PROSPECT. Please note that the working languages of the IT support are: English French and Spanish. Therefore users are invited to send their questions in English, French or Spanish should they wish to benefit from an optimum response time.

 

2.3. Evaluation and selection of applications

Applications will be examined and evaluated by the contracting authority with the possible assistance of external assessors. All applications will be assessed according to the following steps and criteria.

If the examination of the application reveals that the proposed action does not meet the eligibility criteria stated in Section 2.1, the application will be rejected on this sole basis. 

 

 



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