INTERNATIONAL DIGITAL COOPERATION
1. INTERNATIONAL DIGITAL COOPERATION
The Partnership Instrument (PI) is one of the key innovations in Heading 4 of the Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020 package of instruments for financing external action. Designed to advance and promote EU and mutual interests abroad, the PI supports the external dimension of EU policies ranging from competitiveness and migration to research and innovation, and in particular the Europe 2020 Strategy. It addresses major global challenges such as energy security, climate change and environmental protection, as well as specific aspects of the EU's economic diplomacy, both at bilateral and multilateral level. The instrument also covers public diplomacy and outreach activities to promote the Union's values and interests.
The Annual Action Programme 2016 of the PI includes support to a programme on International Digital Cooperation broadly framed within the external dimension of the EU's Digital Single Market Strategy (DSM). The programme includes four thematic projects aimed at strengthening cooperation with key partners on Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) standardisation, data protection and data flows, trust and security in cyberspace and cross border access to electronic evidence.
While the Internet and ICT technology have made positive contributions towards economic, political and human development, rapid digital evolution raises concerns about maintaining trust and security in cyberspace.
In response to these challenges, the EU adopted in February 2013 its EU Cybersecurity Strategy and, in May 2015, its Digital Single Market Strategy. The latter document highlighted that cyber threats are a borderless problem and have a negative impact on the EU's economy, on citizens' fundamental rights and on society at large. The growing number of offences (for instance data interception, online payment fraud, identity theft, trade secrets theft) is leading to significant economic losses. They often result in disruption of services, fundamental rights violations and undermine citizens' trust in online activities.
One challenge to a successful response lies in the frequent cross-border nature of cyber-enabled crimes, as compared to law enforcement's purely national competences. To enable a more effective response, the EU has decided to tackle the challenge that is created by the fleeting nature of electronic evidence. For most forms of crimes, in particular cybercrimes as witnessed recently, electronic evidence – such as account subscriber information, traffic or metadata, or content data – can provide significant leads for investigators, often the only ones. The electronic evidence connected to these crimes is often cross-jurisdictional, for example because the data is stored outside the investigating country or by providers – in particular electronic communications service providers and platforms – whose main seat is located outside the investigating country, resulting in investigating authorities not being able to use domestic investigative tools.
The current legal framework for cross-border access to evidence consists of bilateral and multi-lateral mutual legal assistance (MLA) instruments, replaced as of 22 May 2017 within the EU by the European Investigation Order (EIO); the Budapest Convention; and national regimes of Member States and third countries. The current legal frameworks reflecting traditional concepts of territoriality are challenged by the cross-jurisdictional nature of electronic services and data flows. A number of Member States and third countries have developed or are developing national solutions that might result in conflicting obligations and fragmentation and create legal uncertainty for both authorities and service providers.
In its April 2015 Communication on a European Agenda on Security, the Commission therefore committed to addressing these challenges for investigations into cyber-enabled crimes. In its Conclusions on improving criminal justice in cyberspace, adopted on 9 June 2016, the Council supported the Commission´s commitment and called on the Commission to take concrete actions based on a common EU approach to improve cooperation with service providers, make mutual legal assistance more efficient and to propose solutions to the problems of determining and enforcing jurisdiction in cyberspace.
The Council requested the Commission to report on intermediate results by December 2016 and to present deliverables by June 2017.
The Commission launched an expert consultation process to explore possible solutions and work towards a common EU position, through the involvement of relevant stakeholders, including private sector, practitioners from the Member States and civil society organisations. A first progress report was provided at the 8 December JHA Council, and a more comprehensive set of options papers was delivered in May 2017.
As outlined in the papers, a central obstacle that emerged from the expert process consists in insufficient knowledge of the legal system of countries receiving requests for information, in particular the U.S. This insufficient knowledge relates to both mutual legal assistance procedures – notably to the standard of probable cause applied to requests for access to content data – and to direct cooperation between EU Member Stats' authorities and service providers for non-content data (basic subscriber information and metadata), as well as for content data in emergency situations. A challenge for EU Member States' authorities lies in the different policies and procedures of service providers, including on the types of data they can provide upon request. As a result, training and exchange of best practice have been identified as avenues to alleviate some of the problems. During the expert process, all stakeholders have indicated that additional training for law enforcement and judicial authorities could support the functioning of direct cooperation between those authorities and service providers. Training activities could provide for a better understanding of different policies and procedures used by service providers, and a common understanding of other countries' law concepts and technical capabilities might enhance responses. As part of the expert consultation process, it has been suggested that training should not be fragmented per country but could rather be centralised to ensure for synergies. This approach to training, among other practical measures, was endorsed by the EU Member States' Ministers of Justice at the June 2017 Justice and Home Affairs Council.
Objectives of the programme and priority issues
The global objective of this call for proposals is to contribute to the development of a secure, right-based international digital sphere, conducive to a level playing field in terms of market access and business opportunities for EU companies.
The specific objective of this call for proposals is to support effective cooperation for law enforcement purposes between the EU and the US.
To achieve these specific objectives and contribute to the overall objective of the International Digital Cooperation programme, the following results are expected from the Action supported under this call for proposals:
R1: More effective EU-U.S. Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) procedures and swifter response times for EU requests to the U.S. through targeted exchange of experience and best practice, as well as training.
R2: Strengthened direct cooperation between law enforcement and U.S.–based providers of electronic communications services, apps and online platforms for access to digital evidence (non-content data, as well as content data in case of emergency, as foreseen under the U.S. Electronic Communications Privacy Act) through targeted exchange of experience and best practice, as well as training.
This Action will build on the ongoing work to improve MLA requests from EU Member States to the U.S. and procedures for access to electronic evidence by law enforcement authorities directly from private sector operators based in the U.S. The action should address both mutual legal assistance and channels for direct cooperation to an equal degree and should be planned and implemented in close cooperation with the Commission's Informal Task Force on E-evidence coordinated by DGs HOME and JUST, as well as the U.S. Department of Justice and relevant service providers.
The European Commission will facilitate contacts with the U.S. and EU Member States' authorities and a number of relevant U.S.-based providers, all of which have signalled their interest in participating and supporting these efforts. The action should be based on the applicable legal framework in the EU Member States and the U.S., including the EU-U.S. MLA Convention and the Council of Europe Budapest Convention on Cybercrime.
The action should seek to create materials that facilitate a dissemination among a wider group of practitioners, e.g. through the creation of online courses using videos or other appropriate materials, which could be made available by the Commission and/or its agencies through a dedicated and secure channel to practitioners from EU Member States only during and after the conclusion of the action, as appropriate.
Financial allocation provided by the contracting authority
The overall indicative amount made available under this call for proposals is EUR 1,000,000. The Contracting Authority reserves the right not to award all available funds.
Size of grants
Any grant requested under this call for proposals must fall between the following minimum and maximum amounts:
minimum amount: EUR 800,000
maximum amount: EUR 1,000,000
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 European Union Budget or the European Development Fund.
The grant may cover the entire eligible costs of the action if this is deemed essential to carry it out. If that is the case, the lead applicant must justify full financing in Annex A.2., section 2.1. The validity of the justification provided will be examined during the evaluation procedure. The absence of any justification may lead to the rejection of the application.
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 at http://ec.europa.eu/europeaid/prag/document.do?locale=en) .
There are three sets of eligibility criteria, relating to:
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 "applicants)") (2.1.1),
and, if any, affiliated entity(ies) to the lead applicant and/or to a co-applicant(s). (2.1.2);
Actions for which a grant may be awarded (2.1.4);
types of cost that may be taken into account in setting the amount of the grant (2.1.5).
Eligibility of applicants (i.e. lead applicant and co-applicant(s))
(1) In order to be eligible for a grant, the lead applicant must:
be a legal person and
be non-profit-making and
be an organisation such as: think tanks, non-governmental organisation, research institutes or other civil society organisations, EU specialised agencies and regional and international (inter-governmental) organisations as defined by Article 43 of the Rules of application of the EU Financial Regulation, and
be established in a Member State of the EU or in a partner country of the action (see section 2.1.4 on location). This obligation does not apply to international organisations and
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.
(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 2.3.3 of the Practical Guide;
In Annex A.2, section 5 (‘declaration 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.
The lead applicant must act with co-applicant(s) as specified hereafter.
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 coordinates the design and implementation of the action.
Participation with co-applicant(s) from different partner countries of the action, including academia, civil society organisations and/or private sector is strongly encouraged.
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.
Co-applicants must sign the mandate in Annex A.2., section 4.
If awarded the grant contract, the co-applicant(s) (if any) will become beneficiary(ies) in the action (together with the Coordinator).
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:
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 applicant may hence be:
Entities directly or indirectly controlled by an applicant (daughter companies or first-tier subsidiaries). They may also be entities controlled by an entity controlled by an 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).
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 delegates for public services for an applicant,
Entities that receive financial support from an 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 Annex A.2., section 5.
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":
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 Annex A.2., section 4 — ‘Associates participating in the action’.
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.
Eligible actions: actions for which an application may be made
An action is composed of a set of activities.
The initial planned duration of the action is 36 months.
Sectors or themes
Actions must relate to the field of EU foreign and security policy with particular focus on Security and Cross border access to electronic evidence.
Actions must take place in Europe and in the U.S.
Types of action
Actions must contribute to the achievement of the objectives and expected results listed under section 1.2 of the present Guidelines (Objectives of the Programme). They should be self-contained operations indicating a coherent set of activities with clearly defined operational objectives, target groups and planned, tangible outcomes within a limited timeframe. The proposed Actions should be designed in response to identified opportunities for engagement in each partner country or region, and based on specifically tailored strategies and intervention methodologies. The means to be deployed should stem logically from this approach.
Applicants must demonstrate that project activities are strictly non-profit making.
This Action will build on the ongoing work to improve MLA requests from EU Member States to the U.S. and procedures for access to electronic evidence by law enforcement authorities directly from private sector operators based in the U.S. The action should be planned and implemented in close cooperation with the Commission's Informal Task Force on E-evidence coordinated by DGs HOME and JUST.
It will target government and more particularly law enforcement and judiciary authorities in the EU and the U.S. as well as the business/private sector and more specifically U.S. service providers.
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;
Construction or renovation of buildings or infrastructures.
Types of activity
Activities undertaken in response to this Action should separately address two linked aspects: 1) the need to foster a better understanding by EU law enforcement and judiciary of the requirements of the U.S. legal system for mutual legal assistance requests to the U.S. for data; and 2) the need to foster better cooperation between EU law enforcement and judiciary and U.S.-based service providers in the context of access to non-content data.
The indicative list of activities should inter alia include:
Outreach and knowledge exchange activities for targeted stakeholders on the application of MLA mechanisms and direct access to electronic evidence held by service providers in the US.
Organisation and facilitation of meetings between EU law enforcement and judiciary and the relevant counterparts in the U.S., notably the U.S. Department of Justice and service providers.
Creation of products that are re-usable for a larger audience, such as webinars to instruct a wider group of law enforcement and judiciary.
The activities should integrate expertise made available by counterparts in the U.S., notably the U.S. Department of Justice and service providers. The Commission is available to provide contacts and facilitate this process.
Financial support to third parties
Applicants may 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 EUR 60 000.
Under this call, financial support to third parties may not be the main purpose 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 Annex A.2, section 2.1.1:
the objectives and results to be obtained with the financial support
the different types of activities eligible for financial support, on the basis of a fixed list
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
the criteria for determining the exact amount of financial support for each third entity, and
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.
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 https://ec.europa.eu/europeaid/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 one 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 submit more than one application under this Call for Proposals.
A co-applicant/affiliated entity may not be awarded more than one grant under this Call for Proposals.
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). The methods used to determine the amounts or rates of unit costs, lump sums or flatrates 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 directions and a checklist of controls to assess the minimum necessary conditions that provide reasonable assurance for the acceptance of the proposed amounts.
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" or "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.
clearly explain the formulas for calculation of the final eligible amount
identify the beneficiary who will use the simplified cost option (in case of affiliated entity, specify first the beneficiary), in order to verify the maximum amount per each beneficiary (which includes if applicable simplified cost options of its affiliated entity(ies))
At contracting phase, the Contracting Authority decides whether to accept the proposed amounts or rates on the basis of the provisional budget submitted by the applicants, by analysing factual data of grants carried out by the applicants or of similar actions and by performing checks established by Annex K.
The total amount of financing on the basis of simplified cost options that can be authorised by the Contracting Authority for any of the applicants individually (including simplified cost options proposed by their own affiliated entities) cannot exceed EUR 60 000 (the indirect costs are not taken into account).
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
The simplified cost option may also take the form of an apportionment of Field Office's costs.
Field Office means a local infrastructure set up in one of the countries where the action is implemented or a nearby country. (Where the action is implemented in several third countries there can be more than one Field Office). That may consist of costs for local office as well as human resources.
A Field Office may be exclusively dedicated to the action financed (or co-financed) by the EU or may be used for other projects implemented in the partner country. When the Field Office is used for other projects, only the portion of capitalised and operating costs which corresponds to the duration of the action and the rate of actual use of the field office for the purpose of the action may be declared as eligible direct costs.
The portion of costs attributable to the action can be declared as actual costs or determined by the beneficiary(ies) on the basis of a simplified allocation method (apportionment).
The method of allocation has to be:
1. Compliant with the beneficiary's usual accounting and management practices and applied in a consistent manner regardless of the source of funding and
2. Based on an objective, fair and reliable allocation keys. (Please refer to Annex K to have examples of acceptable allocation keys).
A description prepared by the entity of the allocation method used to determine Field Office's costs in accordance with the entity's usual cost accounting and management practices and explaining how the method satisfy condition 1 and 2 indicated above, has to be presented in a separate sheet and annexed to the Budget.
The method will be assessed and accepted by the evaluation committee and the Contracting Authority at contracting phase. The applicant is invited to submit (where relevant) the list of contracts to which the methodology proposed had been already applied and for which proper application was confirmed by an expenditure verification.
At the time of carrying out the expenditure verifications, the auditors will check if the costs reported are compliant with the method described by the beneficiary(ies) and accepted by the Contracting Authority.
Adequate record and documentation must be kept by the beneficiary(ies) to prove the compliance of the simplified allocation method used with the conditions set out above. Upon request of the beneficiary(ies), this compliance can be assessed and approved ex-ante by an independent external auditor. In such a case, the simplified allocation method will be automatically accepted by the evaluation committee and it will not be challenged ex post.
When costs are declared on the basis of such allocation method the amount charged to the action is to be indicated in the column "TOTAL COSTS" and the mention "APPORTIONMENT" is to be indicated in the column "units" (under budget heading 1 (Human resources) and 4 (Local Office) of the Budget).
It has to be noted that the EUR 60.000 limit, otherwise applicable to costs declared on the basis of simplified cost options, is not relevant for costs declared following apportionment of Field Offices.
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).
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 a 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 not eligible 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;
credit to third parties;
salary costs of the personnel of national administrations.
How to apply and the procedures to follow
To apply for this call for proposals, lead applicants need to:
Provide information about the organisations involved in the action. Please note that the registration of this data in PADOR is obligatory for all lead applicants, co-applicant(s) and affiliated entitiy(ies).
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.
Provide information about the action in the documents listed under section 2.2.2. Online submission via PROSPECT is obligatory for this call.
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 for the organisation to register online in PADOR for technical reasons, 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 section 2.2.2.).
Before starting using PADOR and PROSPECT, please read the user guides available on the website. All technical questions related to the use of these systems should be addressed to the IT helpdesk at EuropeAid-ITfirstname.lastname@example.org via the online support form in PROSPECT.
2.2.1 Application forms
Applications must be submitted in accordance with the instructions on the grant application form annexed to these guidelines (Annexes A.1 and A.2). Applicants must apply in English.
Any error or major discrepancy related to the concept note or any major inconsistency in the application form (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 the information provided is not sufficient to conduct an objective assessment.
2.2.2 Where and how to send applications
Applications 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 the application online, the lead applicant will receive an automatic confirmation of receipt in its PROSPECT profile.
Please note that incomplete applications may be rejected. Lead applicants are advised to verify that their application is complete using the checklist (Annexes A.1 and A.2, Instructions).
2.2.3 Deadline for submission of applications
The deadline for the submission of applications is 31/10/2017 at 17:00 (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). Lead applicants are strongly advised not to wait until the last day to submit their 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 aforementioned difficulties.
Any application submitted after the deadline will be rejected.
2.2.4 Further information about applications
Questions may be sent by e-mail no later than 21 days before the deadline for the submission of applications to the address(es) below, indicating clearly the reference of the call for proposals:
E-mail address: FPI-4-GRANTS-TENDERS@ec.europa.eu
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 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), 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 EuropeAid website: https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/europeaid/online-services/index.cfm?do=publi.welcome and http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/fpi/index_en.htm, as appropriate. 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-ITemail@example.com 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 those languages 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.
STEP 1: OPENING & ADMINISTRATIVE CHECKS AND CONCEPT NOTE EVALUATION
During the opening and administrative check (including the eligibility check of the action) the following will be assessed:
If the deadline has been met. Otherwise, the application will be automatically rejected.
If the concept note satisfies all the criteria specified in the checklist in the instructions included in Annex A.1. This includes also an assessment of the eligibility of the action. If any of the requested information is missing or is incorrect, the application may be rejected on that sole basis and the application will not be evaluated further.
The concept notes that pass this check will be evaluated on the relevance and design of the proposed action.
The concept notes will receive an overall score out of 50 in line with the evaluation grid below. The evaluation will also check the compliance with the instructions on how to complete the concept note (Annex A.1).
The evaluation criteria are divided into headings and subheadings. Each subheading will be given a score between 1 and 5 as follows: 1 = very poor; 2 = poor; 3 = adequate; 4 = good; 5 = very good.
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Concept notes with a score lower than 30 will be rejected.
Concept notes that reach the above threshold will be ranked by score. The highest scoring applications will be pre-selected until the limit of 400% of the available budget for this call for proposals is reached.
Lead applicants will receive a letter indicating the reference number of their application and the respective results. This letter will automatically appear online in the PROSPECT profile of the lead applicant.
The evaluation committee will then proceed with the lead applicants whose proposals have been pre-selected.
STEP 2: EVALUATION OF THE FULL APPLICATION
Firstly, the following will be assessed:
If the full application form satisfies all the criteria specified in the checklist in Annex A.2. If any of the requested information is missing or is incorrect, the application may be rejected on that sole basis and the application will not be evaluated further.
The full applications that pass this check will be further evaluated on their quality, including the proposed budget and the capacity of the applicants and affiliated entity(ies). The evaluation criteria used are presented in the evaluation grid below. There are two types of evaluation criteria: selection and award criteria.
The selection criteria help to evaluate the applicant(s)'s and affiliated entity(ies)'s operational capacity and the lead applicant's financial capacity and are used to verify that they:
have stable and sufficient sources of finance to maintain their activity throughout the proposed action and, where appropriate, to participate in its funding (this only applies to lead applicants);
have the management capacity, professional competencies and qualifications required to successfully complete the proposed action. This applies to applicants and to any affiliated entity(ies).
For the purpose of the evaluation of the financial capacity, lead applicants must ensure that the relevant information and documents (i.e. accounts of the latest financial year and external audit report, where applicable) in their PADOR profile are up to date. If the information and documents in PADOR are outdated and do not allow for a proper evaluation of the financial capacity, the application may be rejected.
The award criteria help to evaluate the quality of the applications in relation to the objectives and priorities set forth in the guidelines, and to award grants to projects which maximise the overall effectiveness of the call for proposals. They help to select applications which the Contracting Authority can be confident will comply with its objectives and priorities. They cover the relevance of the action, its consistency with the objectives of the call for proposals, quality, expected impact, sustainability and cost- effectiveness.
The evaluation grid is divided into sections and subsections. Each subsection will be given a score between 1 and 5 as follows: 1 = very poor; 2 = poor; 3 = adequate; 4 = good; 5 = very good.
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If the total score for section 1 (financial and operational capacity) is less than 12 points, the application will be rejected. If the score for at least one of the subsections under section 1 is 1, the application will also be rejected.
If the lead applicant applies without co-applicants or affiliated entities the score for point 3.4 shall be 5 unless the involvement of co-applicants or affiliated entities is mandatory according to these guidelines for applicants.
After the evaluation, applications will be ranked according to their score. The highest scoring applications will be provisionally selected until the available budget for this call for proposals is reached.
In addition, a reserve list will be drawn up following the same criteria. This list will be used if more funds become available during the validity period of the reserve list.
STEP 3: VERIFICATION OF ELIGIBILITY OF THE APPLICANTS AND AFFILIATED ENTITY(IES)
The eligibility verification will be performed on the basis of the supporting documents requested by the Contracting Authority (see section 2.4). It will only be performed for the applications that have been provisionally selected according to their score and within the available budget for this call for proposals.
The declaration by the lead applicant (Annex A.2, section 5) will be cross-checked with the supporting documents provided by the lead applicant. Any missing supporting document or any incoherence between the declaration by the lead applicant and the supporting documents may lead to the rejection of the application on that sole basis.
The eligibility of applicants and the affiliated entity(ies) will be verified according to the criteria set out in sections 2.1.1, 2.1.2 and 2.1.3.
Any rejected application will be replaced by the next best placed application on the reserve list that falls within the available budget for this call for proposals.
Submission of supporting documents for provisionally selected applications
A lead applicant whose application has been provisionally selected or placed on the reserve list will be informed in writing by the Contracting Authority. It will be requested to supply the following documents in order to allow the Contracting Authority to verify the eligibility of the lead applicant, (if any) of the coapplicants) and (if any) of their affiliated entity(ies).
Supporting documents must be provided through PADOR (see section 2.2)
The statutes or articles of association of the lead applicant, (if any) of each co-applicant and (if any) of each affiliated entity. Where the Contracting Authority has recognised the lead applicant’s, or the co-applicant(s)’s, or their affiliated entity(ies)’s eligibility for another call for proposals under the same budget line within 2 years before the deadline for receipt of applications, it should be submitted, instead of the statutes or articles of association, a copy of the document proving their eligibility in a former call (e.g. a copy of the Special Conditions of a grant contract received during the reference period), unless a change in legal status has occurred in the meantime. This obligation does not apply to international organisations which have signed a framework agreement with the European Commission.
An external audit report produced by an approved auditor, certifying the lead applicant's accounts for the last financial year available where the total amount of the requested EU contribution exceeds EUR 750 000 (EUR 100 000 for an operating grant). The external audit report is not required from (if any) the co-applicant(s) or affiliated entity(ies).
This obligation does not apply to public bodies and international organisations provided that the international organisation in question offers the guarantees provided for in the applicable Financial Regulation, as described in chapter 6 of the Practical Guide.
This obligation does not apply to secondary and higher education establishments.
Legal entity sheet (see Annex D of these guidelines) duly completed and signed by each of the applicants (i.e. by the lead applicant and (if any) by each co-applicant), accompanied by the justifying documents requested there. If the applicants have already signed a contract with the Contracting Authority, instead of the legal entity sheet and supporting documents, the legal entity number may be provided, unless a change in legal status occurred in the meantime.
A financial identification form of the lead applicant (not from co-applicant(s), nor from affiliated entity(ies)) conforming to the model attached at Annex E of these guidelines, certified by the bank to which the payments will be made. This bank should be located in the country where the lead applicant is established. If the lead applicant has already submitted a financial identification form in the past for a contract where the European Commission was in charge of the payments and intends to use the same bank account, a copy of the previous financial identification form may be provided instead.
List of activities carried out in the field covered by this Action both in the EU and the selected partner countries/regions during at least the last four years at the time of the submission of the application
The requested supporting documents (uploaded in PADOR or sent together with the PADOR offline form) must be supplied in the form of originals, photocopies or scanned versions (i.e. showing legible stamps, signatures and dates) of the said originals.
Where such documents are not in one of the official languages of the European Union, a translation into the language of the call for proposals of the relevant parts of these documents proving the lead applicant's and, where applicable, co-applicants' and affiliated entity(ies)' eligibility must be attached for the purpose of analysing the application.
Where these documents are in an official language of the European Union other than English, it is strongly recommended, in order to facilitate the evaluation, to provide a translation of the relevant parts of the documents, proving the lead applicants' and, where applicable, co-applicants' and affiliated entity(ies)' eligibility, into the language of the call for proposals.
Applicants have to take into consideration the time necessary to obtain official documents from national competent authorities and to translate such documents in the authorised languages while registering their data in PADOR.
If the abovementioned supporting documents are not provided before the deadline indicated in the request for supporting documents sent to the lead applicant by the Contracting Authority, the application may be rejected.
After verifying the supporting documents, the evaluation committee will make a final recommendation to the Contracting Authority, which will decide on the award of grants.
NB: In the eventuality that the Contracting Authority is not satisfied with the strength, solidity, and guarantee offered by the structural link between one of the applicants and its affiliated entity, it can require the submission of the missing documents allowing for its conversion into co-applicant. If all the missing documents for co-applicants are submitted, and provided all necessary eligibility criteria are fulfilled, the above mentioned entity becomes a co-applicant for all purposes. The lead applicant has to submit the application form revised accordingly.
Notification of the Contracting Authority’s decision
Content of the decision
The lead applicants will be informed in writing of the Contracting Authority’s decision concerning their application and, if rejected, the reasons for the negative decision. This letter will be sent by e-mail and will appear online automatically in the PROSPECT profile of the user who submitted the application. Lead applicants who, in exceptional cases (see section 2.2), had to submit their application by post or hand-delivery, will be informed by email or by post if they did not provide any e-mail address. Therefore, please check regularly your PROSPECT profile, taking into account the indicative timetable below.
An applicant believing that it has been harmed by an error or irregularity during the award process may lodge a complaint. See further section 2.4.15 of the Practical Guide.