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News | Wednesday, 26 May 2010 Issue. 165

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Student groups unite over EU funds fiasco

Employers’ association joins the fray: bureaucracy slowing down grants

The national youth council (KNZ) and the university students’ union (KSU) have joined forces in actions to be taken on the suspension of the Youth in Action and LifeLong Learning programmes.
Thirty-three student organisations have also united in a call to MPs and Malta’s five MEPs to seek the reinstatement of the EU youth funds that were suspended earlier this month.
KNZ and KSU, which represent the entire student cohort, said they will push for a common front on the reinstatement of the funds. Yesterday, the student bodies signed a common letter addressed directly to the European Commission.
This letter urges the Commission to lift the suspension of funds and to resume the programmes with immediate effect in the interests of all those concerned.
The 33 supporting organisations pledged support to an online petition calling for legislators to push for the restoration of the funds, after the European Commission declared it was unsatisfied with their management by the EU Programmes Agency (EUPA) in Malta.
The organisations include various student groups, faculty associations, and even local councils.
“Funds entrusted by the Commission to EUPA were meant to be managed in a sound manner for the benefit of the ultimate beneficiaries – young people, youth NGOs, and students. This whole issue revolves around the sound administration of public funds, and no student, youth or organisation should be made to suffer,” the organisations said.
The suspension of €4 million in funds by the Commission has affected 111 students and projects by two colleges in the Comenius programme; 288 students and 56 teachers/lecturers in the Erasmus programme; and 109 students in the Leonardo da Vinci programme. An inquiry has been launched into the matter.
The organisations are recommending that until undergoing investigations are carried out, the European Commission itself sets up a temporary procedure for students, youth organisations and NGOs to submit their applications.
Yesterday, the Malta Employers’ Association also called for improved efficiency in the processing of EU funding applications.
The MEA said the processing of applications was “alarming”, and that the government should make an overhaul of existing procedures to ensure Malta does not lose out as a result of excessive bureaucracy.
“The state of affairs with respect to the Erasmus applications by many students is also present in applications by companies for the Training Aid Framework (TAF) funds. Many employers are frustrated that they are left in the dark about their applications for training funds, and they are given no feedback about a time-frame when pending applications, which count in the hundreds, are going to be settled,” the MEA said.
“This situation is dissuading many companies from applying for such funds. Too much time is being lost counting paper clips when the main role of the managing organisations should be to facilitate access to such funds in the shortest time possible.”


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