As a pro-European, and even though I am well aware that some people are sceptical about this whole idea, I want to believe that the European Union can only be beneficial to its member states.
The European Structural and Investment Funds (ESI Funds) are the European Union’s main investment policy tool: 454 billion euros have been allocated from the EU budget to be invested in more than 500 programmes. Together with national co-financing of 183 billion euros, the total investments amounts to at least 637 billion euros. With this budget, the ESI Funds have become increasingly important for co-financing public investments, while compensating for declining national and regional investments as a result of the crisis.
Regional Policy is the EU’s main investment policy and targets all regions and cities in the European Union in order to support job creation, business competitiveness, economic growth, sustainable development and improve citizen’s quality of life. But how is funding delivered? Regional Policy is delivered through three main funds: the European Regional Development Fund, the Cohesion Fund and the European Social Fund. Together with the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, they make up the European Structural and Investment Funds.
What about Madeira?
The Operational Programme “Regional Madeira 2014-2020” is a multi-fund programme with contributions from the European Development Fund and the European Social Fund for the 2014-2020 period, covering the outermost region of Madeira. The programme aims contribute to promoting the competitiveness of the regional economy and the region’s sustainable development and internal cohesion, with the total allocation of 403 billion euros.
One of the major projects that have been financed in Madeira is the MadeBiotech S.A.’s AlgaeRef research project. It has identified valuable substances that can be extracted from algae and other plants. The project has had a cascade effect on Madeira’s economy. Commercial interest in the compounds extracted from endemic plants has led to an increased demand for the raw products, and many local farmers – often involved in more labour-intensive and less profitable agricultural activities – have planted abandoned and underused land with endemic plants to supply factories needing the extracts. This has increased the income and stability of these farmers.
In addition, the project’s success has acted as a catalyst for several local companies to start working with MadeBiotech in order to research and innovate in their particular fields, for example in the food and cosmetics industries. In a region where transportation costs make exportation difficult, the development of high-added-value products and of knowledge-intensive skills have created economic alternatives that could mitigate unemployment and emigration rates.
Marine Merat-Viriot, volunteer from Nancy, France. Pro-European, travel, music and books enthusiast, food lover.
Erasmus+ is a programme of the European Commission embracing the fields of education, training, youth and sports during the period 2014-2020. One of the major aspects is the cooperation between the different fields where the programme acts, hence contributing for a diverse and rich Europe.
Amongst the several goals of the programme, the following are prioritised: the objectives of the Europe 2020 Strategy, including the headline education target; the aims of the strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (ET 2020), including the corresponding benchmarks; the sustainable development of Partner Countries in the field of higher education; the overall goals of the renewed framework for European cooperation in the youth field (2010-2018); the objective of developing the European dimension in sport, in particular grassroots sport, in line with the EU work plan for sport and the promotion of European values in accordance with Article 2 of the Treaty on the European Union.
In order to achieve these goals, the Erasmus+ has several action policies. The Key Action 1 (KA1) is directed towards the mobility of people; Key Action 2 (KA2) for the cooperation for innovation and the interchange of good experiences; and Key Action 3, which is for the support of reformation policies.
Since 1991 the University of Madeira Students’ Union has developed a wide incentive policy for voluntary work. In 2013 the Students’ Union started the process to receive, send and coordinate Erasmus+ projects of the European Voluntary Service, in order to have a larger influence in the volunteering field. The Union received its first volunteer withing the ambit of a KA1 project in 2014. Many efforts have been done to allow young people from Madeira to take part in several initiatives in Europe, as well as propose several projects allowing young people from several countries to work in the projects of the Students’ Union of the University of Madeira. The main goal of the voluntary work is the contribution of the volunteers to the communities and places they will be staying, being their work not rewarded with payment.
We believe that the European Voluntary Service is a mechanism full of experiences, allowing the approved candidates to have the privilege of taking part in these projects and benefit the places and communities where these volunteers will be staying.
Since 2013, the University of Madeira Students’ Union has received volunteers that have collaborated in several activities and initiatives. Besides being able to enjoy a wonderful experience which will contribute to their personal and professional growth, they are able to contribute in a unique way to the community in which they are inserted and to join dozens of volunteers from the University of Madeira.