EC funding withdrawal leaves UK aid agencies facing potential shortfall

13 Feb 19

Swiss NGOs face losing out on European Union aid funds – and UK organisations could be in the same boat – after Brussels indicated that only member states will be eligible.

Earlier this week, it emerged on Swiss radio that 10 non-governmental organisations had received letters from Brussels, explaining they would not be getting further funding for humanitarian operations.

The European Commission said in the letter, which was sent shortly before Christmas, it would “no longer be possible for organisations based in states outside the union to be considered as eligible” for funding for aid projects – approximately €50m a year.

This means UK aid agencies could face a funding shortfall post-Brexit.

Claire Godfrey, head of policy and campaigns at Bond, the UK network that represents UK international development NGOs, told PF International: “The revelations this week indicate that UK NGOs won’t be able to make a case for having a partnership agreement with the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) when it becomes a non-EU member.

“This means a loss of UK expertise, now along with Swiss. The real tragedy is that those we provide humanitarian relief to, through ECHO-funded joint humanitarian efforts, will end up bearing the brunt of this decision.”

Because aid agencies in Switzerland, which is not an EU member, have regularly received funding from the EU, many UK organisations had hoped funding might continue after Brexit.

The letter explained that as of 1 January this year, Swiss agencies and others outside the union would no longer be eligible for funding. It said the reason was that there was no longer a “suitable legal basis” to hand money to non-EU organisations.

Organisations with head offices in EU member states may still be eligible. Last year, PF International revealed that a number of UK NGOs had been looking at moving their headquarters to the Hague, to secure funding from the bloc.

NGOs that are classified as ‘international organisations’, such as the Red Cross, will not be affected.

Felix Gnehm, co-director of one of the Swiss NGOs, Solidar Switzerland, said the letter was “a small shock” but not “totally unexpected”. He said he believed Brexit had influenced the decision.

ECHO works with over 200 partner organisations to provide humanitarian assistance across the world.

The UK Department for International Development has said it would compensate British NGOs for any loss of EU funds in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The UK is due to leave the EU next month, but the government has still not agreed on a deal with Brussels.

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