Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

  • European Commission
  • Programmes
  • Community Action Programme promoting non-governmental organizations primarily active in the field of environmental protection 2002-2006

Previous programme


Programme funding

EUR 32 million

Official Journal Reference

L75 of 2002-03-16

Legislative Reference

466/2002/EC of 2002-03-01
The aim of the programme is to support non-governmental organizations (NGOs), which are primarily active in the field of environmental protection and which contribute, or have the ability to contribute to the development and implementation of Community environmental policy in all regions of Europe. The Programme also promotes systematic involvement of NGOs at all stages of policy shaping, by ensuring relevant representation in stakeholder consultation meetings and public hearings. This programme represents a component of the Sixth Environment Action Programme.


The Sixth Environment Action Programme recognises the need for empowering citizens and the measures include extensive and wide-ranging dialogue with stakeholders in environmental policy-making. In order to enable their participation in such a dialogue the Sixth Environment Action Programme makes provisions for continuous funding to non-governmental organisations.

NGOs active in the field of environmental protection have already demonstrated that they can contribute to the environment policy of the Community, by active involvement in concrete environmental protection measures and in activities to increase the general awareness of the need for the protection of the environment.
NGOs are essential to co-ordinate and channel to the Commission information and views on the new and emerging perspectives, such as on nature protection and transboundary environmental problems, which cannot be, or are not being, fully dealt with at the Member State or subordinate level. Through their contacts with the public at large down to the very grassroots level, NGOs are believed to know well the concerns and opinions of the man in the street and can thus promote these views and channel them back to the Commission.
Environmental NGOs participate in experts groups, in preparatory and implementation committees of the Community institutions, providing important input to Community policies, programmes and initiatives and necessary balance in relation to the interests of other actors in the environment, including industry/business, trade unions and consumer groups.

The Action Programme introduced by Council Decision 97/872/EC of 16 December 1997 on a Community Action Programme promoting non-governmental organisations primarily active in the field of environmental protection which has provided environmental groups with financial support since 1998 concluded on December 31st 2001. The Programme has been evaluated by the Commission and present and previous beneficiaries, revealing a strong support for its renewal/revision.


This new programme will expand its' geographical scope by welcoming NGO applications from candidate countries and the Balkans. It is necessary to include Candidate Countries' NGOs in light of their importance in gaining public acceptance for the environmental 'acquis', for strengthening its implementation and for further developing the democratisation process. The changes in the Balkans have also revealed a tremendous need for direct support towards citizens' organisations and initiatives in order to promote democracy and the building of an environmentally sustainable future. Funding will also be aligned with the calendar year with the aim of granting funds as early as possible in the year. It will involve a simplified selection, monitoring and evaluation procedure, which will decrease the workload on both the NGOs and the Commission. In order to increase transparency and accountability, the new approach will also include a funding scheme, which refers to the audited books of the beneficiaries, and a fixed auditing scheme, which will ensure the sound management of taxpayers money.

Given the importance for sustainable development, the health and quality of life of European citizens, the overall Sixth Environment Action Programme targets selected priority issues that have been grouped under four main headings:
- limiting climate change;
- nature and bio-diversity ¿ protecting a unique source;
- health and environment;
-ensuring the sustainable management of natural resources and wastes.
In addition to the above mentionned areas, environmental education and implementation and enforcement of Community environmental legislation shall also be a priority.
The Sixth Environment Action Programme will be subject to a review in the fourth year of operation and revised and updated as necessary, to take account of new developments and information.


The Commission is responsible for the overall implementation of the programme and will publish a Call for Proposals in the Official Journal of the European Communities by 30 September each year at the latest, for grants in the following calendar year. In addition, the Commission shall use other appropriate means available to make the programme known to potential beneficiaries, including the electronic media. After accessing the proposals the Commission shall decide which organisations are to receive funding in the following year by 31 December each year save for a delay in the adoption of the Community budget.

By 31 December 2004 the Commission should submit a report to the European Parliament and the Council on the achievements of the objectives of this Programme during the first three years and shall, if appropriate, make proposals for any adjustment in considering if the programme should continue or not. The European Parliament and the Council will decide if the programme should continue from January 2007. Before putting forward proposals to this end, the Commission shall conduct an external evaluation of the results achieved by the Programme.

To qualify for funding the NGOs must fullfill the following criteria:
- must be an independant and non-profit making legal person primarily active in the field of environmental protection;
- must be active at a European level with a membership base and activities covering at least three European countries;
-its activities must meet the principles underlying the proposal and be in line with the priority areas;
- must have been legally constituted for more than two years.

The programme shall be open to the participation of NGOs established in either:
- the Member States;
- the Associated Countries in accordance with the conditions established in the Europe Agreements;
- Cyprus, Malta and Turkey in accordance with conditions and procedures to be agreed with those countries;
- the Balkan countries forming part of the Stabilisation and Association process for countries of South Eastern Europe in accordance with conditions and procedures to be agreed with those countries.

The selection and award process will be carried out in four steps:
- elimination of applications which do not comply with the technical/administrative requirements for submitting request for funding under this programme;
- elimination of applications which do not comply with the eligibility critera;
- comparative assessment of the remaining eligible applications (extent to which the application meets the programmes objectives, management and product quality and outreach, effectiveness and efficiency);
- fixing the set of applications by retaining those who have received score values above thresholds defined by the Commission.

The beneficiary of a grant shall keep available for the Commission all the supporting documents, including the audited financial statement, regarding expenditure incurred during the grant year for a period of five years following the last payment. A grant shall not exceed 70% of the applicant's average audited annual eligible expenses during the preceding two years, in the case of NGOs based in the Community, or 80% in the case of NGOs based in the candidate countries and the Balkans countries, nor 80% of the applicant's eligible expenses for the current year.

The Commission shall provide unsuccessful applicants with reasons for the failure of the NGO to meet the requirements, giving sufficient explanation to enable them to identify reforms needed before making applications. In order to protect the Communities' financial interests against fraud and other irregularities, the Commission may carry out on-the-spot checks and inspections under this Programme. If appropriate, the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) shall also carry out investigations.

Failure to meet expected results, as evidences by obligatory reports, may lead to ineligibility for funding under this Programme in the following year. Repeated failure in two successive years shall result in ineligibility for the remaining years of the programme. If an NGO becomes the subject of a Commission recovery oder due to negligence or fraud, it shall automatically be excluded from funding under the remaining years of the Programme. If the Commission discovers irregularities, mismanagement or fraud in relation to a grant, either by audits or on-the-spot checks, the beneficiary shall be subject to one or several of the following administrative measures and penalties in proportion to the severity of the case (and with a right to appeal against the decision):
- annulment of the grant;
- payment of a fine of up to 50% of the amount of the recovery order;
- exclusion from other Community funding opportunity, for the remaining years of the Programme;
- exclusion from the relevant dialogue mechanisms of the Commission, for the remaining years of the Programme.
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