Do we know which EU countries have received the most funds to implement various, perhaps critically important projects? Should we care about this?
Well, even the collective resources are a depletable good. Knowing which projects were funded on a country level gives everyone the knowledge how the funds are deployed on their own territory—effectively or ineffectively. It helps to see whether these funds lead to concrete, tangible results. It tells us who is responsible for what and whether they are following through their initial idea. On the other side, not having knowledge about this means that many can apply and become funds from the collective pool in the knowledge that even if their project fails, they could still earn millions.
What this can lead to are applications made solely for the "winning". We have heard how after the event funds are spread over multiple channels and become hardly trackable. So even if something gets done, the cost of that is paid tenfold. This has some implications for future entrepreneurship and ideas, because if the bad ideas are funded today (or were funded yesterday), the great entrepreneurs of the future won't come. Because if they do, they would be placed in the same bin and be mistrusted by default. Because if they do, they would have to work next to the people who used the tricks to gain an unfair advantage. Because if they do, they would eventually need to be closely monitored and micromanaged. Doubtful that anyone would want to be in that position (not me, for certain). Additionally, if daring greatly once again is connected to having to operate only with a fraction of the resources previously available, then the risk for the entrepreneur becomes greater. Today's publicity is unforgiving and each small mistake can have a lasting impact on the entrepreneur's life. Not surprisingly, entrepreneurship in Europe still has a long way to go if Europe doesn't want to fall behind other continents.
On the right you see a map of Europe, where the countries are colored according to the total funds they received for their projects over time. Darker colors indicate more funds received; lighter colors show very small amounts received. By hovering a country, you can see which projects were funded, sorted by amount in euro.
The result might seem slightly surprising. Recently I've read an article that Poland has been a favorite place for investment within the EU in the past, but citizens in this country have surprisingly started to adopt a more negative view of the union, which is putting Brussels at unrest. I had no idea of the extent to which this is true. Projects in Poland were funded a total of 2.047 billion euro according to my computations of the public "EU funded projects" information. Certainly, not a small amount. Then, even more surprisingly follows Bulgaria, a relatively poor country that despite the investments of 1.713 billion euro has remained consistently poor. This raises some hard questions whether the funds are used appropriately. In contrast, other countries in East Europe—like Ukraine and Romania,—have received only fractions of this amount—0.438 and 0.306 billion euro respectively, but their economies may be less dependent on outside funds, thus having a healthier growth. Greece and Italy have received 1.297 and 1.102 billion, but their economies still try to recover from the effects of years of austerity measures. We could perhaps think of projects as points within an area. A good area would be one that can be filled by the points so that no or only few empty spots remain. A bad area is one that is lacking enough points, having an unsupportive environment, where the points disappear over time if no new ones are added quickly enough. The area is like a living organism. The points disappear because it becomes no longer economical to be in a poor area, where opportunies for serving are increasingly disappearing. Where no strong network effects can ever happen. The market is often unapologetic and quickly moves elsewhere.
One might expect that when Brussels decides which projects to fund, Belgium itself would not be among the biggest beneficients, but this is not exactly the case—projects in total of 1.625 billion euro were funded there (place 3). The next five countries which follow are the Netherlands (1.089), UK (1.078), Germany (0.846), Spain (0.719) and Slovakia (0.709). We also notice that strong economies like Scandinavian countries, Austria and Switzerland have received comparatively very little funding.
Some projects can be short-term, receiving high level of funding for a short period of time, while others may receive a lot more funding, but last many years. This is why it is important to look for median or average funding in a year on a country level. By this criteria Ukraine comes first: a project taking one year is funded 11.8 million euro on average, where the number for Bulgaria is 11.4 million. Slovakia comes third at 7.7 million/year, Greece 7.1 million/year, Poland 5.2 million/year. The faster results need to be achieved, the more expensive this can be expected to become.
From the past history we see that the most common areas where EU projects are funded are research & innovation, development, agriculture and rural development, environment & climate, humanitarian aid, transport, fisheries and maritime affairs, and others. The humanitarian aid category is something that is much more wide-reaching than I expected. It is perhaps less well-known that through some of the projects the EU supports many countries in need, which are sometimes located far away geographically. At one moment or another, the EU has helped Burkina Faso, Lebanon, Yemen, Senegal, Mali, Syria, Palestine, Pakistan, Chad, Kongo, Kenya, Somalia, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, South Sudan and many many others. This shows meaning at an entirely new level and signals that when the desire about individualism is brought to an extreme, this can weaken the connections inside the union, leaving the people in many other countries who depend on it in a dire situation. If we want to be responsible for that in the future (and possibly even more so), continuing the positive example of the people before us, attempting to be more tolerant between each other, more patient and empathic in understanding each unique viewpoint in order to find a common ground would be a great start.Simplified and optimized map from Wikimedia Commons