In the summer of 2021, Vedia together with our national authorities started to make the first preparations for eFTI (electronic Freight Transport Information) CEF application. It all started when the EU and more precisely European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency (CINEA) released their calls for the next CEF funding rounds. Vedia immediately took this opportunity on its table, since eFTI fits well with Vedia’s agenda and it is also the first delegating act, which really forces authorities to utilize digital freight documents in the EU. All of this supports very well the actions and plans done in the current CEF FEDeRATED project.
Thanks to the FEDeRATED project, Vedia has gained experience in CEF projects and knows how much work such a preparation process takes. Although preparations on a national level and at the international level were started already in the summer of 2021, the time ran out for the member states to enable the required funding for the application. This was partly due to the year 2021 being a challenging time for governmental budgeting because of the COVID-19 impacts.
Vedia does not have a reputation for giving up, and thus Vedia wanted to continue preparations, which was well supported by the national authorities. During the spring of 2022, Vedia boosted the collaboration actions with Baltic countries and together we found a fruitful collaboration network, which had the same ambition level and goals, i.e natural coalition. As a result of this READY4eFTI MoU was signed during the summer of 2022. While the opening of the next CEF round was getting closer the Finland-Baltics collaboration was supported by experts from the central EU and hence the eFTI Expert Team (EET) was established. The beauty of this team is that it has a solid experience from CEF projects and at the same time it is well presented in the EU DTLF work. Before the official CEF 2 call opening day EET had gathered preliminary indications of interest from several member states and the dialogue between EET and EU officers was already active.
When the call was opened in mid-September EET contacted member states and started working hard to write an application for CINEA. During that process, EET organized a few joint meetings for member states and several planning and working meetings on a national level, which were split between EET members. At the end of November Finland as the first beneficiary got the first draft of the project and its budget. That version was still a very rough draft, but it showed well what this application aims at. For the case of eFTI, the CEF 2 application was also easier for member states, since the call was a dedicated call for eFTI, which they need to implement by 2025.
If the application had been drafted for some more abstract or general digital service or digital infrastructure I doubt that the application would have passed the national review in the draft version of November. We really need to consider the application deadline schedule in the future if we want to invest in cross-border digitalization and use EU funding for that. For example, in this preparation process, some member states required official papers only in January and hence for them the EET could provide an already well-written and coherent application draft.
So due to the Finnish CEF process, our national authorities get raw applications for their decision-making process, while some countries get much more mature versions. For traditional infrastructure works, this is not a big issue, since those are much more tangible than digital issues and are supported by traditional cost-benefit analysis. Thus, CEF is traditionally used for infrastructure works, and projects that focus on digital solutions are an exception. However, if we want to boost national and international digital projects and have a bigger impact we should be more active to utilize bigger EU funding instruments, such as CEF.
The Aim of this blog text was to reveal a bit about what bigger EU project preparation means and how stakeholders could prepare for it. It is hard work and yes it takes time, but it is also very interesting and rewarding when you can be building something that is relevant for the whole EU. Let’s hope that the application that was successfully submitted a few hours before the deadline will get final approval and member states can jump to the real actions and build a secure, agile, federated, and attractive digital data exchange service for logistics.
Finally, great thanks to our incredible EET: Peter, Alexio, Christian, Ulrika, Rudy, Heiti, and Matti