is a Community initiative which aims to stimulate interregional cooperation in the European Union
. It started in 1989, and is financed under the European Regional Development Fund
Aims of the programme
It is designed to stimulate the cooperation between the member states of the European Union on different levels. One of its main targets is to diminish the influence of national borders in order to attain equal economic
and cultural development of the whole territory of the European Union.
The Interreg initiative is designed to strengthen economic and social cohesion throughout the European Union, by fostering the balanced development of the continent through cross-border, transnational and interregional cooperation. Special emphasis has been placed on integrating remote regions and those which share external borders with the candidate countries.
Interreg was launched as Interreg I for the programming period 1989-93, and continued as Interreg II for the subsequent period 1994-99. It has moved on to Interreg III for the period 2000-2006. Projects from that period are currently closing, and will all have done so by the end of 2008. Interreg IV will cover 2007-2012.
To apply for Interreg funding, Member States must submit an Operational Programme (OP) which is a standard procedure common to all EU Cohesion Policy programmes. However, Interreg differs from the majority of Cohesion Policy programmes in one important respect: it involves a collaboration among authorities of two or more Member States. Interreg measures are not only required to demonstrate a positive impact on the development on either side of the border but their design and, possibly, their implementation must be carried out on a common cross-border basis.
Once the OPs have been approved by the Commission, the implementation of the programmes is co-ordinated by Steering Committees, composed by representatives of the authorities responsible for Cohesion Policy measures in each Member State, i.e. central state or regional agencies. Like almost all Cohesion Policy measures, Interreg projects require co-funding to be provided by Member States, regional authorities or the project leaders themselves.
The final beneficiaries of Interreg funds are usually public authorities, interest associations and non-profit organisations, such as chambers of commerce, employer organisations, unions or research institutes. Private firms are only eligible if they apply through a consortium of several firms.
Interreg III had a total budget of 4,9 billion euro (1999 prices); Interreg IV has a budget of almost 7,8 billion euro (2006 prices).
Interreg is made up of three strands: Interreg A, Interreg B and Interreg C. They are described in more detail below
Strand A : cross-border cooperation
Cross-border cooperation between adjacent regions aims to develop cross-border social and economic centres through common development strategies. The term 'cross-border region' is often used to refer to the resulting entities, provided there is some degree of local activity involved. The term 'Euroregion' is also used to refer to the various types of entities that are used to administer Interreg funds. In many cases, they have established secretariats that are funded via 'technical assistance', which is the component of Interreg funding aimed at establishing the administrative infrastructure for the local deployment of Interreg.
Interreg A is by far the largest strand in terms of budget, using up to 74% of all resources (some 5,6 billion euros). Priorities for action in strand IIIA are:
- Promotion of urban, rural and coastal development
- Strengthening the spirit of enterprise
- Developing small and medium-sized enterprises, including those in the tourism sector
- Developing local employment initiatives
- Assistance for labour market integration and social inclusion
- Initiatives for encouraging shared use of human resources, and facilities for research and development, education, culture, communication, health and civil protection
- Measures for environmental protection, improving energy efficiency and renewable energy sources
- Improving transport, information and communication networks and services, water and energy systems
- Increasing cooperation in legal and administrative areas
- Increasing human and institutional potential for cross-border cooperation
Examples of Interreg IIIA projects
- Alcotra, a French-Italian cross-border programme in the Alps
Strand B : transnational cooperation
Transnational cooperation involving national, regional and local authorities aims to promote better integration within the Union through the formation of large groups of European regions. Strand B is the intermediate level, where generally non-contiguous regions from several different countries cooperate because they experience joint or comparable problems. The budget for this strand is 21% of the total budget for territorial cooperation, or 1,6 billion euros. Under Interreg III, there were 13 'programmes', large regions within which these cooperations took place. Under Interreg IV, their definitions have changed somewhat, and in addition regions from outside a programme can participate in a project within that programme.
Proposals for transnational cooperation under IIIB had to take account of:
- Experience from previous Interreg programmes;
- Priorities for Community policies, especially trans-European transport networks ;
- Recommendations made in the European Spatial Development Plan (ESDP).
Within this context, the priorities for action are as follows:
- Drawing up regional development strategies at transnational level, including cooperation between towns or urban areas and rural areas
- Promoting effective and sustainable transport systems, together with better access to the information society. The aim here is to facilitate communication between island or peripheral regions.
- Promoting protection of the environment and natural resources, particularly water resources.
In the specific case of ultra-peripheral regions, transnational cooperation encourages the following initiatives:
Examples of Interreg IIIB projects
Strand C: interregional cooperation
Interregional cooperation aims to improve the effectiveness of regional development policies and instruments through large-scale information exchange and sharing of experience (networks). This is the smallest strand of the three, having resources of only 0,4 billion euros. Priorities for action in strand IIIC are:
Examples of Interreg IIIC projects