INTERREG III (2000-2006)
This initiative is designed to strengthen economic and social cohesion throughout the European Union (EU), by fostering the balanced development of the continent through cross-border, transnational and interregional cooperation.
Communication of 28 April 2000 from the Commission to the Member States laying down guidelines for a Community Initiative concerning trans-European cooperation intended to encourage harmonious and balanced development of the European territory (Interreg III) [Official Journal C 143 of 23.5.2000].
In accordance with the general provisions on the Structural Funds for 2000-2006, the Interreg programme (launched in 1990) is maintained. The third phase of this Community initiative follows the previous Interreg I (1991-1993) and Interreg II (1994-1999) programmes.
The Interreg objectives are:
- to develop of cross-border cooperation, and
- to help the regions on the EU's internal and external borders overcome the problems resulting from their isolation.
For the period 2000-2006, the Interreg III programme also aims to support interregional and transnational cooperation.
Cooperation under Interreg III is based on the following principles:
- Programming: regions or territories wishing to cooperate must present the Commission with a Community Initiative Programme (CIP) defining their joint development strategy and demonstrating the cross-border value added by the operations planned.
- Partnership between the national, regional and local authorities and the economic and social partners encourages a bottom-up approach to development.
Interreg III will be implemented in three operational strands:
- Strand A: cross-border cooperation;
- Strand B: transnational cooperation; and
- Strand C: interregional cooperation.
Strand A: cross-border cooperation
Cross-border cooperation between neighbouring territories aims to develop cross-border economic and social networks and joint approaches to territorial development.
Under Strand A, priority is given to the following actions:
- promotion of cross-border urban, rural and coastal development;
- development of entrepreneurial spirit and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), tourism, local development and employment initiatives (LDEI);
- creating an integrated labour market and promoting social inclusion;
- cooperation on research, technological development, education, culture, communications, health and civil protection;
- environmental protection, energy efficiency and renewable energies;
- basic infrastructure of cross-border importance;
- cooperation in the legal and administrative fields;
- cooperation between citizens and institutions; and
- technical assistance.
Strand B: transnational cooperation
Transnational cooperation between national, regional and local authorities aims to promote a higher degree of territorial integration, with a view to achieving sustainable, harmonious and balanced development in the Community and better territorial integration with candidate and other neighbouring countries.
Cooperation on the EU's external borders and between regions with common handicaps (island and maritime regions) is particularly encouraged. In the case of the outermost regions, the aim is to improve economic integration among themselves, with the Member States and with their neighbouring non-Community countries.
The following are areas of cooperation under Strand B:
- territorial development strategies;
- development of efficient and sustainable transport systems and improved access to the information society;
- promotion of the environment and sound management of cultural heritage and natural resources, in particular water resources; and
- technical assistance for the establishment of transnational partnerships.
Strand C: interregional cooperation
Interregional cooperation is intended to improve the effectiveness of policies and instruments for regional development through networking, particularly for regions whose development is lagging behind and those undergoing conversion. The priorities for cooperation under Strand C are the subject of a separate communication from the Commission.
The zones eligible for cross-border cooperation (Strand A) are all of NUTS III level. The same applies to certain coastal areas. They are:
- all the areas along the Community's internal and external land borders as well as certain maritime areas; and
- areas bordering on or surrounded by these eligible areas.
The whole of the EU and the neighbouring regions are eligible for the purposes of transnational cooperation (Strand B). The eligible areas include the following 13 groups of regions: Western Mediterranean, Alpine Space, South-West Europe, North-West Europe, North Sea Region, Baltic Sea Region, Northern Periphery, CADSES (Central, Adriatic, Danubian and South-East Europe), "Archimed", Atlantic Area and Outermost Regions.
The whole of the Community is eligible under Strand C.
The authorities responsible for programming are:
- the regional or local authorities in partnership with the national authorities (Strand A);
- the national authorities in close cooperation with the regional or local authorities located in the geographical area where transnational cooperation is to take place (Strand B); and
- the national authorities (Strand C).
Coordination with other Community instruments
The programmes set up must complement measures under Objective 1, Objective 2 and Objective 3 of the Structural Funds. They must also be coordinated with the EU's external policy instruments (PHARE, TACIS, MEDA).
Budget and technical assistance
For the 2000-2006 period, a total budget of EUR 4 875 million has been allocated to Interreg III exclusively from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The programme is co-financed by the Member States and the Commission. The ERDF contribution will not exceed 75% of the total programme cost in Objective 1 regions and 50% in other eligible regions.
The Member States must allocate at least 50% of their national envelope to cross-border cooperation (Strand A). Strand A will receive between 50% and 80%, Strand B between 14% and 44% and Strand C 6% of the total Interreg III budget.
The total budget for technical assistance measures under each programme is 5% of the ERDF contribution. These measures concern, in particular, the creation and development of joint management structures.