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INTERREG III C
This communication explains the method for implementing interregional cooperation activities under strand C of the INTERREG III Community Initiative for 2000-06 (INTERREG III C).
Commission Communication to the Member States of 7 May 2001 - "Interregional cooperation" - Strand C of the INTERREG III Community initiative [C(2001) 1188 final - Official Journal of 15.5.2001].
The regions have shown a growing interest in interregional cooperation, not only in the context of INTERREG II, but also through the innovative actions of the Structural Funds (RIS/RITTS, RISI, TERRA, RECITE; ECOS-Ouverture, Urban Development) and the Promotion of Innovation and Encouragement of SMEs Participation Programme (1998-2002) of the Fifth RTD Framework Programme.
Interregional cooperation brings a further dimension into cross-border cooperation (Strand A) and transnational cooperation (Strand B) under INTERREG III. It allows regions which are not necessarily direct neighbours to enter into contact and to build up relationships, leading to exchanges of experience and networking which will assist the balanced, harmonious and sustainable development of the European Union and third countries.
The general provisions on the Structural Funds and the INTERREG III guidelines lay down the general framework for Strand C of the Community Initiative. This Communication gives details on how the method is to be implemented.
GENERAL PRINCIPLES OF INTERREGIONAL COOPERATION
The objective of interregional cooperation is to improve the effectiveness of policies and instruments for regional development and cohesion. By encouraging a more strategic approach by programme, the Commission proposes that INTERREG III C should operate as a general framework for promoting exchanges of experience. In the long term, collaboration between authorities and public bodies, whether or not they are eligible for assistance from the Structural Funds, should bring about stable and consistent cooperation.
The total budget for INTERREG III during the period 2000 to 2006 is EUR 4 875 million, broken down into allocations adopted by the Commission for each Member State. 6 % of those allocations are earmarked for Strand C.
Eligible areas and participation of non-Community countries
The entire territory of the European Community is eligible for part-financing by the ERDF under INTERREG III C.
Participation by non-Member countries, in particular the candidate countries, islands and outermost regions, will receive special attention during the selection process. As with Interreg III as a whole, financing for non-Community countries to participate in Strand C may be provided from their own resources or, where appropriate, through the relevant Community funding for foreign policy (Phare, Tacis, CARDS, Meda, EDF). Travel and subsistence expenses of partners from outside the Community can be eligible for part-financing where the operation in which they are taking part takes place in the European Union.
Topics for cooperation
INTERREG III C has the following five priority topics:
- Exchange of experience and networking among border areas and among transnational areas on the implementation of INTERREG programmes.
This topic is limited to public authorities (or equivalent bodies) involved in current or previous INTERREG programmes.
- Dissemination of urban development practices through concrete exchange of experience.
This topic is open to all cities and urban areas, with priority to proposals containing at least one city or urban area receiving funding from Structural Fund programmes.
- Interregional cooperation linking regions involved in one or more of the themes of the regional innovative actions for 2000-06, namely: (a) regional economy based on knowledge and technological innovation, (b) e-EuropeRegio: the information society and regional development, and (c) regional identity and sustainable development.
The strategy contained in the regional innovative actions programme may be based on one of the three priorities or a combination, but may not involve setting up networks.
Other subjects appropriate to cooperation: spatial planning, maritime cooperation, insular and ultraperipheral issues, natural and man-made catastrophes, low population density or mountainous conditions.
Other more general topics may also be treated: research and technological development, information society, tourism, culture, employment, enterprise and the environment.
The four programming zones are set out in Annex A to the Communication (south, north-west, north-east and east). The Member States allocate a proportion of their financial allocation for INTERREG III C to the programmes in which they are taking part, in proportion to the population living in each area. Although projects may be included only in the programme for the zone in which the lead partner is located, cooperation between partners from different zones is encouraged. Thus, at least 75 % of the ERDF allocation must involve operations with at least one partner located outside the zone covered by the programme.
The content of operational programmes under Community initiatives is similar to that of single programming documents (SDPs) provided for in the general Regulation on the Structural Funds and must comply with other Community policies as set out in the Commission's general guidelines for 2000-06 programmes. They contain all the topics for cooperation explained above and the three types of operations presented below.
Taking due account of the particularities of Strand C, programmes operate under the same rules and conditions as those laid down for Strands A and B in the general guidelines for Interreg III and the general regulation on the Structural Funds. They all include a detailed description of the financial management arrangements and the procedures for monitoring, checks and evaluation, clearly indicating the responsibilities of all those involved. The competent authorities must set up monitoring and control indicators.
Types of operation
Three types of operations are eligible for part-financing under INTERREG III C:
Regional framework operations aimed at exchanging the experience gained by a group of regions on methodology and project management, with the aim of developing a clear strategic approach based on a limited number of projects.
These regional framework operations are a new type of operation and cover all five priority topics for cooperation. They may receive between EUR 500 000 and EUR 5 million from the ERDF and should account for between 50 % and 80 % of the funding for each INTERREG III C programme.
They include an interregional cooperation strategy, the partners, the objectives and the expected results, the distribution of the funding among the partners (no more than 40 % for the lead partner), the work plan and a detailed timetable, descriptions of a limited number of projects and indicative selection criteria, an assessment of the operation's potential impact on other Structural Fund programmes and the main target groups.
These operations are intended for a group of regional authorities (or equivalent regional bodies) in at least three countries, two of which should be Member States. No region may participate in more than two operations.
Individual interregional cooperation projects are aimed at exchanging experience on methodology and project management. In addition to the transfer of knowledge, the aim is to establish genuine cooperation with a view to transplanting project results from one region into another with a clear impact in the recipient region.
These projects cover all five priority topics for cooperation and involve partners from least three countries, two of which should be Member States. They should account for between 10 and 30 % of the funding for each INTERREG III C programme and receive ERDF funding of between EUR 200 000 and EUR 1 million.
Networks aiming to link the various regions inside and outside the European Union on project implementation methods and development.
The work programmes of networks cover the five priority topics for cooperation, except for those dealt with by the regional innovative actions for 2000-2006, and may include the following measures: seminars, conferences, Internet sites, data bases, study trips and exchange of staff.
Networks should account for between 10 % and 20 % of the funding for each INTERREG III C programme and receive ERDF funding of between EUR 200 000 and EUR 1 million.
The lead partner presents the operation to the management authority for the programme covering the zone in which it is located. The Commission encourages the lead partner to conclude cooperation agreements with the other partners defining all the legal and financial responsibilities.
The financial flows between the lead partner, the other partners and the paying body differ depending on the type of operation concerned. In the case of regional framework operations, the choice of whether the financial flows should be centralised or decentralised falls to the parties involved in the operation. Flows are always centralised to the lead partner in the case of individual interregional projects and networks.