Yesterday the European Commission adopted the new cross-border cooperation programme for Italy, Montenegro and Albania, worth nearly €93 million, with almost €79 million coming from the European Regional Development Fund and the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA). This is the last cross-border cooperation programme to be adopted in 2015.
Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Crețu said: "I am glad to have adopted this programme: it is a perfect example of how the EU mobilises its resources to bring candidate countries closer to the EU. Our Interreg programmes are known to be real European success stories, as they create a real sense of solidarity and belonging beyond borders."
Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn said: "This new cross-border cooperation programme contributes to pave the way for smart and sustainable economic development of the beneficiary area, which includes two candidate countries (Albania and Montenegro). The programme will support competitiveness of SME’s, environment protection and promotion of climate change adaptation and mitigation, as well as the improvement of public infrastructure and transport."
In line with the EU Strategy for the Adriatic Ionian Region, the programme focuses on five priorities:
1) Strengthening the cross-border cooperation and competitiveness of SMEs: support will be provided to local small businesses to contribute to their internationalisation and develop cross-border markets.
2) Smart management of the border region's natural and cultural heritage: under this priority the programme will invest in the development of environmentally friendly tourism activities and in new cultural products and services.
3) Environment protection, risk management and low-carbon strategy: EU investments will support a strategic and cross-border approach on water landscapes, innovative practices and tools to reduce carbon gas emissions and improved energy efficiency in public buildings.
4) Improving cross-border connectivity and promoting sustainable transport systems
5) Technical assistance, to ensure the sound and effective implementation of the programme.
The Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) gives financial and technical help to support reforms in the accession countries, with a budget of €11.7 billion for the 2014-2020 period, of which over €484 million are invested in cross-border cooperation programmes.
The Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy (DG REGIO) currently manages 10 cross-border cooperation programmes bringing together a Member State with one or several candidate and potential candidate countries.
Each IPA cross-border cooperation programme is set up with an equal contribution of the European Regional Development Fund and Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance funds. This is the so called "matching funds" principle enshrined in the article 4 of the European Territorial Cooperation Regulation: Member States agree to allocate parts of their European Regional Development Fund envelope for cross-border cooperation programme at EU external borders under the condition that at least equivalent amounts are provided by the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance. The funds are then pooled together and are spent on either side indifferently in Member States and non-Member States.
DG REGIO is working closely with the Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR); DG NEAR is managing IPA cross-border cooperation programmes (Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance funds only) at borders between Western Balkan countries while DG REGIO is managing the programmes at borders between Member States and candidate and potential candidate countries.