Interregional cooperation proposed to continue after 2013
On 6 October, the European Commission adopted a legislative package for cohesion policy for the period from 2014 until 2020. It is designed to boost growth and jobs across Europe by targeting EU investment on Europe's Growth and Jobs Agenda ("Europe 2020"). A separate regulation clarifies and simplifies provisions for territorial cooperation programmes.
Increased funding for territorial cooperation
The Commission's proposal for the Multi-Annual Financial Framework foresees an amount of EUR 376 billion for economic, social and territorial cohesion for the period 2014-2020. Out of this, 11.7 billion EUR is foreseen for European Territorial Cooperation, which constitutes an increase of 30% in comparison to the current period 2007-2013.
According to the proposal, European Territorial Cooperation would continue to be comprised of three strands: interregional, cross-border and transnational. The future interregional cooperation strand should aim to reinforce the effectiveness of cohesion policy by encouraging exchange of experience between regions to enhance design and implementation of operational programmes under the ‘Investment for growth and jobs’ goal.
A total of 700 million EUR is foreseen for the interregional cooperation strand, which would also include the successor programme of INTERREG IVC.
Focus on Europe 2020 strategy
The Commission has put forward a number of important changes to the way cohesion policy is designed and implemented, increasing the effectiveness of Fund interventions and an overall simplified approach to implementation. Following extensive consultation with stakeholders, including Member States, regions and social and economic partners, the new regulation includes provisions on thematic concentration and an increased focus on results as well as a number of simplification elements.
The thematic objectives of European territorial cooperation goal should be linked to developing an economy based on knowledge, research and innovation, promoting a greener, more resource-efficient and competitive economy, fostering high employment that delivers social and territorial cohesion, and developing administrative capacity. Whereas cross-border and transnational programmes would be asked to select a limited number of priorities, all thematic objectives may be selected for interregional cooperation programmes.
Less administrative burden
The new regulation also aims at reducing the administrative burden for beneficiaries. Proposals for simpler management include the harmonisation of eligibility rules related to the different EU funds, a move towards e-cohesion by allowing beneficiaries to submit information electronically, as well as a wider use of “simplified costs”. The latter refers to simplifications such as administration cost flat rates – as already successfully implemented by the INTERREG IVC programme in the fourth call for proposals – as well as standard scales of unit costs and lump sums. Furthermore, the proposal foresees fixing joint eligibility rules at EU level or for the programme as a whole.
The legislative package proposed by the Commission will now be discussed by the Council and the European Parliament, with a view to adoption by the end of 2012. This would allow for the start of a new generation of Cohesion Policy programmes in 2014.
Stakeholders working on the policy will already have a first opportunity to discuss the new proposal this week in Brussels at the European Week of Regions and Cities ("Open Days 2011").