Original publication: July 2016
Authors:
t33 – François Levarlet, Arta Preku, Elodie Lorgeoux, Nicola Brignani, Timothy J. B. Wills
Spatial Foresight – Sabine Zillmer, Frank Holstein
Eureconsult – Thomas Stumm
Short link to this post: http://bit.ly/2GdUasS

In the programming period 2014 – 2020, there is a specific regulation for European Territorial Cooperation (ETC), EU Regulation No. 1299/20131. The European Parliament was an active legislator in formulating the final version of this regulation.

The overall aim of this study is to analyse the ETC programmes to assess the extent to which new elements introduced by the ETC Regulation were taken into account during the programme writing phase and to inform the European Parliament about the implementation of this new legislative framework. Cooperation at the external borders of the European Union is also analysed to highlight the involvement of third countries. The methodology – presented in Chapter 1 – draws on desk research (literature and programme review) and interviews with selected managing authorities.

 

Chapter 2 presents the state of play and evolution of the programming context. Compared with the previous programming period, 2014–2020 ETC has seen a further increase in budget and in the number of ETC programmes supported. Generally, there continues to be a relatively wide scope of themes that ETC programmes can address in the 2014-2020 period, but clear provisions on thematic concentration have now been adopted. A major change for the 2014-2020 period is the general requirement for stronger result-orientation in programmes funded by the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESI Funds), which also applies to ETC programmes. Cooperation at the external borders of the EU is also affected by these provisions. For the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA II), the new rules imply an alignment of Thematic Priorities to the Thematic Objectives set up in the Common Provisions Regulation, and therefore to Europe 2020 Strategy. In addition, for the first time, there is an obligatory indicators system and the concept of expected results for the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI).

Chapter 3 deals with the programming strategy for strategic choices made by the programme authorities and the justification for these choices. In general, the ETC programmes selected a limited number of Thematic Objectives and show a clear concentration of financial resources on Thematic Objective 6 (environment and resource efficiency) and Thematic Objective 1 (research, development and innovation). Inclusive growth is often considered as a cross-cutting issue. The IPA Cross Border Cooperation (CBC) programmes primarily focus on Thematic Priority b (environment, climate change adaptation and mitigation) and Thematic Priority d (tourism and natural and cultural heritage). The few ENI CBC programmes analysed do not show a particular focus.

The result-oriented approach has required programmes to better define the specific dimensions of well-being and progress for people that motivate the policy action. Programmes must also elaborate more efficient monitoring and evaluation systems. This has implied specific challenges, in particular related to the formulation of result indicators – often made by external experts – and to the lack of data and methodologies for establishing baselines. The vast majority of programmes have selected common output indicators, although they are sometimes considered by stakeholders as not well suited to capture what operations should achieve, especially for coastal and maritime areas.

The synergies between the Cooperation Programmes and other national and EU planning instruments and strategies are analysed in Chapter 4. The programmes identify clear synergies and ways of coordinating with other Cohesion Policy funding instruments, i.e. mainstream and other ETC programmes. There is also a high coherence between Thematic Objectives and synergies with EU instruments outside Cohesion Policy, such as HORIZON 2020, COSME and LIFE+. However, in many cases, the way synergies are to be realised is still not explained in detail in the programme documents.

Joint development plans or strategies are hardly mentioned in ETC programmes. Even if they exist across borders, they are not necessarily linked to a (complete) ETC programme area. Coordination with the European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC) is explicitly mentioned in few programmes and if so, mostly as potential beneficiaries.

Due to the priority that macro-regional strategies are given on the political agenda – Article 8(3)(d) of the ETC Regulation requests that Cooperation Programmes in which Member States participate in macro-regional and sea basin strategies describe how they intend to contribute to the respective strategy objectives – principally all programmes identify links to strategies overlapping with the programme area. Contribution tends to be one-sided from Cooperation Programmes towards implementing the strategies. How synergies will be achieved during implementation of the programmes is specified in different levels of detail.

Chapter 5 is dedicated to management structures proposed in the ETC programmes. The uptake of simplification measures (such as merging the managing and certifying authorities, the designation of one programme authority for more than one programme etc.) for programme management highlights different approaches to limiting administrative burden. The programmes that considered the simplification elements provided in the Common Provisions Regulation (CPR) and ETC Regulation streamlined their governance processes. The other programmes kept their management structures from previous periods, with minor changes, to secure continuity and limit the need for the development of new skills.

Stakeholders consider electronic communication with beneficiaries (e-cohesion) and Simplified Cost Options as helping reduce administrative burden for beneficiaries. The former is widely introduced in 2014-2020 ETC programmes and only sometimes have national requirements or conditions challenged programme authorities to use specific tools for the Cooperation Programmes. Most programmes use harmonisation methods developed by INTERACT. These are deemed to reduce financial management costs, in particular for beneficiaries, but reduce administrative procedures for verification and audit.

The formulation of programme strategies improved during the programming period with implementation of the partnership principle (Article 5 of the CPR). Partners were more involved than in previous programming periods, helping formulate the programmes, although this is not always explicitly mentioned in programme documents. Most partners are expected to be involved in the monitoring committee and for information and communication purposes. However, the involvement of partners in programme implementation is only described to a very limited extent.

Chapter 6 examines the uptake of new programme implementation tools introduced by the 2014–2020 legislative framework also for the Cooperation Programmes. These tools include Community Led Local Development (CLLD), Integrated Territorial Investment (ITI), Joint Action Plans (JAPs), integrated actions for sustainable urban development, financial instruments and major projects. The majority of ETC programmes do not intend to use these tools. Programme authorities consider that the limited size of programmes does not allow implementation of Major Projects and the employment of financial instruments would require considerable manpower. The other instruments mentioned above are seen as complex and burdensome for Cooperation Programmes – due to their objectives and territorial characteristics – and more suitable for mainstream programmes. In addition, the territorial cooperation tools (CLLD, ITI, JAP and the integrated actions for sustainable urban development) may overlap with existing local cooperation organisations.

Difficulties related to programme implementation and management are related to differences in institutional capacity. More emphasis is put on strengthening cooperation between administrative entities rather than promoting a joint provision of public services. Cooperation with third countries may face challenges from differences in legislative frameworks.

Cross-cutting issues such as security and immigration represent a considerable challenge at cross-border level. Nevertheless, they are not mentioned in any of the Cooperation Programmes analysed. The exclusive competence of Member States in these matters, and regulations mainly dedicated to development issues, make it difficult to address such issues cross-border at the moment.

Finally, recommendations from the research team to ETC players at national, cross-border and EU level concern the follow up of the programme implementation issues over the whole programming period 2014-2020, specific implementation guidelines for ETC programmes and improvement in the design of Cooperation Programmes beyond 2020, especially for synergies with other policies instruments and the programme indicator toolkit.

Link to the full study: http://bit.ly/585-878

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