European Territorial Cooperation (Interreg)
European Territorial Cooperation - ETC, also referred to as Interreg, is one of the two objectives of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the EU Cohesion Policy for the 2014-2020 period.
ETC provides a framework for the implementation of joint projects between national, regional and local players from different Member States. Its goal is to find common solutions to common problems.
ETC is implemented according to the following three orientations:
- Cross-border cooperation: Bilateral between the border regions of two EU Member States.
- Transnational cooperation: Covers larger territories of several Member States.
- Interregional cooperation: Is carried out on EU level and covers all EU Member States and a few non-EU countries.
Austria receives EUR 257.3 million from the European Regional Development Fund to implement the exchange and the cooperation of various EU Member States and non-EU states for the purpose of “European Territorial Cooperation”.
Austria, or the Austrian Federal Provinces, is involved in European Territorial Cooperation as follows:
- 7 cross-border cooperation programmes with Austria’s neighbouring countries:
- 3 transnational cooperation programmes:
- 4 EU-wide interregional networking programmes:
Each cooperation programme focuses on a maximum of four of the following eleven themes: Research, technological development and innovation, information and communication technologies, competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises, low-carbon economy, adaptation to climate change as well as risk prevention and risk management, environmental protection and efficient resource use, sustainable transport, employment and mobility, improvement of education and training as well as social integration and better public administration.
The “macro-regional strategies”, too, have to be mentioned in the context of the ETC. This means that European regions form larger geographical areas of cooperation among each other and with third countries. Macro-regions are areas which have a unifying element (e.g. Baltic Sea, Alps) and, therefore, show common features and challenges. Particular added value of macro-regional strategies is provided through the coordination of different national and European strategies and funds. The objective is to pursue a common strategy to use EU, national public and private funds more efficiently and, in particular, to foster also cooperation with non-EU countries. Austria participates in three macro-regional strategies:
- EU Strategy for the Danube Region (EUSDR),
- EU Strategy for the Alpine Region (EUSALP) and
- EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region (EUSAIR).
The Federal Ministry of Sustainability and Tourism (BMNT) finances an advisory service body for ETC which is referred to as National Contact Point (NCP) in Austria. The NCP is responsible for the three transnational programmes - Alpine Space, Central Europe and Danube Transnational - as well as for the EU-wide networking programmes INTERREG Europe, URBACT III and ESPON 2020. Key competences of the NCP include the targeted support of Austrian project promoters and the ETC programme bodies. The NCP has been established at ÖROK, the Austrian Spatial Planning Conference.
In bilateral ETC programmes Austria is represented above all by the Federal Provinces jointly with the Federal Government, in transnational programmes and networking programmes by the BMNT in cooperation with a Federal Province which has been nominated by all Federal Provinces.
To Austrian project promoters, the audit and control system for projects supported from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) in the field of European Territorial Cooperation (ETC), in particular the audit and control of the project costs invoiced by beneficiaries (First Level Control, FLC), is important: The BMNT’s Chief Executive Department 14 coordinates the establishment of the national audit and control system in accordance with EU law and carries out quality controls through the FLC in the context of transnational cooperation programmes and EU-wide networking programmes. The First Level Control system is organised as a decentralised system in Austria. The FLC is carried out by designated federal and provincial control bodies authorised by the coordinating control body as well as by a pool of auditing companies. The BMNT’s Chief Executive Department 14 informs the Austrian project partners of the transnational cooperation programmes and the EU-wide networking programmes about the competent FLC auditing body. According to EU legislation the system control required under EU law in the field of the ERDF - “Audit”, “Second Level Control” - is separated from the administrative functions - and is therefore carried out by the BMNT’s Chief Executive Department 13.
For information about ETC and the individual ETC programmes in the EU, with or without Austrian participation, please see the below-mentioned websites. These pages provide for example information for potential beneficiaries, project applicants, data on financing, implementation or achievements, and important themes on programme level. Those particularly interested in ETC are recommended to visit the website “KEEP” (Knowledge and Expertise in European Programmes). KEEP is a free, comprehensive and searchable database. It provides data on all cooperation activities carried out inside the EU and with participating non-EU countries.