The European Territorial Cooperation programme (Interreg) is a long-standing instrument of EU cohesion policy aimed at encouraging economic growth in border areas. According to a report from the European Court of Auditors (ECA), the cooperation programmes financed through Interreg had clear strategies for tackling existing cross-border challenges. However, several weaknesses in the implementation of the Interreg programmes and in their monitoring limited the potential to unlock the capacity of the adjacent regions they covered.
Border regions often perform less well economically than other regions within Member States. The EU has put programmes in place to reduce disparities in wealth and development between its regions. One such programme is Interreg, which aims at helping border regions to fulfil their economic potential while fostering solidarity between citizens of different nations. Interreg’s total budget for the 2014-2020 programme period was €10.1 billion. Over €6 billion was used to finance projects associated with internal borders – around 24 000 projects financed through 53 cooperation programmes, covering 59 % of the EU’s land area and 48 % of its population.
“Although the EU provides specific funding for the economic growth of border areas, their potential has not yet been fully unlocked,” said Ladislav Balko, the member of the European Court of Auditors responsible for the report. “For the implementation of the 2021-2027 programme period, we recommend that cooperation programmes should be focused better, and that a merit-based approach should be used in ranking projects to be financed”.