Post 2020 perspectives: 'draft Interreg Regulation risks jeopardizing external cross-border cooperation in the Mediterranean area', warn national representatives of the ENI CBC Med Programme

On 13th September 2018, the representatives of the 13 countries participating in the ENI CBC Med Programme sent a joint letter to the European Commission (EC) and the European External Action Service (EEAS), to voice their “concerns over a scenario which would lead to the integration of the current external cross-border cooperation programmes, supported under the European Neighbourhood Instrument, into the Interreg Regulation.”

In a unique move, the members of the Programme’s Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC), body chaired by the Managing Authority, decided to address a letter to the European Commission and the European External Action Service about the proposal for a Regulation on the ‘European territorial cooperation’ goal (Interreg), published on 29 May 2018. The letter focuses on the potential consequences of the draft Regulation on the future of external cross-border cooperation beyond 2020, particularly in the Mediterranean area.

The new Interreg Regulation, which will cover the period 2021-2027, merges internal and external cooperation into a single set of thematic objectives, financial and implementation rules. According to the members of the JMC, this “radical change […] could gradually lead to weakening and later losing the interest of the Northern and Southern Mediterranean Countries in the Programme, as well as the valuable experience gained [over the years].” As a matter of fact, and in recognition of the special characteristics of cooperation along the EU’s external borders, this latest has been governed so far by a dedicated regulatory framework under the European Neighbourhood Policy, allowing for much needed flexibility.

The letter enumerates the many achievements of the Programme, from the huge participation in the calls for proposals - nearly 2,500 project proposals submitted - to the scale of the tangible benefits provided by the funded projects for over 10 million people, in key sectors such as waste and water management or job creation. In addition, the Programme has cemented the principles of co-ownership and mutual understanding, “emphasizing the valuable role of the European Union, in association with Partner Countries, in the construction of an area of shared prosperity and security.”

In the letter, the members of the JMC have asked, among other issues, for:

• the design of a thematic framework that takes into account “the key topics acknowledged by the participating countries, following extensive territorial analysis, as priority sectors to be tackled through cross-border cooperation”;
• the confirmation of substantial financial support (90%) to projects and of the mechanism of pre-financing;
• the continuation of the current cooperation area.

The letter concludes with an invitation to the responsible European Commission and EEAS’ Director-generals to participate in a “direct exchange” with the members of JMC to discuss possible modalities that preserve the “momentum of success” achieved by the Programme so far.

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