Interreg III is a Community initiative which aims to stimulate interregional cooperation in the EU between 2000-06. It is financed under the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
The guidelines were approved by the Commission on 28th April 2000 [Official Journal C 143 of 23 May 2000].
This new phase of the Interreg initiative is designed to strengthen economic and social cohesion throughout the EU, by fostering the balanced development of the continent through cross-border, transnational and interregional cooperation. Special emphasis has been placed on integrating remote regions and those which share external borders with the candidate countries.
Each of the three strands (A, B, C) has a priority or measure which deals with transport policy, the promotion of effective and sustainable transport systems with relevance to cross-border or transnational cooperation.
Priorities action areas for INTERREG IIIA are:
- Promotion of urban, rural and costal development
- Strengthening the spirit of enterprise
- Developing small and medium-sized enterprises, including those in the tourism sector
- Developing local employment initiatives
- Assistance for labour market integration and social inclusion
- Initiatives for encouraging shared use of human resources, and facilities for research and development, education, culture, communication, health and civil protection
- Measures for environmental protection, improving energy efficiency and renewable energy sources
- Improving transport, information and communication networks and services, water and energy systems
- Increasing cooperation in legal and administrative areas
- Increasing human and institutional potential for cross-border cooperation
Priorities action areas for INTERREG IIIB are:
- Drawing up regional development strategies at transnational level, including cooperation between towns or urban areas and rural areas
- Promoting effective and sustainable transport systems, together with better access to the information society. The aim here is to facilitate communication between island or peripheral regions.
- Promoting protection of the environment and natural resources, particularly water resources.
Priority action areas for INTERREG IIIC are:
- Exchanges of experience and good practice between Member States and with third countries concerning cross-border and transnational cooperation under Strands A and B of INTERREG III
- Cooperation initiatives in sectors such as research, technology development, enterprise, the information society, tourism, culture or the environment.
The participation of island and ultra-peripheral regions in the various partner networks is particularly important, as it is too for candidate countries. In addition, cooperation between maritime regions, even bilateral cooperation, will be encouraged.
Interreg III has a budget of 4,875 million euro (1999 prices). The interreg III initiative receives co-financing from the Commission and the Member States. The ERDF contribution will not exceed 75% of the total programme cost in Objective 1 regions and 50% elsewhere.
Strand A shall be allocated between 50 and 80 % of this total, strand B between 14% and 44% and strand C will be allocated 6% of the total (fixed).
The Commission has proposed a financial allocation per Member State. It is based primarily on population rates in the internal border areas of the EU, ultra-peripheral regions or border areas with Central and Eastern European countries. Between 50% and 80% of the national envelopes must be allocated to cross-border cooperation and 6% to interregional cooperation.
Third countries taking part in Interreg III initiatives may receive financial assistance for their cooperation from the PHARE-CBC programme, national PHARE, ISPA and SAPARD programmes, together with TACIS and MEDA programmes. In addition, loans from the European Investment Bank (EIB) may also be available.
Interreg III is financed solely by the ERDF. To implement the three strands of the initiative, it covers the rural development measures usually financed by the EAGGF, human resources development measures usually undertaken by the ESF and fisheries structural adjustment measures usually supported by the FIFG.