Review of support to regional policy and cross-border activities
A recently published review of the support for regional policy and cross-border projects finds that although the smaller-scale grants fill a funding gap for local and regional entities, the sector would benefit from a more strategic approach at national level.
In the 2004-09 funding round of the EEA and Norway Grants, €42 million in support was provided to 54 projects targeting regional development and cross-border activities. The majority of these grants were awarded to Poland, Latvia and Slovakia.
The EEA and Norway Grants schemes offer smaller grants which make them more accessible to local and regional non-governmental organisations, the review suggests. Although the implementation of smaller-scale projects often entails proportionally higher administration costs, Roderick Ackerman, who carried out the review, says these projects arguably demonstrated better value for money with a more immediate and visible impact than the larger ones.
The review however underlines that the funding would have benefited from a more strategic approach at the national level, with a clearer identification of priority issues and specific target regions and groups. By limiting the funding to certain regions instead of making the grants widely available across the countries, and further targeting specific groups and issues within these geographical areas, the funding could have had a stronger impact.
Confirming lessons learnt
The findings largely confirm many of the donor states’ impressions of the funding to this sector. Many of the recommendations had therefore already been taken on board in the design of current policies for the support to regional policy and cross-border activities.
The move away from funding project-by-project to funding through multi-annual programmes in the current funding round should ensure a greater impact through a more targeted support. To further ensure that the support is targeted to national or regional needs, all programmes will be set up following extensive bilateral discussions with each beneficiary state.
In the current round of the EEA and Norway Grants, the funding will to a large extent be implemented in partnership with entities in the donor states. The review recommends focusing on high-quality partnerships - very much in line with the new donor partnership programmes that will include cooperation at programme level.
The review was commissioned by the Financial Mechanism Office and carried out by INTEGRATION International Management Consultants GmbH between June 2010 and March 2011. While the review covers the funding to all projects and funds within the sector, 18 projects and 5 funds were studied in-depth.