Review of regional development and cross-border cooperation
The 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.
Border regions of EU Member States and/or (potential) candidate countries and/or EU neighbour countries are facing particular problems. Therefore, so- called cross-border cooperation measures aimed at promoting economic and social development in regions on both sides of common borders, addressing common challenges that transcend political borders are important. The objectives of the supported projects are to enhance co-operation between stakeholders at the local level on both sides of the EU’s external border, to enhance dialogue between neighbouring EU and non-EU states at the national level.
Key overall findings
• There is a lack of clear, specific, sectoral objectives and sectoral indicators, therefore there is a lack of coherence within the sector and it is difficult to measure impact.
• In particular, there is little evidence of impact on specific disadvantaged regions or target groups.
• The added value of EEA and Norway Grants is most evident in the area of local cross-border co-operation
• In particular, EEA and Norway Grants offer small grants, which are more accessible to local and regional non-governmental organisations (NGO) than EU cross-border funding.
• With some exceptions, reviewed sub-projects demonstrated real engagement with cross-border partners, and active involvement of large numbers of people on both sides of the relevant borders.
• It is recommended that when identifying focus areas, beneficiary states should provide a justification for selecting each focus area. These should be presented to the FMO in the form of a comprehensive programming document
• It is recommended that the programme proposals be subject to independent ex-ante evaluation.
• It is recommended that the FMO consider the possibility of allowing a small part of the allocation to each country to be used for technical assistance to support the programming process.
• It is recommended that the FMO issues guidelines to support the development of clear objectives and indicators that focus on clearly identified desired changes in the performance or behaviour of target groups, systems, or institutions.
• It is recommended that Regional Policy funding is applied only to regions that meet specific criteria, such as below average gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, above average long-term unemployment rates, and other relevant indicators.
• Emphasis should be placed on projects focussing exclusively on communities adjacent to the shared border. Cross Border Activity projects involving countries that do not share a border with the beneficiary state should not be funded, as there is likely to be less impact on local cross-border dialogue. Similarly, projects addressing national, rather than local, cross-border dialogue may have limited impact on local cross-border dialogue and should probably not be funded;
• It is recommended that, in future, capacity building interventions focus on more specific and clearly defined subjects.