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Regional Policy

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Trans-European cooperation
(Strands a, b and c)

Support for cross-border, transnational and
interregional cooperation


Official title

"INTERREG III, Community Initiative concerning trans-European cooperation intended to encourage harmonious and balanced development of the European territory".


Legal references

  • Communication from the Commission to the Member States of the 7 May 2001 laying down the procedures for the implementation of Strand C - Interregional Cooperation - of the community initiative INTERREG III, JO/C141/2 of the 15/05/2001.

  • Communication from the Commission to the Member States of 28 April 2000 laying down guidelines for a Community Initiative concerning trans-European cooperation intended to encourage harmonious and balanced development of the European territory, OJ L 143 of 23 May 2000.

  • Articles 20 and 21 of Council Regulation No 1260/ 1999, OJ L 161 of 26 June 1999.



Strengthen economic and social cohesion within the EU by promoting cross-border, transnational and interregional cooperation.

The programme has three strands:

    a) promotion of integrated regional development between border regions, including external borders and certain maritime borders (strand A);

    b) contribution to harmonious territorial integration throughout the EU (strand B);

    c) improvement of regional development and cohesion policies and techniques through transnational and interregional cooperation (strand C).

The following principles govern the Initiative:

  • Joint cross-border/transnational strategy and development programme
  • Partnership and a “bottom-up” approach
  • Complementarity with the “mainstream” of the Structural Funds
  • A more integrated approach to the implementation of the Community Initiatives
  • Effective coordination between INTERREG and external Community policy instruments, especially with a view to enlargement (PHARE,ISPA,SAPARD,TACIS,MEDA,…).

To implement cooperation on the basis of these principles, common structures will have to be set up. These common structures will be responsible for the elaboration of programmes, animation, the selection of operations, overall management, the coordination and monitoring of the implementation of the programming and, if applicable, joint mechanisms for the management of measures and operations. In this context, European Economic Interest Groupings (EEIGs) may be set up.


Strand A: Cross-border cooperation

Strand A concerns cross-border cooperation between neighbouring authorities and is intended to develop cross-border economic and social centres through joint strategies for sustainable territorial development.

Eligible areas

    • All the areas of the Union delineated at the NUTS III administrative level and located along the EU’s internal and external borders;

    • Certain maritime areas delineated at the NUTS III level.

    • These areas are listed in annex I of the INTERREG III Communication.

In special cases, funding may be granted for measures in NUTS III areas adjoining those areas referred to above or areas surrounded by such areas, provided that these measures do not account for more than 20% of the total expenditure of the programme concerned.

The projects in the countries benefiting from PHARE in connection with this strand of INTERREG III can benefit from the assistance of the PHARE-CBC programme. A list of the border areas of the countries lying next to the EU which are eligible under PHARE- CBC is drawn up by the beneficiary countries. For PHARE, TACIS, MEDA, SAPARD and ISPA, the projects are approved according to the procedures established in the respective regulations of each of these financial instruments.

Priority areas

    • promoting urban, rural and coastal development;

    • encouraging the spirit of enterprise, the development of SMEs and local employment initiatives;

    • promoting the integration of the labour market and social inclusion;

    • sharing human resources and facilities for research and technological development, education, culture, communications and health in order to improve productivity and help create sustainable jobs;

    • supporting environmental protection (local and global), increasing energy efficiency and promoting renewable sources of energy;

    • improving transport (in particular measures implementing more environmentally friendly forms of transport), information and communication networks and services, water and energy systems;

    • increasing cooperation in the legal and administrative spheres;

    • increasing human and institutional potential for cross-border cooperation.

These areas are mentioned on an indicative basis in annex II of the Communication.


Strand B: Transnational cooperation

Strand B deals with transnational cooperation between national, regional and local authorities. It aims to promote a greater degree of territorial integration within large groupings of European regions.

Eligible areas

The groupings of regions listed in annex III of the Communication.

These groupings are based on the areas already covered by INTERREG IIC and Article 10 pilot actions on spatial planning. The Member States and regions may send the Commission requests to modify these groupings. Special attention will be given to increasing cooperation across the Adriatic and the Southern Baltic.

The projects in the countries benefiting from PHARE in connection with this strand of INTERREG III may receive help from the corresponding national PHARE programme. For PHARE, TACIS, MEDA, SAPARD and ISPA, projects are approved according to the procedures laid down in the respective regulations of each of these financial instruments.

Priority areas

The proposals for transnational cooperation should be based on the achievements of INTERREG IIC and take account of Community policy priorities such as trans-European networks and the recommendations of the European Spatial Development Perspective (ESDP).

Generally speaking, support may be requested to:

    • devise operational territorial development strategies at the transnational level, including cooperation between cities or between urban and rural areas, with a view to promoting polycentric sustainable development;

    • promote efficient and sustainable transport systems and better access to the information society, particularly with a view to facilitating communications between island or peripheral areas;

    • promote the preservation of the environment and sound management of natural resources, and in particular water resources;

    • promote the integrated cooperation of maritime and island regions;

    • promote the integrated cooperation of the outermost regions.

The measures selected must contribute to an integrated territorial approach. Cooperation between island and maritime regions is encouraged as is cooperation between regions with common handicaps such as mountain areas.

In the case of the most remote regions, transnational cooperation will aim to:

    • promote better economic integration and cooperation among these regions and between them and other Member States;

    • improve linkages and cooperation with neighbouring third countries (in the Caribbean, Latin America, Atlantic Ocean, Northwest Africa, Indian Ocean).


Strand C: Interregional cooperation

Strand C specifically aims to strengthen co-operation among European regions and to improve the effectiveness of regional development policies and instruments through large-scale information exchange and sharing of experience.

Strand C is aimed particularly at the regions that have been slower to develop and are in the process of restructuring. In the past this type of cooperation was supported through the RECITE and ECOS-OVERTURE actions, selected and managed within the Commission. In line with the other strands of INTERREG, strand C will now be managed in a decentralised way.


The total contribution of the ERDF to INTERREG III C for 2000 to 2006 has been set at EURO 295 million (1999 prices), which is equivalent to 6% of the total INTERREG programme. Co-financing will be available at up to 75% of the total cost for partners in Objective 1 regions and up to 50% elsewhere.

Eligible Zones

Although the whole of the European Union is eligible for co-financing by the ERDF under INTERREG III C, four programming zones have been indicated: the North-West zone, the North-East zone, the East zone and the South zone.
Particular attention will be given to the participation of partners from insular and ultra-peripheral areas of the Union and also from the candidate countries.

Priority areas

INTERREG III C will operate as a stable and general framework for joint projects, with a view to linking and promoting exchange of experience and best practice from the regional programmes through the promotion of four types of interregional cooperation: the types of activities supported under Objectives 1 and 2 programmes, INTERREG, URBAN and urban development, and the Regional Innovative Actions programmes.

The projects in the countries benefiting from PHARE in connection with this strand of INTERREG III can benefit from the assistance of the national PHARE programme. For PHARE, TACIS, MEDA, SAPARD and ISPA, the projects are approved according to the procedures established in the respective regulations of each of these financial instruments



INTERREG III applies for the duration of the new period of reform of the Structural Funds from 2000 to 2006. The Commission requests that the Member States and designated regional authorities submit their proposals for Community Initiative programmes within six months from the date of publication of the Communication in the Official Journal of the European Communities.


Financial contribution of the European Union

The INTERREG III operational programmes will be jointly funded by the Member States and the Commission.

For the period 2000-2006, INTERREG III will have a budget of 4.875 million euro (1999 prices). The ERDF contribution will not exceed 75% of the programme's total cost for the Objective 1 regions and 50% elsewhere.

The Commission has proposed an indicative financial breakdown per Member State. This proposal is essentially based on the population of the border areas inside the European Union, the outermost regions or areas bordering the Central and East European countries.

Between 50% to 80% of the national budgets shall be earmarked for cross-border cooperation programmes and 6% for interregional cooperation programmes.

Third countries participating in INTERREG III actions may count on financial aid from the PHARE-CBC programme, the national PHARE, ISPA and SAPARD programmes and the TACIS and MEDA programmes. Furthermore, loans from the European Investment Bank (EIB) may also be available.

The ERDF is the only Structural Fund financing INTERREG III. For the implementation of the three Strands of the Initiative, it therefore covers the rural development measures usually financed by the EAGGF, the human resource development measures usually funded by the ESF and the adaptation measures for fisheries structures usually supported by the FIFG.

Depending on needs, technical assistance with the elaboration, funding and implementation of INTERREG III proposals may be financed by the Commission.



On the basis of the indicative budgets earmarked by the Commission for the Member States, the Member States must break down the funding by strand, border or region, depending on the case.

Generally speaking, each programme will be established per border with “sub-programmes” specific to each cross-border region. A single programme will be established per area of cooperation (strands B and/or C).

The proposals will be prepared by mixed transnational or cross-border committees or by other bodies set up by the local/regional authorities and by the non-governmental partners concerned. The proposals may be presented separately for each strand.

The programmes will have a content similar to the single programming documents and include:

  • an ex-ante assessment
  • a report on the joint programming process
  • a description of the strategy and priorities defined
  • a description of the planned measures
  • an indicative financial plan specifying for each priority and for each year how the ERDF contribution will be broken down between PHARE, TACIS, MEDA, the Cohesion Funds, ISPA, SAPARD and the EIB and indicating the total amount of public funding and the estimated amount of private funding linked to these contributions.

These must indicate the provisions decided for the appointment of a managing authority, a payment authority, a Monitoring Committee and the role of the Steering Committee.

The Monitoring Committee consists of representatives of the local, regional or even national authorities. It is set up for each programme. The economic and social partners and the non-governmental organisations participate in the committee as does the Commission representative in an advisory capacity.

When the programme is approved, the Commission will grant a single ERDF contribution without any financial breakdown per Member State.

Attached to each Community Initiative programme is a programming supplement that must be sent to the Commission no later than three months after the Commission decision approving the programme.

In order to encourage exchanges of experiences and good practices, the Commission proposes establishing an Observatory of Cross-border, Transnational and Interregional Cooperation.


Information Source

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Updated: 08/2001

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