A clear set of procedures and consistent adherence to them ensured that INTERREG IVC’s €302 million budget from ERDF was put to the best possible use in every step of the process.
A solid financial policy begins with a thorough assessment of applications. Proposals were assessed on the basis of three fundamental principles:
All approved projects were carefully monitored using a fixed set of programme indicators. Lead Partners gave updates on these in their six-monthly progress reports. This streamlined the monitoring process and kept projects firmly on track.
INTERREG IVC performed very well on key programme indicators.
As improving regional policies was one of the main targets of the INTERREG IVC programme, this was one of the main indicators. The number of policies improved exceeded the target by far. 590 policies benefitted from INTERREG IVC, as opposed to the target number of 150.
A second objective of the programme was the successful transfer of good practices. Here, too, INTERREG IVC made excellent progress: the number of good practices successfully transferred (508) was over twice the amount targeted (200).
It was also a key aim to enable more experienced regions learn from those with less experience. The goal was to enhance the capacities of staff involved in the project. As the indicator ‘staff members with increased capacity’ shows, INTERREG IVC succeeded in increasing the capacities of 7,475 staff members, which was more than double the initial target of 2,800.
* The results at programme level are cumulative and given from 2009 onwards when the first projects financed by INTERREG IVC became operational. Formally, the measuring ends in 2015 but INTERREG IVC projects continue to make an impact and therefore, results are still taking shape.
Of course, progress reports were not only dedicated to the content of the project. They also provided the opportunity for projects to report their expenditure to the programme and, once the progress report was approved, to receive the corresponding reimbursement. This was not only important for the projects but also for the programme’s spending plan. Funds had to be spent by the programme within a given time otherwise they would be lost (decommitment). The programme successfully managed to spend as planned and no funds were lost.
INTERREG IVC also successfully explained the financial rules of the EU and the programme to its projects. Before projects could report their expenditure it had to be verified by a local or national controller. Some of those controls were, in a second step, also chosen for an additional check by another independent controller to ensure a high level of accuracy.
Europe has set ambitious targets in terms of energy saving and emissions reductions. Many programmes have started, aimed at encouraging local bodies to save energy. Real and lasting results can, however, only be achieved when its citizens are also on board.
In the EnercitEE project regions joined forces to transfer knowledge on energy efficiency and transport, and involve citizens in energy-saving too. They identified and analysed good practices, supported the exchange of experience and carried out small pilot projects.
The small pilot projects were aimed at either communities or citizens. The good practices and strategies were then transferred to regions with less experience. A broad range of sub-projects was undertaken, ranging from creating awareness of the importance of saving energy at European schools, for instance, to promoting sustainable transport and mobility solutions among commuters.
A sub-project in Haute-Savoie, France, addressed the issue of ‘energy poverty’: increasing numbers of families had difficulties paying their energy bills and were living in cold homes or having to make difficult choices between household expenses.
Reaching consumers is difficult but reaching consumers with poverty issues is even harder. The Haute Savoie Energy Advice Centre (EAC) therefore decided to team up with social services to reach this specific group of people. The aim was to help them to save energy and thus lower their bill.
EAC created a number of consumer-friendly communication tools to help social workers provide energy-saving tips and advice in an easy and fun-to-use way. One of these was a ‘bill mask’, a folder with windows cut out in strategic places. By putting the mask over their energy bill, consumers’ attention was immediately drawn to the most important information. This helped them to become more energy savvy.
Both social workers and consumers were enthusiastic about the programme and activities. The success of this sub-project led to a project proposal by eight regions in the EU programme Intelligent Energy, thus continuing energy-saving efforts after EnercitEE was concluded.
“For Europe and its regions climate change is a significant factor in the transformation of nature and society. INTERREG IVC offered the opportunity to achieve and to enhance the knowledge exchange between partner regions. This in turn helped to test, to disseminate and to consolidate instruments and experiences of local climate mitigation. The positive reactions of all partners illustrate the progress we made with the project EnercitEE. Now it is important for us to put the knowledge generated by INTERREG IVC into use, for example in the field of local climate adaptation, too.”
Andreas Völlings, Saxon State Agency for Environment, Agriculture and Geology, Germany (lead partner)
Right from the start, INTERREG IVC worked with an online monitoring system containing all information on the programme itself and the projects it supported. This information was available for all member states participating in the programme, relevant European initiatives and auditors as well as the certifying authority. This enhanced transparency and ensured access to the most up-to-date information.
The first-level control system that was put into place made national authorities responsible for the first check of project finances and expenditure. This ensured that all projects were audited in accordance with national legislation.
INTERREG IVC was one of the first territorial cooperation programmes to introduce a flat rate for the calculation and reporting of administration costs. This represented a great step forward in reducing the administrative burden of projects. Other programmes followed suit and used the INTERREG IVC approach too.
A Good Practices database was launched to encourage the sharing and transfer of good practices throughout Europe. To date, some 6,475 good practices have been identified from 204 projects. For Capitalisation projects, the rate is even higher: 199 good practices from 20 projects.
Programme thematic capitalisation analysis launched: an approach that focuses on collecting, analysing and disseminating the thematic knowledge gained from projects working on the same topic.
The twelve identified themes
Participated in the European Week of Regions and Cities with a special INTERREG IVC exhibition: 11 thematic stands gave an overview of about 60 good practices identified by INTERREG IVC projects. Some 800 people saw the exhibition in Brussels. It then travelled throughout Europe.
The Stories of Changing Regions webdocumentary was published. This webdocumentary portrays the women and men behind the cooperation, the people who are actively involved in building the links and learning from each other. Projects featured range from climate change and water management to distance-monitoring of patients in rural surroundings, and from boosting tourism in small towns and villages to improving public transport in big cities.
Exchange of experience report – INTERREG IVC commissioned a study on how interregional cooperation projects organise the process of exchanging experience among partners and how this process can directly influence the policy framework of the concerned regions.
Launch of the Capitalisation library, an online platform packed with brochures, reports and policy papers on the twelve identified themes. The library is the result of the two years of analysis performed on INTERREG IVC projects by experts and it is open to all who wish to learn from and build on the experience of others.
Europe, let’s cooperate! On 2 and 3 December 2014 an interregional cooperation forum was held in Bologna, Italy. Its aim was to discuss the results of the INTERREG IVC programme and launch the new INTERREG EUROPE programme that builds on the solid basis laid by its predecessor.
‘Floods don’t stop at the border – so let’s improve cross-border cooperation.’ This was the slogan of the FLOOD-WISE project, an initiative to stimulate a joint approach to sustainable flood management in six international rivers: Bug, Elbe, Meuse, Rur, Somes and Sotla.
The project team assessed flood risks for these rivers, then set about mapping them and ultimately developed flood management systems to deal with them. With their results in place, they decided to take an innovative approach to presenting their recommendations.
They developed a serious game in which players can actually experience the issues at stake and discover through role-playing how to achieve the best cross-border approach. In this way, recommendations really sink in. They also produced posters with the top three tips per project phase, to keep the lessons learned top of mind within the relevant bodies.
FLOOD-WISE proved such a successful initiative that project partners wanted to ensure that existing relations and expertise remained in place and were eager to create opportunities to forge new ones. Consequently, they set up the Task Force for Water Government to keep flood risk and flood management firmly in the picture.
“The greatest benefit of FLOOD-WISE is the improved and intensified contact with our colleagues on the other side of the border. Our joint efforts resulted in the very useful cross-border flood risk maps and flood hazard maps for the international river basins. These are the corner stones for a FLOOD RISK MANAGEMENT PLAN, preventing flood disasters in border regions.”
Alfred Evers – Project Coordinator, Euregio Meuse-Rhine , the Netherlands (lead partner)