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Published on 18 de October, 2017 at Cities and Regions

POCTEFA & INTERREG, windows of opportunity for cross-border cooperation

By Pol Solà
6 min read

European Territorial Cooperation (INTERREG) covers all programs, such as POCTEFA, aimed at promoting joint actions and exchange of public policies among national, regional and local authorities of all EU member states, accordingly to the goals of the so called regional or cohesion policy.

Throughout its 28 years of history, INTERREG has been organized in five programming periods. The current 2014-2020 scheme is the fifth generation of financing support through the European Fund for Regional Development (ERDF). That’s why they are known as INTERREG V, and it covers 107 programs grouped under broad categories:
– INTERRREG VA. Cross-border cooperation among 60 border areas comprising at least one state of the EU, encouraging integrated regional development.
– INTERREG VB. Transnational cooperation in broad geographical areas. Catalonia is eligible for MED programs (Mediterranean area) and SUDOE (Iberian Peninsula and Southern France).
– INTERREG VC. Interregional cooperation between all European regions. Primarily focused on public policy improvement programs (INTERREG Europe, URBACT, INTERACT & ESPON).

The purpose of this post is to analyze the role of INTERREG VA projects (cross-border cooperation)


Interreg VA: cross-border cooperation

74% of INTERREG funds are allocated to cross-border cooperation programs among border regions of several member states. Their purpose is to enhance integrated development among border regions in order to improve the daily lifes of their inhabitants. It is estimated that all those regions sum up more than one third of the total population of the EU.

Nowadays there are 60 areas of cooperation in the EU territory, in addition to other cooperation programs with applicant or neighboring EU countries: 12 programs belonging to the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) and the 16 programs of the European Neighborhood Policy Instrument (ENI). The first kind of programs receive most of the financing from INTERREG programs (€6,600M of €10,100M) of the three VA, VB and VC programs.

In the case of Catalonia, the only eligible area is the Pyrenean border, constituted through the Working Community of the Pyrenees (CTP), based in Jaca (Aragon, Spain), and funded by the ERDF funds through the Operational Program of Territorial Cooperation Spain – France – Andorra, known by its acronym POCTEFA.

Some examples at EU level

If we take a look at the kind of projects developed though 27 years of history we will find thousands of innovative experiences aimed at overcoming EU internal borders. The most symbolic case is the bordering cities of Strasbourg (France) and Kehl (Germany). The program INTERREG Upper Rhine has funded initiatives such as a bilingual kindergarten for pupils coming from the two riversides as well as the extension of the D line of the Strasbourg city tram until the city of Kehl.

Another example is the twin cities of Tornio (Finland) and Haparanda (Sweden), located in the coast of the Gulf of Bothnia. Thanks to the subsequent editions of the INTERREG NORD program, both cities have progressively pooled municipal public services, even schools and transportation systems. In 2006 a common place branding strategy (Haparanda-Tornio) was adopted.

A POCTEFA case study: Hospital de Cerdanya

Another pioneer case at European level is the building of the Hospital of Cerdanya in Puigcerdà, very close to the French border.

Since the Treaty of the Pyrenees (1659), the valley of Cerdanya has been divided between France and Spain. Its economy is based on the primary sector and, above all, tourism. During the peak season, in fact, its population multiplies about five times, from the 32,000 inhabitants to 150,000.

Until a few years ago, the inhabitants of Bourg-Madame, the border municipality of the French side, had to travel to Perpignan, 100 km and almost 2 hours away, for hospital assistence.

In fact, the current Franco-Spanish border has hindered the lives of residents on both sides of the border by reducing economies of scale. This is the reason why local authorities requested ERDF funding through the POCTEFA programs to create the first cross-border hospital in Europe, co-funded with 65% of ERDF funds, and finally opened in 2014.

Given its singularity, the construction of this hospital was observed with great interest by health authorities of the EU, which at the same time facilitated the legal changes to cover a zone which belongs to two member states. This initiative was awarded in 2016 with the “Building Europe through its borders” award by the Committee of the Regions of the European Union.

Other examples funded by POCTEFA in Catalonia

Other pioneer initiatives have been carried out in Catalonia. Such as TransferInn, with the goal of articulating an innovation ecosystem in the cross-border area by promoting innovation strategies in companies and synergies with educational institutions. Or H2PIYR, aimed at connecting France and Spain through a hydrogen supply corridor for vehicles, articulating

As a consultancy firm, U·TRANS presented the Patrimc@t Project, which aims to create a network of locations of the cultural and historical heritage in the Pyrenees region and interpretative routes aimed at inhabitants, visitors and young people. Other projects with our contribution are Perseguits i Salvats, with the goal of preserving itineraries at the Pyrenees used by those willing to escape from war and fascists regimes during World War II and the project of transnational collective transportation for Hospital de Cerdanya.

These are just some examples of the participation of U·TRANS as a consultancy firm specializing in the identification of local demands and elaboration of municipal and regional action plans, as well as support to the administration and knowledge agents to attend calls for EU funding.

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