The European Commission adopted today the new cross-border cooperation programme (“Interreg”) between Austria and Hungary. The programme is worth more than €78 million from EU Regional funds. With national “co-financing” included, it will be worth more than €95 million in investments to foster cooperation in the Austro-Hungarian border region.
Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Crețu said: “It is a very symbolic border in Europe. When Hungary started to remove its barbed wire fence with Austria in May 1989, history was made. Now, over 25 years later, we are trying to remove some of the remaining cross-border obstacles. With this new Interreg programme, we will be able step up the level of cooperation in several areas, from environmental actions to new border crossings, in order to make life better for citizens and businesses in this border region.”
The programme will address some of the remaining border issues. It has a strong environmental focus with emphasis on the management of joint natural spaces, from projects preserving biodiversity in national parks along the border to actions helping develop the common natural and cultural heritage.
Another strong focus lies on better cross-border connections, on better accessibility to trans-European transport networks and on the creation of new border crossings. The governments of Hungary and of the Austrian region of Burgenland have recognized investment in road and rail as a priority.
The new EU supported cooperation programme will also finance regional and local initiatives to foster closer legal and administrative cooperation, from language learning to joint labour market actions. Finally, the programme will help develop cross-border business schemes for SME and invest directly in the local economy.
The overall programme budget amounts to €95,870,027 with a contribution from the European Regional Development Fund of €78,847,880.
The programme area for “Interreg V-A Austria-Hungary” covers the Austrian (NUTS 3) regions Nordburgenland, Mittelburgenland and Südburgenland, Niederösterreich Süd, Wiener Umland/Südteil, Wien, Graz and Oststeiermark and the Hungarian regions Győr-Moson-Sopron, Vas and Zala.
The funding breakdown of the five priorities of the programme and some expected results are:
- Protecting the Environment and Promoting Resource Efficiency (31% of the EU-funding allocation, or 24 691 650): This priority includes a broad range of environmental actions, aiming at a common approach to protect the region’s natural assets and its shared resources. Among the expected results: improved conservation degree of Natura 2000 sites (100.000 ha), better chemical and ecological condition of cross-border water bodies and increased attractiveness for green tourism.
- Promoting Sustainable Transport and Removing Bottlenecks in Key Network Infrastructures (30% of the EU-funding allocation, or EUR 23 447 250). The objective is to improve cross-border connectivity and accessibility as well as to foster the shift to environmental-friendly transport modes. Actions include new road and rail linkages from the identified nodes to the main transport corridors crossing the programme region. Among the expected results: more road border crossings, decreased travel time to TEN-T network and better public transport.
- Enhancing Institutional Capacity and an Efficient Public Administration (24% of the EU-funding allocation, or EUR 18 998 758). This priority aims at enhancing the cooperation intensity and strengthening the cross-border integration, in order to make the best use of existing regional resources. Through supported actions, the programme not only intends to support knowledge exchange, but also to launch an important learning-process: communicating despite the language barrier, reflecting usual standards and processes, training abilities to negotiate despite diverging opinions and finding compromises.
- Fostering the competitiveness of SME (9% of the EU-funding allocation, or EUR 6 979 350). This priority targets the Strengthening regional entrepreneurship, the performance of start-ups and the innovation capacities of SMEs with a focus on the development of internationally competitive products.
- An additional 4.7 million euro (EU-funding) will be provided for technical assistance.