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On December 3, 2007, the European Commission approved the European Territorial Cooperation Program for the period 2007-2013. The program is called “Central Europe” and its aim is transnational cooperation between eight Member States. The eight Member States involved in the program are the Czech Republic, Germany (eastern and southern regions), Italy (Northeast regions), Hungary, Austria, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia.

Ukraine (western part) will also participate in the program, providing its own resources and contributions from the European Neighborhood and Partnership Instrument.The total budget of the program amounts to just over EUR 298 million, with the Community contribution from the ERDF amounting to around EUR 246 million. This represents around 2.8% of all EU investments foreseen for the European territorial cooperation goal under the 2007-13 Cohesion Policy.

1. Assumptions and goals of the program

The program adopted is new in the framework of transnational cooperation, but most partners have already cooperated through the INTERREG IIIB program “CADSES”, which has been divided into two separate programs for 2007-2013: “Central Europe” and “South East Europe”.

The overall aim of the program is to strengthen territorial cohesion, promote internal integration and increase the competitiveness of Central Europe. Within this broad overall goal, two strategic tasks should be distinguished:

Improving the competitiveness of Central Europe by strengthening the structures of innovation and accessibility; Increasing territorial development in a balanced and sustainable way by improving the quality of the environment and developing attractive cities and regions.

2. Expected effects of the investment

A number of indicators will be used to estimate the programme’s impact on the region’s competitiveness, environment, accessibility, identity, quality of life in cities and regions, etc., against which the individual priorities of the program will be assessed.

The program is expected to contribute significantly to increasing the overall territorial cohesion of the area by creating opportunities for public and private actors to find collective solutions to common problems that transcend regional and national boundaries.

3. Priorities

The general objective and the two strategic tasks have been divided into five thematic priorities, each of which is aimed at different sectors of socio-economic players active in a given area. The above priorities are as follows:

Priority 1: Facilitate innovation in Central Europe (around 20% of total funding)

The main objective of this priority is to create, throughout the program area, a favorable framework for innovation and entrepreneurship. The potential of the area in this respect is significant, although the differences between the individual regions of Central Europe are exceptionally large. The partners aim to support collaborative projects all along the innovation chain.

Priority 2: Improving the accessibility of Central Europe and its individual regions (around 26% of total funding)

Central Europe is characterized by various levels of accessibility, some of the regions are very well connected, and others, mainly large rural areas and peripheral regions, much less. This priority will help key players in the transport industry to work together to identify priorities that need to be considered to extend cross-border connections and interoperability in Central Europe.

As the program does not provide sufficient funds to be invested in large infrastructure projects, partners will be encouraged to prepare specific investment plans which should be submitted with applications for funding from other national or European sources. This priority also aims to ensure environmental sustainability, and therefore greenhouse-neutral solutions will be promoted.

Priority 3: Responsible use of our natural environment (approximately 26% of total funding)

The program region has high risk areas with regard to natural disasters such as floods and man-made accidents. There is also a very rich natural and cultural heritage that needs to be protected and managed together. This priority will finance projects in the areas of risk management and prevention, resource management, energy efficiency, etc.

Priority 4: Increasing the competitiveness and attractiveness of cities and regions (around 22% of total funding)

The quality of life in Central Europe can be improved by increasing the potential of regions and cities in terms of spatial and urban planning. Accordingly, the exchange of best practices and common solutions will be promoted in order to improve the functioning of planning spatial development at the local and regional level. Another important aspect of this priority is to use the wealth of existing cultural resources to your advantage.

Priority 5: Technical Assistance (around 6% of total funding)

Technical assistance is provided to facilitate the implementation of the program. Financial support is also available for management, monitoring, evaluation and control.