People-to-people projects (small projects) play an essential role in cross-border cooperation programmes and have contributed greatly to their success. They form a basis upon which further cross-border cooperation in different areas can be developed as they contribute to making contacts across borders, building trust among partners and overcoming prejudices.
The own-initiative opinion aims at providing a strong argument for sustaining this important aspect of cross-border cooperation, which should feed into the discussion on the future of cross-border cooperation, which will be discussed in the wider framework of the future of cohesion policy post 2020 and the cross-border review.
The rapporteur was invited to STOA workshop on Cross border Transport, that took place on 6 June 2017 in the European Parliament.
Mr Branda in his intervention provided a strong argument for sustaining small projects as important aspect of cross-border cooperation and provided also the evidence of such projects.
FOLLOW-UP PROVIDED BY THE COMMISSION TO THE OPINIONS OF THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS
Received on 3 April 2018
Commission's positions on:
Point 9 of the Opinion
Experience and Interreg evaluations show that the quality and impact of projects do not depend on their size or type. When developing projects, cooperation partners adapt the type and size allowing them to be creative and to reach their objectives.
Point 20 of the Opinion
The Commission supports the call for further simplification of cross-border cooperation, such as the full use of simplified cost options, also for people to-people and small-scale projects. Concerning State aid, the Commission considers that European Territorial Cooperation projects can benefit already from many State aid rules
which effectively bring most European Territorial Cooperation projects either outside the scope of State aid control or allow European Territorial Cooperation projects to be covered by block exemptions. For instance, the de minimis Regulation" can be currently applied per Member State participating in a European Territorial Cooperation
programme. This allows financings of single undertakings of up to EUR 200,000 by each participating Member State over a three-year period. This is particularly relevant for small-scale projects. There are many more possibilities to achieve State aid compliance of which European Territorial Cooperation projects may benefit. However, it may be necessary to include European Territorial Cooperation programmes further into the training which is provided to Member State authorities. The
Commission will also reflect on the objectives of European Territorial Cooperation m view of finding an optimal use of European Union funds in the future.
Point 23 of the Opinion
The Commission strongly promotes the use of simplified cost options in all programmes and all types of projects under European Territorial Cooperation. Nevertheless, m the current regulatory framework, implementation of these simplification measures is not compulsory. However, the Commission agrees with the Committee of the Regions that "all shared management levels" also includes the programme authorities and Technical Secretariats which in some cases are more reluctant with regard to the use of simplified cost options than some participating Member States or potential beneficiaries. With regard to the individual actions under People-to people, particularly lump sums could simplify accounting and reporting by small local actors and could also enlarge considerably the target groups of potential beneficiaries.
Point 24 of the Opinion
The Commission fully supports the need for all stakeholders to communicate the added value of European Territorial Cooperation and its benefits to the everyday life of
citizens. These projects contribute to integrating border areas and overcoming border obstacles.
Point 26 of the Opinion
The Commission recognises the need for developing. suitable output indicators for European Territorial Cooperation, including indicators measunng the level of trust or
overcoming prejudices. Concrete steps have already been undertaken in this respect. Standard indicators should also be used when they make sense in order to, provide data for aggregation of outputs at European Union policy level.
Point 27 of the Opinion
The Commission recognises the importance of simplified procedures and management for these specific projects and will carefully analyse the Committee of the Regions' recommendation to regulate People-to people and small scale projects.
Point 28 of the Opinion
The Commission may consider taking into account bottom-up small-scale projects as one of various types of projects in future proposals regarding the allocation of cross-border cooperation. The Commission recogmses the need to pay special attention to border areas facing difficult challenges.
Point 30 of the Opinion
Implementing structures for People-to-people and small-scale projects need to be reliable and accountable to the managmg authorities of the programmes. Managing authorities need to ensure that a major part of the funds allocated to implementing structures is used to finance People-topeople and small-scale projects.
THE EUROPEAN COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS
- considers that P2P and small-scale projects in general have a great European added value and contribute considerably to the overall objective of CBC programmes by means of overcoming border obstacles and integrating border areas and their citizens;
- suggests that decentralised management of such programmes, through creating sub-programmes and also enabling the financing of small-scale and P2P projects, is the best solution that would keep the programmes closer to the citizens;
- emphasises that in order to preserve the added value of P2P and small-scale projects and their decentralised management, these projects and procedures must be very simple;
- recommends that during control, monitoring and audit, it is necessary to focus more on the content and the results and not merely on the processes;
- appeals to all shared management levels to enable and to use suitable simplified cost options as the main approach regarding P2P and small-scale projects;
- recommends that people-to-people projects and small-scale projects be anchored in the regulations governing EU support for cross-border cooperation as a legitimate instrument in CBC programmes and calls on the Commission to make the necessary provisions in the proposal for the next generation of regulations;
- believes that cross-border cooperation and especially the P2P and small-scale projects are among the most tangible examples of the specific benefits and added value of the EU in the everyday life of citizens and suggests that efforts should be made by all players to increase the visibility of the results and benefits of such projects.