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Policy instrument / Focus on Structural Funds

What is a policy instrument?

A policy instrument is a means for public intervention. It refers to any policy, strategy, instrument, or law developed by public authorities and applied on the ground in order to improve a specific territorial situation. In most cases, financial resources are associated with a policy instrument. However, an instrument can sometimes refer to a legislative framework with no specific funding.

In the context of Interreg Europe, operational programmes for Investment for Growth and Jobs as well as Cooperation Programmes from European Territorial Cooperation are considered policy instruments. Beyond EU Cohesion policy, local, regional or national public authorities also develop their own policy instruments. Macroregional strategies can also be considered as policy instruments in the context of Interreg Europe. However, considering the characteristics of these strategies, it may be easier for projects to influence the corresponding transnational cooperation programmes than the macroregional strategy itself.

How do you count the number of policy instruments addressed?

Policy instruments are related to a specific territory. Partners from different regions/ countries will work on their own policy instrument. Therefore, there are as many policy instruments as territories considered in the project.

For example, if a project involves among others the Murcia regional government from Spain and the Baden-Württemberg government from Germany, they will each work on a different regional programme (the ERDF Regional Operational Programme of Murcia and the ERDF Regional Operational Programme of Baden-Württemberg), each of them counted as one policy instrument.

Can a partner address two policy instruments? And on the other hand, can two partners address the same policy instrument?

In order to ensure the success of the projects, it is recommended that each partner addresses only one policy instrument.

However, it is possible that two partners address the same policy instrument. For instance, the managing authority of a regional operational programme and a regional agency can both be involved in a project to improve the regional operational programme. In this case, the two partners will be listed as partner(s) relevant for the same policy instrument in the application form.

How do policy instruments count for non-EU partners?

The programme requirement on projects to focus on Structural Funds programmes applies to EU regions only, because non-EU partners do not have such programmes. But non-EU partners should still describe in the application form which policy instrument they would like to improve in their region with the project.

How should the amount of funds influenced (structural fund or other fund) be estimated?

The indicators 'Amount (EUR) of Structural Funds (from Growth & Jobs and/ or ETC) influenced by the project in the field tackled by the project' and 'Amount (EUR) of other funds influenced by the project in the field tackled by the project' measure the amounts (in euros) that will be directly influenced by the change introduced by the project (e.g. amount of funding dedicated to a new project, amount of funding allocated to a new measure).

To estimate the target value, applicants should identify as precisely as possible the amount allocated within the policy instrument to the specific topic addressed by the project. In the case of regional operational programmes, applicants should consider the amount allocated to the specific objectives within the OP which is targeted by the project. Applicants should then realistically estimate the amount which will be impacted by the envisaged results. Remember that some policy changes do not require any financial resources, in particular, those related to the change in the management of the policy instrument.

Current Structural Funds programmes 2014-2020 have already been shaped. Should we work on the prospects of the 2021-2027 ones?

No. The focus of Interreg Europe is not on the 2021-2027 programming period. The idea is to influence the implementation of the 2014-2020 programmes, not their design.

We believe there are opportunities to influence the way Structural Funds are used in the regions. For instance, our projects can encourage new funding schemes. Or they can suggest new ways to implement an investment priority of a regional operational programme, for example through thematic calls or a revised monitoring system. In specific cases, there may even be an opportunity to influence an operational programme itself, for example in the course of a mid-term review.

For partners who address structural funds operational programmes as policy instruments, how can they know who is entitled to sign the letter of support?

The list of bodies entitled to sign the letter of support when a structural fund operational programme is addressed is available in the country specific pages of this website. The signatory of the letter of support has to belong to a body that is listed for a specific policy instrument. The signatory does not have to be the legal representative listed in section B.1 of the application form. The specific unit or department within the body listed is not checked. This means that in case a unit or department of a region is involved in a project to improve an operational programme managed by another unit or department of the same region, no letter of support is required.

How will Interreg Europe be connected to the mainstream programmes at project level?

The participation of the relevant policy responsible body in a project will ensure this connection. Interreg Europe is primarily for policymakers. At project level, it is a prerequisite to involve organisations responsible for policy instruments addressed by a project. It means that for regions targeting their Structural Funds programmes, their managing authority (or an equivalent body) should be involved (check In my country section for country-specific lists with these organisations).

This involvement should ideally be direct - these organisations should become project partners.  If that is not possible, they should sign the letter of support for another directly involved regional institution to address that policy instrument. If the policy responsible body is not a project partner, they must participate in the regional stakeholder group for that policy instrument.

Improvement of the implementation of Structural Funds, would that mean only ERDF and ESF or EAFRD too?

The improvement of Structural Funds refers to European Regional Development fund (ERDF)and European Social Fund (ESF) programmes only. Considering the programme priorities, Interreg Europe focuses primarily on ERDF operational programmes.

Even if synergies across the funds are encouraged by the Commission, Interreg Europe is primarily dedicated to the improvement of Structural Funds policies (ERDF and ESF) and cannot directly support issues which are relevant to the Common Agricultural Policy. In particular, overlap with EAFRD programmes must be avoided.

Are RIS3 considered as Structural funds operational programmes?

Strictly speaking, RIS3 is not a Structural funds operational programme. To avoid any confusion during the eligibility check, applicants should indicate the respective priority axis of the OP where the RIS3 is 'translated' into specific measures.

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