With the adoption of the two sea basin programmes last week, the seven active Interreg NEXT programmes have now been approved! Considering the difficulties faced by our community during 2022, this is a major achievement that rewards the efforts of all concerned stakeholders and sets the grounds for an early set up and start of operations already in the first months of 2023.
The political commitment, particularly for what concerns the five programmes involving Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova, has been extremely high throughout 2022. This is also represented by the financial dimension of the programmes, with an envelope of almost €450 million granted for the support to cross-border and transnational cooperation activities between Member States and these two Partner Countries.
The unprecedented facts in the East should not diminish the perception of the difficulties suffered everywhere because of the pandemic, though. Today, more than ever, the cooperation in the South remains a key priority for the Union, and the quick adoption of the two Interreg NEXT programmes which will be implemented in the Mediterranean area is a testimony of this engagement.
Looking at the strategies agreed among the participating countries, programmes will invest in climate change adaptation, in an efficient use of natural resources, in education and healthcare, in risk management and in many other sectors contributing to the social and economic development of local communities. They will also support cooperation between public authorities to improve local governance. Some areas of intervention may need to be reviewed in order to better adapt to the new needs, particularly in the East, but this does not prevent our programmes to quickly proceed.
Keeping the momentum, the programme bodies and the national authorities are currently focusing their efforts on the first steps that need to be accomplished after adoption, including the set up of the Monitoring Committees, and work has already commenced to ensure that the first calls for proposals are launched latest in spring 2023.
2022 will be remembered as a hard-hitting year, which put at strain even the concept itself of cooperation. But the reaction of Interreg NEXT stakeholders was adamant: strengthened multilateral cooperation is the only way forward to minimize the pandemic legacy and prepare for tomorrow’s challenges such as climate change, while supporting the Eastern Neighbourhood in facing the consequences of the Russian aggression.