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A regional external border programme for EU Member States to alleviate the effects of the Ukraine war

Question écrite de M. Mauri PEKKARINEN - Commission européenne

Question de M. Mauri PEKKARINEN,

Diffusée le 22 février 2024

Subject: A regional external border programme for EU Member States to alleviate the effects of the Ukraine war

The Interreg programmes are part of the EU’s regional and structural policy whose purpose is to support border areas within the EU and between EU countries and third countries. On both sides of the 1 344 km-long border between Finland and Russia, the Interreg programmes have alleviated problems caused by the border, improved infrastructure and supported cross-border cooperation and interaction in almost every area of life. The programmes are intended for cooperation with friendly neighbours on Europe’s borders.

When Putin’s Russia attacked Ukraine, this kind of cooperation ceased in border regions in Finland, the Baltic countries and Poland. This resulted in significant economic problems for these regions. As a consequence of the war, the Interreg funding intended for these external borders was frozen and the regions were transferred to other programmes. The resources intended for the development of border areas were reduced where they should have been increased.

The current Interreg programmes are not flexible enough to sufficiently support these areas that border a hostile neighbour – Russia or Belarus.

The report of the High-Level Group on the Future of Cohesion Policy appointed by the Commission, ‘Forging a sustainable future together: Cohesion for a competitive and inclusive Europe’, was published on 20 February 2024. It too recognises a need to respond to war and political instability and calls for special attention to be paid to border regions affected by war.

Given the above, I would like to ask:

1. What action has the Commission taken to support external border areas of the EU that border a hostile neighbour?

2. If the current Interreg programmes continue to be insufficiently flexible to offer the necessary assistance to regions that border countries at war, is it possible to build a new regional external border programme specifically for these border regions to alleviate the effects of war?


Réponse - Commission européenne

Diffusée le 29 avril 2024

Answer given by Ms Ferreira on behalf of the European Commission

(30 April 2024)

Following Russia’s unjustified war of aggression against Ukraine, the Commission suspended all Interreg programmes with Russia and Belarus.

However, EU beneficiaries under 2014-2020 programmes were allowed to carry on project operations. The European Regional Development Fund resources of 2021-2027 programmes were reallocated to neighbouring internal Interreg programmes, extending the geographical area to include EU regions affected by the suspension. These programmes took specific measures to channel support and address the challenges impacting these regions.

The war brought significant social and economic difficulties to the concerned EU border regions that cannot be solved within Interreg resources alone.

The affected Member States may decide to reallocate their 2021-2027 mainstream Cohesion Policy resources between programmes and regions to the benefit of these border regions (1).

The Technical Assistance under regional and national programmes can also be used to reassess the needs in the border regions in question.

In addition, the Commission will support, in collaboration with the World Bank, the external border regions of the Baltic States with a project development scheme and will support eight Finnish regions to develop a transition strategy under the Technical Support Instrument 2024 (2).

In the short term, concerned Member States may use the mid-term review of Cohesion Policy programmes for further programme modifications alleviating effects of the war in the impacted regions. For future cohesion programmes, it is not possible at this stage to anticipate the post-2027 policy framework.

1 ∙ ⸱ Finland anticipated such a reallocation to transition regions, including eastern regions.

2 ∙ ⸱

| | ) However, the situation of these regions is identified as a future challenge to be addressed in the recently published ninth Cohesion Report.

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