Making best use of the future EU funding programmes 2021-2027 is highly important for implementing EUSALP priorities. With the publication of the Commission’s proposals on the future EU budget the overall direction and funding priorities for the upcoming Multi Annual Financial Framework (MFF) is given. Based on these proposals the AG4 is conducting a first analysis of financial opportunities in order to facilitate the implementation of the EUSALP Action Plan and the AG4 Work Plan.
The upcoming portfolio of EU funding opportunities is currently being shaped by a wide variety of actors on different levels. The AG4 is actively participating in this process by developing a position paper as basis for targeted communication with key players to shape the post 2020 funding landscape. Parallel to the development of EU funding instruments and the preparation of the MFF 2021-2027 the AG4 is engaged in updating and developing its new work plan for the coming years.
A first overview on the future funding period from the perspective of AG4 with thematic compliance and priorities was presented and discussed together with the AG4 members, stakeholders and representatives of the European Commission and the Committee of the Regions at an evening exchange event on 6 November 2018 in the joint representation of the European Region Tyrol-South Tyrol-Trentino in Brussels.
The participants of the roundtable discussion - Herald Ruijters, Director of DG MOVE B responsible for investments, innovative and sustainable transport; Olivier Baudelet, Programme Manager REGIO/D2 responsible for Interreg Cross-border cooperation and MRS; Florian Achleitner, Transport Policy Officer at the European Committee of the Regions’ Commission for Territorial Cohesion Policy (COTER); and moderator Richard Seeber, Director of the Tyrol office in Brussels - discussed the role of EUSALP AG4 as an important actor for the implementation of EU regional and transport policy at macro-regional level. Particular focus was given to the issue of available support mechanisms in the next funding period for Alpine states and regions to contribute towards a greener, carbon free and more connected Europe.
Main takeaways form the roundtable discussion
AG4 as crucial actor for the implementation of the EU transport policy by ensuring the connection between the major transport networks and the more remote Alpine areas
The Alpine Region has tremendous significance for EU transport policy due to its central location in the heart of the continent. Several cross-border or national infrastructure projects belonging to TEN-T networks cross the Alps, making it an important transit region. The Commission is determined to complete the corridors in the Alpine Regions by bridging missing links to ease the burden of growing transit traffic through the Alps. The funding for the completion of the TEN-T network and its access routes is and will be assured trough the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF). Currently two major cross-border transport infrastructure projects that cross the Alps (the Brenner Base Tunnel and the Turin – Lyon high-speed railway) are being co-financed by CEF and will continue to be so in the future.
Besides infrastructural needs also the environmental and social components need to be considered and will gain more importance in the next funding period, including air quality standards (a policy paper will be published by the EC on 28 November 2018), road safety, congestion, connectivity, clean and sustainable transport modes. Thus, the CEF 2021-2027 foresees 60% of its budget to be invested in infrastructure (“hardware”) and the other 40% in so-called “software”. This corresponds to a rise of 22% from the previous period and is now not only applicable to the TEN-T core but also to the comprehensive network. In order to guarantee the successful implementation of the TEN-T policy it is the role of the AG4 to ensure the connection between the major transport networks and the remote Alpine areas. The AG4 has to look beyond the TEN-T policy with its primary focus on the core and comprehensive networks with a view to connect the different elements of “soft- and hardware”.
Alpine regions to focus on modal shift and sustainable mobility to achieve objectives of the Paris Climate Agreement
The overall focus of the upcoming funding period is in all programmes predominately on the contribution to achieving the Paris climate objectives. A major contribution towards this target is expected to be provided by the CEF, with a target of 60% of its envelope contributing to those objectives. For the Alpine Region this implies focusing on further support of modal shift from road to rail of passenger and freight transport, but also on enhancing the decarbonisation of transport modes. EU support to invest in sustainable transport infrastructure (bus fleets or trains powered by alternative fuels, hydrogen filling stations, e-mobility etc.) is foreseen trough loans, guarantees and equity from the InvestEU investment fund. The members of the AG4 are encouraged to join forces and to present projects addressing this new financing mechanism.
Future regional development investments with strong focus on innovation and climate change mitigation, little budget for strategic transport networks
In the upcoming funding period the compatibility and possible synergies with appropriate instruments is envisaged; the Commission is seeking more complementarity in funding. Thus, a better delineation of scope between the CEF and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) concerning transport is required. While CEF is focusing on the implementation of the TEN-T infrastructure of cross-border relevance the European Structure and Investment Fund (ESIF) focuses on the urban, local and regional mobility needs. This requires an improved coordination and streamlining of policy objectives and interventions through the ex-ante conditions applicable to transport. Nevertheless, it needs to be specified that the regional development investments in the funding period 2021-2027 will strongly focus on objectives 1 and 2 (smarter and greener, carbon-free Europe) to which 85% of the ERDF resources are allocated. From experience another 10% might be earmarked for urban areas, likely resulting in no available budget for regional transport networks. This approach shall encourage regions to invest their regional development budget in those objectives which have the biggest potential. In the more developed Alpine regions transport infrastructure is already available, thus the members of the AG4 are consulted to rely in this matter rather on national and private funds.
AG4 promotes the earmarking of appropriate share of funds for transport and mobility in all programmes
Transport infrastructure and mobility connects the regions and is thus an enabler of cohesion. Consequently, the AG4 promotes the earmarking of appropriate share of funds for the topics of transport and mobility in all programmes (all regional mainstream ERDF with relevance for AG4, Interreg B Alpine Space as well as all relevant Interreg A programmes) to support the implementation of the EUSALP Action Plan. Also the achievement of options for improved compliance and coordination between Interreg and the mainstream ERDF programmes, e.g. for realising parallel and connected regional investment needs (funded by mainstream ERDF) in a co-ordinated, transnational or cross-border strategy (co-ordination and pilots financed by Interreg) is considered as important. Finally, the AG4 asks for more openness and compliance of projects in mainstream ERDF or Interreg in combination with other funding programmes, most importantly CEF Transport, HORIZON Europe, and LIFE.
The European Commission and the Committee of the Regions ensure support to the AG4 in the implementation of the Alpine macro-regional strategy
The evening exchange event of the EUSALP AG4 with representatives of DG MOVE and DG REGIO provided an important opportunity to strengthen the cooperation between the AG4 and the European Commission. Whereas DG REGIO is already closely following and supporting the implementation of EUSALP, Director Herald Ruijters also underlined the added value of macro-regional strategies and assures full support from DG MOVE to the AG4 in the implementation of its activities and projects in the future. The AG4 also seeks close collaboration with the Committee of the Regions which acts as a strong advocate for Europe’s regions in Brussels. The CoR COTER presented in the last year several opinions on transport and mobility topics, inter alia on the directive concerning road infrastructure charging, clean vehicles directive, the CEF and on macro-regional strategies. Close exchange on upcoming initiatives and opinions of the CoR COTER regarding transport issues is envisaged.