Implementation of macro-regional strategies

Briefing 07-03-2022

While each macro-regional strategy is unique in terms of the countries it brings together and the scope of its policies, they all share a common aim: to ensure a coordinated approach to issues that are best tackled together. Building on the success of the pioneering 2009 European Union strategy for the Baltic Sea region, this form of cooperation has since become firmly embedded in the EU's institutional framework, with four strategies now in place, covering 19 Member States and 10 non-EU countries. Every two years, the European Commission publishes a report to assess the implementation of the macro-regional strategies, most recently in 2020. With the views of stakeholders and other players helping to complete the picture, it is possible to identify a number of challenges common to all macro-regional strategies in areas such as governance, funding, political commitment and the need to be more results oriented. This has helped focus discussions on the future role of macro-regional strategies within the post-2020 cohesion policy framework. Introducing a number of measures to strengthen macro-regional cooperation and increase alignment between funding and macro-regional strategy priorities, the post-2020 cohesion policy architecture has the potential to establish closer links between Interreg programmes and macro-regional strategies and to facilitate the embedding process, whose importance has been brought into even sharper focus in view of the reduction in the Interreg budget for 2021 2027. Yet with countries currently focusing much of their attention on their recovery and resilience plans and the conflict in Ukraine, many Member States have still not presented their cohesion investment plans to the European Commission, raising fears that valuable cohesion funding could be lost as a result, which could have serious consequences for the future implementation of macro-regional cooperation. Organised from 7 to 11 March 2022, and providing an opportunity for macro-regional strategy stakeholders from across the EU to engage with EU institutions and raise awareness of macro-regional cooperation, the EU's third macro-regional week could arguably not have come at a better time. This is a further update to a 2017 briefing, the previous edition of which dates from February 2020.