Frequently Asked Questions
Below we have collected the most frequently asked questions (FAQ) by our applicants to the first and the second call.
Answers are widely based on our cooperation programme document and application manuals for the first two calls. Please refer also to these document in case of doubt or contradiction.
General programme information
Eligible partners and partnership
The Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE Programme is a funding programme of the EU Cohesion Policy’s objective “European Territorial Cooperation” running from 2014 to 2020. It co-finances cooperation projects that strengthen regional innovation, promote low-carbon strategies, protect and valorise natural and cultural resources and improve sustainable transport. Funds of the programme come from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
Covering an area of over one million square kilometres the Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE Programme is home to around 146 million people. Nine EU Member States cooperate in the programme, including all regions from Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia, as well as eight Länder from Germany (Baden-Württemberg, Bayern, Berlin, Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Sachsen, Sachsen-Anhalt, and Thüringen) and nine regions from Italy (Emilia-Romagna, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Liguria, Lombardia, Piemonte, Provincia Autonoma Bolzano, Provincia Autonoma Trento, Valle d’Aosta, and Veneto).
The main decision-making body of the programme is the monitoring committee, which is composed of representatives of the nine central European programme countries. The Department for EU Strategy and Economic Development of the City of Vienna is the managing authority and thus responsible for the operational management of the programme. It is supported by the joint secretariat, an international bureau which is also located in Vienna, and by the network of national contact points in the Member States.
Please consult contacts section for more details.
The Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE Programme’s main objective is to cooperate beyond borders in central Europe to make our cities and regions better places to live and work. Put more precisely, transnational cooperation should become the catalyst for implementing smart solutions that answer to regional challenges in the fields of innovation, low-carbon economy, environment, culture and transport.
The programme will build regional capacities following an integrated bottom-up approach involving and coordinating relevant actors from all governance levels. In doing so, it will coordinate with other efforts in the regions including national and regional programmes, macro-regional strategies, the Horizon 2020 programme, the LIFE programme or the European Investment Bank.
The total programme budget over the next seven years is 246 million Euros from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). 231 million Euros out of this will be made available for financing transnational cooperation projects.
The available funding is spread across the four priorities until 2020 as follows:
Innovation and knowledge development: around EUR 69 million
Low carbon cities and regions: around EUR 44 million
Environmental and cultural resources: around EUR 89 million
Sustainable transport: around EUR 30 million
On national levels, general guidance is provided by the network of national contact points. It functions as a first point of contact for applicants seeking individual guidance.
On transnational level, the joint secretariat offers individual consultations on project ideas and partnerships in both steps of the application procedure.
The third call for proposals is organised in a one-step procedure. Proposals have to be submitted via a web-based tool, the electronic monitoring system (eMS). The third call for proposals is open to all programme priorities. In some areas it will be exclusively focused on pre-defined topics
Fully open specific objectives, encouraging transnational project ideas to improve:
SO 2.2 - Low-carbon energy planning strategies and policies supporting climate change mitigation
SO 3.1 - Capacities for the protection and sustainable use of natural heritage and resources
SO 3.3 - Environmental management of functional urban areas
SO 4.1 - Planning and coordination of regional passenger transport systems for better connections to existing networks
SO 4.2 – Coordination among freight transport stakeholders for multimodal environmentally-friendly solutions
Targeted specific objectives, looking for transnational project ideas to improve:
SO 1.1 - Sustainable linkages among actors of the innovation systems
Proposals shall exclusively target: Bottom-up implementation of smart specialisation strategies; triple and quadruple helix approaches which strengthen the participation of public and civil society; innovative practices such as co-creation approaches and actions that bring innovation closer to the market
SO 1.2 - Skills and entrepreneurial competences for advancing economic & social innovation
Proposals shall exclusively target: Social innovation and the integration of disadvantaged groups and regions through strengthening support infrastructures, services and schemes; development of entrepreneurial competences to strengthen social innovation
SO 2.1 - Energy efficiency and renewable energy usage in public infrastructures
Proposals shall exclusively target: Energy efficiency of public infrastructure other than public buildings and streetlights (e.g. transport, water, waste or ICT infrastructure) including their financing aspects and integration of renewable energy sources
SO 3.2 - Capacities for the sustainable use of cultural heritage and resources
Proposals shall exclusively target: Cultural and creative industries (CCI) such as CCI entrepreneurship, CCI policies, cross-sectoral cooperation and linkages of CCI to other sectors and innovative technologies
Closed specific objective, in which no projects proposals will be selected for funding in the third call:
SO 2.3 - Improving capacities for mobility planning in functional urban areas to lower CO2 emissions
Remains closed because topics are already sufficiently covered by running projects.
Applicants have to complete and submit the application forms via the electronic monitoring system (eMS) which can be accessed at https://ems.interreg-central.eu/
To use the online submission system, prior to submitting the application, the lead applicant must register and create a set of credentials. To register, applicants have to connect to the system at https://ems.interreg-central.eu/ and click on “Register”. The person registering should preferably be the contact person of the lead applicant institution. Please note that automatically generated emails (e.g. on successful submission) will be sent to this email address only.
The person creating the application must represent (or be delegated by) the lead applicant institution. This person can then add new registered users to the application (namely the partners) and, after completing the application form, will finally submit it.
To a certain extent, it is possible for different users to simultaneously work on one application form. However, when working in parallel, users have to make sure though that they are not working in the same section or sub-section (in case that the section is divided).
Once the application form is at an advanced stage - but well before its final submission - it is recommended to perform the automatic check on completeness and correctness of data entered. This check is done by pressing the “Check Saved Project” button. The system then performs several automatic checks of the formal requirements (e.g. completeness of information, minimum number of partners, etc.). If all automatic checks are successfully passed, the message “Success” will be displayed. In case of automatic checks showing deficiencies, the system indicates these in an error message and the partnership can then amend the application form accordingly.
The helpdesk provides basic information on the call procedure and can be reached by phone at +43 1 8908088-2403 or per e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. In addition, a technical helpdesk can be reached during office hours for any questions or problems related to the electronic monitoring system (eMS). Please contact the eMS technical helpdesk at +43 1 8908088-2403 or send an email to email@example.com.
For further support measures offered by the programme please refer to the application manual
When forming a project partnership, the following minimum requirements have to be met:
- at least three financing partners
- from at least three countries
- with at least two of the partners located in the programme area
The following institutions can participate in a project:
- National, regional and local public bodies (including EGTCs)
- Private institutions, including private companies, having legal personality;
International organisations acting under the national law of any Member State participating in the programme or, with restrictions, under international law
In exceptional and duly justified cases also organisations from outside the programme area (but inside the European Union) can become project partners and receive co-financing. Their participation needs to bring clear added value and expertise to the implementation of a project and has to benefit the programme area. The ERDF allocated to a single project for such partners together with the ERDF spent outside the programme area cannot exceed 20 % of the total ERDF contribution to this project. Partners from non-EU countries can participate in a project but will not receive any ERDF funds from the programme. They could act as associated partners.
German and Italian institutions located outside the programme area can act as assimilated partners in the projects if they:
- are competent in their scope of action for certain parts of the eligible area (e.g. ministries, national agencies, national research bodies etc.)
- fulfil the basic partner requirements
- carry out activities which are for the benefit of the regions in the programme area
Institutions willing to be involved in a project without financially contributing to it are considered as associated partners. Such associated partners do not account for the fulfilment of the partnership requirements.
The “lead partner principle” means that each partnership appoints one organisation to act as lead partner. The lead partner takes full financial and legal responsibility for the implementation of the entire project.
The following institutions can act as lead partners if located in the programme area:
- public bodies
- private institutions
- international organisations acting under national law
Private lead applicants, in order to be eligible, have to demonstrate that they have stable and sufficient sources of funding to maintain their activity throughout the project implementation period and to participate in its funding. The programme will check the financial capacity of private lead applicants by applying the criteria explained in part D, chapter V.2 of the application manual. To this purpose, when submitting the application form private lead applicants have to provide additional documents listed in the application manual.
In case a project with a private lead partner is selected for funding, the lead partner will additionally be asked to provide, before the signature of the subsidy contract, proof that a valid financial guarantee is in force, issued by a primary financial institution (bank, insurance).
Experience shows that a relevant and manageable partnership should not exceed 12 partners. However, larger partnerships are possible if justified by the project scope.
The recommended project duration is 30 to 36 months. However, if justified by the project scope and planned activities a longer implementation period of up to 42 months can be accepted.
The project intervention logic defines the project objectives and expected results. It is the most important step when starting to develop a project proposal. Project objectives and results should be as specific as possible and clearly express what kind of changes the project intends to bring about in relation to the initial situation.
The project intervention logic has to be coherent and shall provide the necessary information on how the project contributes to the selected programme priority axis, in particular in relation to the targeted programme specific objective and its expected result.
The Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE Programme supports three types of activities:
- Policy support
- Practical implementation
Practical implementation activities can be explorative and/or have a pilot character. Projects can combine policy support and practical implementation activities or set a specific focus on only one of both. Projects should in all circumstances foresee capitalisation activities that make results available to target audiences so that they can be rolled out or mainstreamed.
Each project can target only one programme priority and within this one programme specific objective. The online application form will not allow for choosing multiple priorities and specific objectives. Contributions to other priority axes and programme specific objectives are however possible.
The Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE Programme has pre-defined the following categories of project outputs, which focus on policy support and implementation activities:
- Strategy and action plan development and/or implementation
- Tool development and/or implementation
- Pilot actions
- Innovation networks (in case of SO 1.1)
Communication is about raising the awareness and informing target audiences as well as changing their attitudes and behaviour about a project and its activities. Such kind of communication plays a strategic role in successful projects. It will help projects to achieve the change they aim for with their thematic activities. When developing project communication objectives it is important to bear in mind that these have to be intrinsically linked to the developed project outputs.
It is recommended that CENTRAL EUROPE projects should have a total budget ranging from 1 to 5 million EUR. In exceptional cases, smaller or larger projects can be supported. In any case, partners should ensure that the financial size of the project truly reflects the activities foreseen in the work plan and that it is based on the principles of sound financial management.
The share of expenditure not covered by ERDF shall be guaranteed by means of national co-financing, which can be provided as follows:
- Public national co-financing is public funding at national, regional or local level, obtained via specific co-financing schemes set up by the Member States or provided directly with own funds by the partners having a public status. Co-financing of international organisations falls under this category.
- Private national co-financing refers to the amount of own funds provided as match funding by private institutions.
Three levels of rules apply to the eligibility of expenditure in the framework of the Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE Programme:
- EU rules: As the programme is co-financed by the ERDF, all general rules concerning the eligibility of expenditure regarding structural funds are applicable.
- Programme rules: Additional rules on eligibility of expenditure for the cooperation programme, as outlined in the programme implementation manual.
- National (including institutional) eligibility rules: such rules apply for matters not covered by eligibility rules laid down in EU and programme rules.
Expenditure is eligible in following periods:
- Costs for the implementation of an approved project are eligible from its start date until its end date as set in the subsidy contract. At the earliest, costs are eligible as from the day after the submission of the full application form, provided that this day is the official start date of the project as indicated in the application form. On this basis, partners may decide at their own risk to start the implementation of the project even before the monitoring committee decision for funding.
- Costs for project closure (e.g. preparation and submission of the last progress report, final report and costs for control of expenditure) are eligible, and must be paid until the deadline for submission of the final report as set in the subsidy contract (i.e. three months after project end).
Approved projects which signed the subsidy contract with the managing authority can receive a lump-sum reimbursing their preparation and contracting costs according to the following principles:
- The lump sum amounts to EUR 15.000 of total eligible expenditure per project
- The lump sum covers all costs linked to the preparation and/or contracting of the project until the day on which the final application form fulfilling all conditions for approval set by the MC has been finally accepted by the MA/JS
The ERDF contribution effectively granted to the project is linked to the actual co-financing rate applicable to the partner(s) to whom the lump sum is allocated in accordance to the approved application form. In order to apply for the reimbursement of preparation costs, the preparation costs budget must be indicated in the application form, giving information on the amount allocated to the concerned project partner(s).
Project budgets must be structured according to the following budget lines that have been simplified and harmonised with other Interreg programmes:
- Staff costs
- Office and administrative expenditure
- Travel and accommodation costs
- External expertise and services costs
- Equipment expenditure
- Infrastructure and works expenditure
The practice of splitting cost items among project partners (i.e. sharing of common costs) is not allowed. Accordingly, the budget allocated to a project partner shall fully reflect the activities actually implemented by that partner.
Acquisitions by means of public contracts of works, supplies or services from economic operators are subject to rules on public procurement. These rules aim at securing transparent and fair conditions for competing on the common market and have to be respected by beneficiaries.
Rules differ depending on the kind of goods and/or services to be purchased, as well as the value of the purchase and the legal status of the awarding institution. They are set at the following levels:
- EU rules
- National rules
- Programme rules
Please note that with public procurement, differing from the hierarchy of rules concerning the eligibility of expenditure, all applicable EU and national rules are on a higher hierarchical level than the rules set by the Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE Programme.
Institutions not falling under the scope of application of the public procurement laws (e.g. private companies for most procurement activities as defined under the “classical directive” (http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/publicprocurement/index_en.htm) are exempt from the application of public procurement laws.
Notwithstanding this, such institutions have to observe the basic principles on which the procurement norms are based and ensure the best value for money or, if appropriate, the lowest price. Please check national rules and guidelines in this respect (if available) which may set specific/stricter rules applicable also to institutions not falling under the scope of application of the public procurement laws. The Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE Programme has developed specific procedures to be followed by such institutions when procuring works, supplies or services. These are laid down in chapter C.1.5.1 of the implementation manual
After submission, the formal and administrative requirements are checked, part of them automatically by the online submission system. These are:
- Submission of the proposal before the deadline set in the call announcement
- Submission of the application form completed in all its parts and in English language
- Respect of the minimum partnership requirements (i.e. at least three financing partners from at least three countries, being at least two of the partners located in CENTRAL EUROPE regions)
- Respect of the lead applicant requirements (i.e. lead applicants cannot be located in regions outside the programme area, with the exception of assimilated partners, international organisations acting under international law cannot be lead applicants)
- Submission of the lead applicant declaration signed and filled in in the template provided by the programme without any modification
- In case of private lead applicant, availability of all other supporting documents
In case of private lead applicants, their financial capacity is checked by the programme. In case the private lead applicant does not meet the necessary financial capacity criteria the proposal will be regarded as non-eligible. Proposals failing in any of the above requirements will be regarded as non-eligible and will not be further processed.
Proposals successfully passing the formal and administrative checks as well as, where applicable, the financial capacity check, are further processed with a legal status check, an analysis of state aid relevance and the quality assessment as described in the application manual.
After the finalisation of the assessment, lead applicants are notified about the outcome. The decision on applications is taken by the monitoring committee of the Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE Programme on the basis of the technical quality assessment. Depending on the number of applications received, the result of the assessment of the second call is foreseen to be available in April 2017.