ECA: Auditors expect cross-border cooperation with neighbouring countries to face a challenging future

Despite certain weaknesses, EU-funded cross-border programmes with neighbouring countries have provided generally relevant and valuable support to the regions on both sides of the EU’s external borders, says a report published today by the European Court of Auditors. However, the current geopolitical context with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will have a significant impact on half of the programmes proposed for the coming years, the auditors also warn.

Cross-border cooperation is a key element of the EU’s neighbourhood policy, which covers 16 countries along the EU’s external border. Until recently, it also remained one of the very few areas of continuous dialogue with Russia. For the 2014-2020 period, 15 joint programmes were set up with a total EU contribution of almost €1 billion. These should benefit both the Member States and the countries with which they directly share a land or maritime border.

The auditors found that EU programmes identified priorities and selected objectives – ranging from cultural heritage to fighting organised crime – that were aligned with the needs and challenges of the border regions. The selection process in place was largely transparent and designed to select the most suitable projects. In addition, the EU auditors commend the fact that programmes were developed in a generally participatory manner, which proved useful for fostering the local ownership of programmes. However, complementarity with other EU-funded programmes was insufficient, which could lead to missed opportunities for synergies.

Read the Special report of The European Court of Auditors in its entirety here