The Federal Office for Building and Regional Planning

Research Project: Interreg: Spatial effects of transnational cooperation and their measurability

Project briefing

  • Status Completed
  • Project duration November 2018 – April 2021
  • Programme MORO

Preparations for the 2021-2027 transnational cooperation programmes are in full swing. The aim of the project was to identify the specific spatial challenges within the cooperation areas that include Germany and to comment on the draft programmes from a German viewpoint. At the same time, the project team has also worked out recommendations for the development of indicator systems to improve the measurement of the effects of transnational cooperation.


According to the Interreg regulation, transnational cooperation is an important instrument of an integrated spatial development that is compliant with the priorities of the EU's cohesion policy. In Germany, the chairpersons of the German committees of the six Interreg B programme areas with German participation (federal state level), chaired by the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community (BMI) (“AG Interreg”), have spoken out in favour of refocusing Interreg B in the funding period 2021-2027, once again putting a stronger emphasis on integrated territorial development in line with the spatial challenges and the objectives of the Territorial Agenda 2020.

In May 2018, the European Commission had presented its proposals for the 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework and a package of proposed regulations for the EU's cohesion policy starting in 2021. The proposal for the new European Territorial Cooperation regulation is part of this package and provided the basis for the Interreg programmes from 2021 onwards. Accordingly, Interreg was attributed a high added value in a European context and was meant to be further financed through specific programmes. Additionally, it was intended that the Interreg programme should focus more strongly on its actual strength, which is the promotion of cooperation and communication in functional areas. Thus, in addition to the five general ERDF objectives, two Interreg-specific objectives were aimed for, which in particular refer to a better “Interreg governance”. Another new feature was the introduction of Interreg-specific indicators, which were considered as an important tool to better reflect the contribution of the Interreg B programmes to the territorial cohesion of the European Union, and thus to equal living conditions in Europe.


The project supported the BMI, BBSR and German committees in the programming of the Interreg B programmes 2021-2027. In doing so, the project team identified specific spatial challenges in the various cooperation areas, which, from a German viewpoint, required transnational cooperation. Additionally, the team developed recommendations for suitable indicator systems that measure spatial and cross-thematic effects. The results of this project, which were particularly achieved by means of preparatory work and contributions to the development of the new transnational programmes, should be directly incorporated into the design of the funding period 2021-2027.

The project team worked on the following research questions:

  1. Which substantive innovations/changes with regard to transnational cooperation can be derived from the European Commission's draft regulations for the future EU cohesion policy? How do these innovations/changes match the current spatial issues and challenges in Germany? What does this mean for the claim that transnational cooperation should again be more strongly oriented towards integrated territorial project implementation, as well as being in line with the objectives of the Territorial Agenda 2020? Which precise and new starting points could be the result?
  2. How can the future policy objective 5 “a Europe closer to citizens by fostering the sustainable and integrated development of all types of territories and local initiatives” be translated into transnational cooperation? How can the future Interreg-specific objectives “a better cooperation governance” and “a safer and more secure Europe” be implemented in the transnational programmes? Which specific starting points are given in the individual programme areas that feature a German participation?
  3. The European Commission's proposal for the new European Territorial Cooperation (ETC) regulation provides for a stronger link between transnational programmes and macro-regional strategies. How does this affect the future thematic orientation of transnational programmes with macro-regional references (Alpine Space, Danube Region, Baltic Sea Region)?
  4. Do the expected proposals of the Commission regarding the spatial breakdown of the future transnational programmes correspond to the functional relationships of the cooperation areas and the spatial challenges? Are any adjustments necessary?
  5. Which specific spatial challenges can be identified from a German viewpoint in the transnational cooperation areas with German participation? What kind of existing spatial strategies at different levels can be included in the programmes without macro strategies? Which of these issues can be subsumed and optimally addressed under the five investment priorities (ERDF themes) and the Interreg-specific objectives?
  6. Which (new) tasks (e.g. in connection with macro-regional strategies) will transnational programmes have to deal with in the future and what type of funding projects are needed for this?
  7. How can synergy effects with other EU funding programmes be achieved in the future and spatial effects be strengthened?
  8. What kind of indicators are needed for evaluating transnational cooperation in order to be able to measure the spatial and cross-thematic effects of transnational cooperation? How should these indicators be designed to further allow for comparisons across programme areas while also identifying the contribution of transnational cooperation to the objectives of EU cohesion policy?

The project was executed by “blue! advancing european projects GbR” and “IMP-HSG Institut für Systemisches Management und Public Governance | Regional Science” at “Universität St. Gallen (HSG)”.


  • Brigitte Ahlke
    Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development
    Division RS 3 "European Spatial and Urban Development"
    Phone: +49 228 99401-2330

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