Frequently asked questions
Do you want to apply and got a question? Find the answer here.
FAQs from our applicants
In our regularly updated frequently asked questions below, you will find answers to the most common questions regarding our funding. If you cannot find an answer there, do not hesitate to contact our helpdesk. We are happy to help you and support you.
About the programme
What is the Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE Programme?
Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE is a funding programme of the EU Cohesion Policy objective “European Territorial Cooperation”. In the 2021-27 period the programme will co-finance transnational projects that cooperate towards a smarter, greener, better connected and better integrated central Europe. Funds come from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
Which countries and regions are part of the programme?
The programme covers an area of more than one million square kilometres at the heart of Europe, and is home to roughly a third of the EU population (about 148 million of inhabitants in 2019).
Nine EU member states cooperate in the Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE Programme, including all regions from Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, eight Länder and one region from Germany (Baden-Württemberg, Bayern, Berlin, Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Sachsen, Sachsen-Anhalt, Thüringen, and the Braunschweig region within Niedersachsen), and nine regions from Italy (Emilia-Romagna, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Liguria, Lombardia, Piemonte, the autonomous provinces of Bolzano/Bozen and Trento, Valle d’Aosta, and Veneto).
In total the programme area is made up of 81 NUTS-2 regions and in the 2021-27 period it is extended by Braunschweig region in Germany.
What is the programme vision and mission?
The programme vision is a united central Europe that cooperates – to become smarter, greener and better connected together. Based on shared needs and a common identity in an area long divided by the “Iron Curtain”, the programme aims for a trustful culture of cooperation beyond administrative borders.
The programme mission is to bring regions and cities together beyond borders to find fitting solutions for their citizens – in a fair and equal way everywhere. It encourages and supports transnational cooperation to make regions more resilient to common challenges that know no borders and which cannot be solved alone. These challenges include among others economic transition processes, climate change, and the long-term socioeconomic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic.
What is the overall programme budget?
The foreseen programme budget for 2021-27 is EUR 224,6 million from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
Which co-financing rates does the programme offer?
The maximum ERDF co-financing will amount to 80% for project partners from all participating countries.
For partners from EU Member States that are not part of the programme area the maximum ERDF co-financing will also amount to 80% but has to be duly justified. Partners from outside the EU can participate as observers but cannot receive ERDF co-financing.
How is the programme managed?
The main decision-making body of the programme is the Monitoring Committee (MC), which is composed of representatives of the nine central European programme countries. The Department for European Affairs of the City of Vienna is the Managing Authority (MA) and thus responsible for the operational management of the programme. It is supported by the Joint Secretariat (JS), an international bureau also located in Vienna, and by the Network of National Contact Points (NCPs) in the Member States.
Where can I find more information about the programme?
On the transnational level, the Joint Secretariat (JS) offers a permanent helpdesk that can be reached during office hours by phone +43 (0) 1 8908 088 2403 and at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On the national level, general guidance is provided by the network of National Contact Points (NCPs). It functions as a first point of contact for applicants seeking individual guidance.
When is next call going to be launched?
The second call for project proposals will launch at our programme conference on 22 March 2023. The call will offer a considerable budget for co-funding transnational cooperation ideas. More information will follow in the coming months.
Project and partnership basics
What is a transnational cooperation project?
A transnational project brings together partners from at least three different countries to cooperate and find solutions for common challenges of the programme region. The second call for proposals aims at selecting partnerships which work together in our transnational projects for around 30 months and with an indicative budget between 1.2 and 1.9 million EUR ERDF.
Transnational cooperation actions are expected to address the development and implementation of strategies, action plans, tools, training, and pilot actions. To find out more about transnational cooperation projects, you are invited to browse the result page of the 2014-20 programme.
What are minimum requirements for a transnational project partnership?
When devoloping 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.
Furthermore, the lead partner shall be located in the programme area.
The project partnership, however, should ideally range from 5 to 12 partners.
Who can become a project partner?
The following institutions can participate in transnational project partnerships:
- 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.
The participation of partners located outside the programme area in Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE projects is allowed only if it brings clear benefits to central European regions. Funds can be granted to partners in EU Member States outside the programme area upon conditions. Partners from outside the EU can participate as observers but cannot receive ERDF co-financing.
What is the lead partner principle and who can become a lead partner?
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.
Can a private organisation become a lead partner?
Private bodies can take the lead partner role. Private lead applicants, however, must meet minimum financial capacity requirements in order to be eligible as lead partners.
Other than in the previous programming period, private lead applicants are not requested to submit a bank guarantee in the contracting phase, if the project is selected for funding.
Private bodies planning to apply as lead applicant shall carefully check the financial capacity requirements in chapter II.4.2 of the programme manual and fill in the financial capacity self-assessment tool.
Work plan development
What makes a good project proposal?
Transnational cooperation has to be at the heart of every Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE project. This means that each project has to demonstrate that the challenges addressed cannot be solved efficiently by individual regions or countries alone. Moreover, each project has to clearly address the territorial challenges and needs of the programme area and especially of the regions involved.
Other important features of a good transational prioject are innovativeness, building on available knowledge, a sound methodological approach and a mature work plan.
Can an Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE project address more than one programme priority or specific objective?
Each project can target only one programme priority and within the priority only one programme specific objective.
What are Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE projects expected to achieve?
The types of results achieved by transnational projects can be classified as follows:
- Improved policy development, learning, and change;
- Increased knowledge and capacity, including the knowledge transfer and exchange;
- Better coordinated cooperation and enhanced governance at different levels;
- Reduced barriers;
- New or better services;
- Behavioural change;
- Leverage of public and private funds, including the preparation for follow-up investments.
For more information regarding the expected results for each specific objective (SO), please consult the relevant section of the IP – Chapter 2.
To find out more about the results achieved in the previous programme, you are invited to browse our results page.
What kind of activities and outputs are expected from Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE projects?
Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE has pre-defined the following categories of project outputs, which focus on policy support and implementation activities.
- Strategies and action plans
- Pilot actions
More specific information on supported actions for each Specific Objective (SO) and related thematic fields and examples of actions can be consulted in the IP document – Section 2. The programme supports pilot investments as part of pilot actions and projects can contribute to the preparation of large scale investments.
What is the difference between activities, deliverables and outputs?
Project activities are the main implementation steps that contribute to the development of project outputs and/or their subsequent roll-out or upscaling.
A deliverable captures the implementation of project activities, e.g. analysis reports, feasibility studies, strategy documents, pilot action reports, training documentations. It presents in an aggregated form outcomes of intermediate steps of a certain activity. A deliverable has to be sufficiently comprehensive. It is recommended to limit the number of project deliverables.
An output is a product that results from the implementation of project activities.
Which horizontal principles have to be respected by the projects?
Transnational cooperation actions will have to respect the horizontal principles of equal opportunity, non-discrimination, gender equality and environmental sustainability during project design and implementation.
In particular, all actions financed by the programme will follow an “environmental sustainability by design approach”. This means that partnerships are strongly encouraged to identify and consider any potentially significant environmental and health issues during project design and integrate them from the beginning into all activities.
What is a pilot action in the context of Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE projects?
A pilot action is an implementation-oriented activity which tests novel approaches and leads ultimately to the implementation of newly gathered knowledge and related solutions.
A pilot action should have an experimental or demonstration character, be limited in scope, be jointly developed, implemented and evaluated in terms of results as well as jointly exploited and transferred to other institutions and territories.
What is a pilot investment in the context of Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE projects?
Pilot actions can include pilot investments, which are implemented at a small scale and are necessary for the successful implementation of a pilot action.
A pilot investment must clearly contribute to the project specific objectives as well as to the project overall objective: it must have a demonstration, model or pilot character and show a clear transnational implementation dimension and effect that the partnership evaluates together. The investment should ideally pave the way to large-scale investments, thus increasing the impact of the project.
What makes a good project budget?
The project budget needs to be realistic and in line with the principles of adequacy of costs and sound financial management (i.e. economy, efficiency and effectiveness).
It needs to be consistent and transparent ensuring that it reflects the work plan and its timing.
What is the timeframe for eligibility of expenditure?
From a time-wise perspective, expenditure is eligible according to the following three phases:
- Project Preparation and Contracting Phase: Costs for the preparation and contracting of an approved project can be compensated through a lump sum.
- Project Implementation Phase: Costs for the implementation of an approved project are eligible from its start date until its end date as set in the approved application form.
- Project Closure Phase: Costs referring to these activities are eligible and must be paid by the deadline for submitting the last joint progress and joint finance reports as set in the subsidy contract.
By selecting the simplified cost option “40% Flat Rate for Eligible Direct Costs other than Direct Staff Costs”, does the project partner need to document expenditure other than direct staff costs?
When a project partner selects this SCO for the reimbursement of costs, this partner does not need to document that the expenditure in cost categories 2-6 has been incurred and paid out. Only expenditure claimed on a real costs basis has to be supported by relevant documents. In this case staff costs are the calculation basis and the beneficiary’s controller checks the eligibility of staff costs (cost category 1) solely, in compliance with general and specific provisions on eligibility of expenditure, as outlined in the programme manual.
Are full purchase costs for equipment eligible?
If the equipment is used for project purposes only, then the full cost is eligible. However, if an institution is not allowed to account the full cost due to national or internal rules on the matter, depreciation can be an eligible cost.
Are investments above 25.000 EUR possible?
Yes, but for each investment exceeding EUR 25.000 total cost (i.e. CC5 Equipment and CC6 Infrastructure and works) a clear and concise description needs to be provided in the relevant section of the application form. Investments are only to be foreseen if they are necessary for the successful implementation of pilot actions. For more detailed requirements regarding pilot investments please refer to chapter I.3.3.3 of the programme manual.
Can associated partners be subcontracted?
In principle, since associated partners are not financing partners, they can be sub-contracted. However, procurement rules have to be applied and the principle of transparency has to be ensured.
How are staff costs calculated on a real costs basis for staff that works part-time on the project?
It is stated in the programme manual chapter I.4.3.1 that “The percentage of the assignment has to reflect an employee’s related tasks, responsibilities and functions to be performed in the project and shall be individually fixed for each employee.”
The percentage should be allocated for the whole project duration. This percentage may change provided this is justified due to changes in tasks or responsibilities of the employee. However, the percentage shall remain fixed for an entire financial reporting period.
How shall costs for in-house contracted bodies be reported?
If a body can be considered as in-house and fulfils all the requirements that are stated in chapter I.4.4.1 of the programme manual, then this body can be contracted by the beneficiary through a direct award.
Costs of the contracted in-house body will always have to be charged on a real costs basis or using simplified cost options (SCOs) in the same way as the project partner. Such costs shall be accounted under each relevant cost category according to the nature of the service provided, as well as under the same general and specific provisions on eligibility, reporting and audit trail as provided for in the programme manual.
How can the co-financing of 20% be provided by the beneficiary?
The co-financing can either be provided through own resources or through other schemes that might be set up at the national, regional or local level. This means that the 20% financing can be covered by funding received from the national, regional or local level if there is such possibility.
However, it is important to note that the programme only reimburses costs incurred and paid by the beneficiaries. This means that each beneficiary must fully pre-finance its project expenditure. Then, once verified by the controller and included in a joint finance report, the MA reimburses 80% (ERDF) to the lead partner who in turn has to transfer the respective amount to the beneficiary.
The sum of the ERDF and co-financing received by a beneficiary can never exceed 100% of the costs occurred for the concerned item(s).
Project management and communication
What makes good project management?
A good project has a strong management that ensures high quality outputs and results and mitigates risks in coordination with partners.
The implementation of a transnational cooperation project with partners from several countries, different institutional backgrounds and working cultures can be challenging. Therefore, an effective project management structure with clear decision-making procedures as well as clear definition and distribution of roles is essential.
What makes good project communication?
External communication that is driven and coordinated by an experienced communication manager is essential for a successful project. Well-defined communication objectives support the achievement of thematic objectives and communication activities complement thematic activities.
If done well, communication raises the necessary awareness and provides information on thematic activities. It might even help to change the attitude of relevant stakeholders towards the changes aimed for by the project. Communication activities furthermore contribute to the capitalisation of achieved project outputs and results and aim at their roll out into broader policies, strategies and action plans.
What are the "must-have" project communication channels and activities?
All projects have to implement a set of standard communication channels and activities (project website, poster, etc.). At project start-up and then during the project lifetime, the communication manager and all other partners have to ensure that at least the following communication channels and activities are implemented:
- Project website hosted on programme website
- Project information on beneficiary websites and their social media channelsite
- Posters displayed at all partner premises
- Branding and visibility requirements
When does the State Aid occur in an Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE project?
Public support granted by the Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE programme to project(s) is State Aid when all of the below listed criteria are met:
- The recipient of public support is an “undertaking” (an entity carrying out an economic activity in the context of the project);
- The undertaking is given an economic advantage that it would not gain under normal market conditions;
- Advantage given is selectively favoring certain undertaking(s) or the production of certain good(s);
- Given support distorts or threatens to distort competition and affects trade within the European Union.
Project applications are assessed against these criteria, given in the article 107 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
In case of State Aid relevance of projects selected for funding, specific contractual obligations on State Aid are given in the project Subsidy Contract.
How is State aid granted to project partners?
Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE grants direct State aid to affected project partners under General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER) Article 20. The aid granted by the Programme amounts to the whole ERDF budget of the concerned partner(s), up to a ceiling of 2 million EUR of total public contribution per partner and per project.
Is there any way to receive national public co-financing if I receive State aid in the project?
For project partners who intend to receive external public co-financing to their budgets and are State aid relevant, as an exception, the Programme may award the ERDF under the de minimis regime.
De minimis aid would then be granted to the project partner(s) by the Member State Austria and it amounts to the whole ERDF budget of the concerned partner(s). Applicable de minimis threshold applies (per Member State and per undertaking), which may result with the reduction of ERDF contribution from the Programme. Moreover, external public co-financing to be received by the project partner is also State aid relevant.
All partners intending to receive external public co-financing or wishing to apply for it, must include information on additional public co-financing in the application form, section “Origin of partner contribution”.
What is indirect State aid?
When project activities result in advantages given to undertakings outside the project partnership (which they would not have obtained under normal market conditions), State aid is granted to third parties – final beneficiaries of project activities. This is called indirect State aid.
How is indirect State aid granted?
Indirect State aid is granted to final beneficiaries of State aid under GBER Article 20a. Value of indirect aid cannot exceed EUR 20.000 per recipient of aid and per project.
Prior to starting implementation of project activities affected by indirect aid, concerned project partners have to determine the amount of indirect aid to be granted to each undertaking final beneficiary and obtain a MA/JS verification for calculation of aid value.