INTRODUCTION TO EMBEDDING
EU funding opportunities targeted to the EUSDR objectives are key factors in improving the coherence and well-being of the participating states of the Danube Region. The process of embedding the EUSDR objectives and actions into the 2021–2027 European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF), programmes, equivalent instruments for non-EU countries as well as centrally managed EU programmes has been highlighted in the 2nd Commission Report on the Implementation of MRS and is closely followed by DG Regio. Following these insights, in 2019-2020 the Croatian EUSDR Presidency with support of the Danube Strategy Point, the EUSDR National Coordinators and the Interact programme formulated a Guidance Paper on embedding the Danube Strategy into EU programmes and established a Task Force to draft a comprehensive tool, which aims at coordinating the implementation of the EUSDR Action Plan with the EU’s priorities as well as the priorities of the involved pre-accession and neighbouring countries for the next financing period 2021 – 2027. To ease the embedding process Priority Area Coordinators were asked to compile a shortlist of up to three strategic topics per PA, based on the EUSDR Action Plan, to be included in the relevant national/regional operational programmes. In the case of PA2, these are the following:
ACTION 1: To further explore the sustainable use of clean biomass, solar energy, geothermal, hydropower and wind power to increase the energy independency and to promote and support multipurpose cross border RES utilisation projects.
ACTION 2: To promote energy efficiency and use of renewable energy in buildings and heating systems including district heating and cooling and combined heat and power facilities
ACTION 7: To explore new and innovative solutions of (subsurface) energy storage
More information on the embedding process is available here.
EU FUNDS AND PROGRAMMES TO CONSIDER FOR PA2 ACTIVITIES
The EU Cohesion Policy contributes to strengthening economic, social and territorial cohesion in the European Union. It aims to correct imbalances between countries and regions. From its eight funds, the following are relevant for PA2 activities:
The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) aims to strengthen economic, social and territorial cohesion in the European Union by correcting imbalances between its regions. In 2021-2027 it will enable investments in a smarter, greener, more connected and more social Europe that is closer to its citizens. PA2 activities align with policy objective PO2: greener, low-carbon transitioning towards a net zero carbon economy and resilient Europe.
The ERDF finances programmes in shared responsibility between the European Commission and national and regional authorities in Member States. The Member States’ administrations choose which projects to finance and take responsibility for day-to-day management, therefore application happens at national levels through ERDF-fed “operative programmes”.
The Cohesion Fund (CF) provides support to Member States with a gross national income (GNI) per capita below 90% EU-27 average to strengthen the economic, social and territorial cohesion of the EU and to reduce economic and social disparities. For the 2021-2027 period, the Cohesion Fund concerns the following EUSDR countries: Bulgaria, Czechia, Croatia, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.
Similarly to the ERDF, the Cohesion Fund finances programmes in shared responsibility between the European Commission and national and regional authorities in Member States. The Member States’ administrations choose which projects to finance and take responsibility for day-to-day management. The Cohesion Fund supports investments in the field of environment and trans-European networks in the area if transport infrastructure (TEN-T).
To address the specific challenges of the European Green Deal achieving climate-neutrality of the EU by 2050, the Commission has introduced the Just Transition Mechanism that provides targeted support to carbon-intensive territories which will need to restructure and/or diversify their economy, maintain social cohesion, and, (re)train the affected workers and youth to prepare them for future jobs. These regions are characterized by the concentration of extractive industries (hard coal, lignite, peat or oil shale) and related energy production as well as carbon intensive industries (e.g. cement, steel, aluminium, fertiliser or paper production), which will pose a significant challenge to them in this transition.
The Mechanism has 3 pillars:
- The Just Transition Fund (JTF) is a new instrument of the Cohesion Policy 2021-2027 and supports the territories most affected by the transition towards climate neutrality to avoid regional inequalities growing, in line with EU cohesion policy’s aim to reduce regional disparities and to address structural changes in the EU.
- The InvestEU scheme will be implemented under the InvestEU programme that can support investments in the framework of the Territorial Just Transition Plan (TJTP) in a wider range of projects, such as projects for energy and transport infrastructure, including gas infrastructure and district heating, but also decarbonisation projects, economic diversification and social infrastructure.
- The Public Sector Loan Facility will combine €1.5 billion of grants, financed from the EU budget, with €10 billion of loans from the European Investment Bank (EIB), to mobilise between €25 and €30 billion of public investment that will meet the development needs of just transition territories. This instrument will exclusively target public entities, providing support to projects that do not generate a sufficient stream of own resources to be financed commercially. Projects are expected to include investments in all types of public infrastructures, such as in the area of energy and transport, district heating networks, energy efficiency measures including renovation of buildings, as well as social infrastructure. Support to fossil fuels related investments is excluded.
European Territorial Cooperation (ETC), better known as Interreg provides a framework for the implementation of joint actions and policy exchanges between national, regional and local actors from different Member States. It aims at helping to ensure that borders are not barriers, bringing Europeans closer together, helping to solve common problems, facilitating the sharing of ideas and assets, and encouraging strategic work towards common goals. Interreg is built around three strands of cooperation: cross-border (Interreg A), transnational (Interreg B) and interregional (Interreg C).
Interreg A cross-border cooperation programs (CBC) supports cooperation between NUTS III regions from at least two different Member States lying directly on the borders or adjacent to them. It aims to tackle common challenges identified jointly in the border regions and to exploit the untapped growth potential in border areas. In the 2014-2020 period it comprised 60 individual programs, such as the Interreg V-A SI-AT, AT-CZ, SK-AT, AT/D-Bavaria, AT-HU, D/Bavaria-CZ, SK-CZ, SK-HU, SI-HU, HU-HR, RO-BG, HR-BiH-MNE, HR-RS, RO-RS, HU-RS, BG-RS,RO-MD, RO-UA, HUSKROUA programs. Planning of 2021-2027 period is at various stages at different program levels (selection of thematic priorities, SEA process, elaboration of program documents, etc.). First calls are expected ~ Q3-Q4 2022.
Interreg B – Transnational Cooperation involves regions from several countries of the EU forming bigger areas. It aims to promote better cooperation and regional development within the Union by a joint approach to tackle common issues. In the 2014-2020 period it comprised 15 individual programs, from which Danube Transnational Program and Central Europe Program are the most relevant for EUSDR PA2:
Danube Transnational Program (DTP) is the one which fully covers the territory of the EUSDR. The programme main (energy related) goal is to contribute to the reduction of region’s dependency on imported fossil fuels by facilitating a better integration of renewable energy sources and consequently greening the energy and transport sectors (SO 2.2: Increasing the share of renewable energy in the Danube Region), in line with the results of the territorial analysis. The proposed role of DTP 2021-2027 is to serve as a catalyst for ideas with a transnational added-value, an enabler and a policy driver (e.g. preparation for large investment in energy projects to be financed later from other sources – in line with the philosophy of embedding). Types of Actions include:
- Development of strategies and policies aimed at low-carbon energy production
- Harmonised actions as regards to heating and cooling systems
- Actions aimed at reducing GHG emissions in the transport sector
- Joint planning of infrastructure for the utilisation of renewable energy sources
- Development of incentive policies to encourage the renewable energy production based on available resources
- Development of common orientations, frameworks and strategies in fields of transnational relevance
- Preparation of transnational investments
- Pilot activities including small-scale fixed investments
- Development and practical implementation of transnational tools and services
- Development and practical implementation of training and capacity building
- Accompanying information, dissemination, capitalisation and publicity measures
First calls are expected in Q1 2022 (2 stage proposals).
Central Europe Program (CE) is eligible for D, CZ, AT, SI, HU, SK and HR from the EUSDR countries. PA2 activities will fit into Priority 2: Cooperating for a greener central Europe, and SO 2.1 Supporting the energy transition to a climate-neutral central Europe. Potential fields to be addressed in transnational actions (non-exhaustive list) include:
- Smart integration of carbon-neutral solutions across sectors
- Renewable energy sources
- Energy efficiency of buildings and public infrastructures
- Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from industry and other sectors
- Energy planning at local and regional levels
- Energy demand management and behavioural change
- Financing schemes for energy efficiency and renewable energy investments
- Energy poverty
First calls are expected in Q4 2021 (1 stage proposal).
Regarding the other Intrerreg B Transnational Cooperation Programmes that partly cover territories of EUSDR countries the following has to be mentioned:
The future Adriatic-Ionian Programme (SI, HR, BiH, SRB, MNG) and the Mediterranean Programme (SI, HR, BiH, MNG, BG) have close links with the EUSAIR priorities and objectives. Nevertheless the territorial analyses highlighted the needs for decarbonisation and switch to renewable energy sources, both topics high on the PA2 agenda.
The future Alpine Space Programme (AT, SI, D) has close links with the EUSALP priorities and objectives. However its Priority 2: “Carbon neutral and resource sensitive Alpine region” and Specific objective: “Promoting energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas has close links to PA2 goals.
Interreg C – Interregional Programs cover the Interreg Europe Program, which will continue to support interregional cooperation among regions from all across Europe. The intervention logic has changed: in the 2021-2027 period the former 4 thematic priorities will be replaced by only one cross-cutting priority of capacity building with the specific objective to enhance the institutional capacity of policy responsible organizations: public authorities and relevant stakeholders. About 80% of funding will go to policy areas (1) Smarter Europe, (2) Greener Europe, and (3) More social Europe. First calls expected in Q1 2022 (1 stage proposal).
The Connecting Europe Facility Programme (CEF) will continue to fund trans-European networks and infrastructures in the sectors of transport, telecommunications and energy (large-scale investment projects) in the 2021-2027period.
The CEF Transport part of the programme will support the development and modernisation of railway, road, inland waterway and maritime infrastructure, as well as promoting safe and secure mobility. Priority will be given to further development of the trans-European transport networks (TEN-T). The CEF Energy part of the programme will support the further integration of the European energy market, improving the interoperability of energy networks, facilitating decarbonisation, and ensuring security of supply. Funding will also be available for cross-border projects in the field of renewable energy generation. When defining award criteria, consistency with EU and national energy and climate plans, including the principle of ‘energy efficiency first’, will be taken into account.
The Horizon Europe Programme is the EU’s key funding programme for research and innovation which focuses on industrial leadership and tackling major societal challenges, maximising the competitiveness impact of research and innovation and raising and spreading levels of excellence in R&I. PA2 related topics fit Pillar II: Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness, and within that cluster “Climate, Energy and Mobility”. The 2021-2022 work program is already available. Intervention areas are:
- climate science and solutions
- energy supply
- energy systems and grids
- buildings and industrial facilities in energy transition
- communities and cities
- industrial competitiveness in transport
- clean, safe and accessible transport and mobility
- smart mobility
- energy storage
Calls are open from June 2021, for the actually open calls visit the EU Funding and Tender Portal
The LIFE Programme is the EU’s funding instrument for the environment and climate action. The LIFE Clean Energy sub-programme aims at facilitating the transition towards an energy-efficient, renewable energy-based, climate-neutral and -resilient economy by funding coordination and support actions across Europe. Areas of intervention are:
- Building a national, regional and local policy framework supporting the clean energy transition;
- Accelerating technology roll-out, digitalisation, new services and business models and enhancement of the related professional skills on the market;
- Attracting private finance for sustainable energy;
- Supporting the development of local and regional investment projects;
- Involving and empowering citizens in the clean energy transition.
The first LIFE multiannual work programme spans over a period of four years (2021-2024) and is under adaption. Calls for proposals are published at the CINEA website and on the EU Funding and Tender Portal.
The Visegrád Fund was stablished in 2000 by the governments of the Visegrad Group countries —Czechia, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia to promote regional cooperation in the Visegrad region (V4) as well as between the V4 region and other countries, especially in the Western Balkans and Eastern Partnership regions, therefore has a good spatial overlap with the EUSDR. The Visegrad Grants should involve at least 3 V4 countries, whilst the Visegrad+ Grants at least 3 V4 countries and 1 entity from the EaP region or the Western Balkans countries. Projects must clearly address one of the objectives of the program (not clearly energy related topics):
- Education and Capacity Building
- Public Policy and Institutional Partnership
- Regional Development, Environment and Tourism
There are three regular calls for applications open 30 days before the deadlines of submission on 1 February, 1 June, 1 October.
The European City Facility supports municipalities, local authorities, their groupings and local public entities aggregating municipalities/local authorities in Europe with tailor-made, fast and simplified financial support (in the form of EUR 60,000 lump sums) to enable them to develop relevant investment concepts related to the implementation of actions identified in their climate and energy action plans. The 3rd Call is expected in Oct-Nov 2021, while the 4th Call in May-June 2022.
Finally a general tool to overview and select currently available funding possibilities and open calls is provided by Euro-Access