In the framework of the Interact programme, an interesting report has recently been published which focuses on how to strengthen civil and social society involvement in European interregional cooperation. The paper outlined three pillars to provide a framework for engagement: 1) information – providing information on an issue, 2) consultation – seeking feedback on a project or programme, and 3) engagement – building a community of citizens/stakeholders to participate in decision making.

The report, based on a detailed analysis of a number of Interreg programmes and projects, makes practical recommendations and suggestions in three areas.

Concerning the first area, it is recommended that at the level of Interreg programme management, civil society organisations should be better represented in the national authorities responsible for programme implementation, participate in the activities of the advisory committees and the working groups responsible for project calls and selection of proposals

Civil society organisations should also be involved in the so-called „Technical Assistance” section, which covers the operational costs of Interreg programmes. The way to do this would be to participate in the organisation of trainings that are relevant to building CSO capacity or programme capacity to work with CSOs or engage with citizens.

The second field covers the civic contribution to the priorities of Interreg programmes. As part of this, the programme managing authorities in the participating countries should support as many civil projects as possible in the areas of Interreg’s main objectives, such as competitiveness and innovation, green transition, connectivity, social affairs and inclusion. In addition, more programmes should be launched by 2027 to support the priority ‘Europe closer to citizens’ through regional and local initiatives.

The third area relates to the level of project activities, where civil and civil society engagement would be facilitated by focusing on concrete, tangible issues. The recommendations for Interreg project activities also address communication and dissemination of results. Civil society organisations can be valuable instruments in this process. Efforts should also be made to show how Interreg projects can do ‘something new’ and how CSOs can be engaged with in ways they have not been, how CSOs can help maximise results and develop better projects.

The publication includes a number of good practices and experiences from the world of Interreg, which can be used to build relationships, create new cross-border civil partnerships, and enables social actors to enforce their interests more effectively.

The report is available here.