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A Maturation Framework for INTERREG Programmes

Arno van der Zwet

The last two decades have witnessed a surge in territorial cooperation arrangements across the EU. This paper engages with on-going academic and policy debates around the contributions of territorial cooperation. Addressing the well-recognised difficulties in evaluating their contributions, the analysis sets out a nuanced framework in which to evaluate territorial cooperation, which is sensitive to quantitative and qualitative results of cooperation. Crucially, the analysis focusses on the 'maturation' process of territorial cooperation programmes and proposes a framework in which key characteristics of territorial cooperation efforts are identified - motivation, scale, intensity, governance structures, themes, measurements and impact -as variable in accordance to different phases of maturity. In doing so, the paper addresses a significant gap in the literature on territorial cooperation and a significant practical challenge for policy makers. The analysis focusses on INTERREG programmes; the EU's primary policy instrument for supporting territorial cooperation. Evidence is drawn from data that was gathered as part of a three-year research project (ESPON TERCO) and consists of an analysis of INTERREG programme documentation. Furthermore, 35 semi-structured interviews with programme officials were conducted in five targeted INTERREG case studies: Flanders - Netherlands, North Sea Region, Czech - Slovakia, Slovenia - Austria and the Central Baltic Programme.

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