North Aegean: Cohesion Policy design and implementation in an island context

This study analyses the implementation of an Integrated Territorial Investment (ITI) targeting small islands of the North Aegean Region in the 2014-2020 programming period, considering observed patterns of development in recent years and in the broader context of Cohesion Policy implementation. Outputs of this analysis serve as basis for recommendations for the design and implementation of a corresponding ITI in the 2021-2027 programming period. The study is a spin-off of the ESPON BRIDGES project, which explored opportunities and challenges linked to geographic specificities.

The analytical frameworks for the analysis of how insularity may affect territorial development is therefore applied to the specific situation of an archipelago region. The North Aegean region includes three large islands (Lesvos, Chios and Samos), each of which belongs to a different NUTS 3 region. There are also two intermediate size islands, Lemnos and Ikaria. All these large and intermediate islands have airports. The region also includes four smaller inhabited islands: Agios Efstratios south of Lemnos, Psara and Oinousses respectively west and east of Chios and Fourni and Thimena between Samos and Ikaria. The North Aegean region is therefore characterised by situations of double insularity, i.e. with smaller islands whose “mainland” is a larger island.

The ITI is a territorial tool for the implementation of a Cohesion Policy Programme. An ITI shifts parts of the management and implementation of a programme to a level that is appropriate for an integrated territorial development approach. This is done by setting up an intermediate body to which the Managing Authority delegates certain programme implementation tasks, e.g. the dialogues with potential beneficiaries, elaboration of call texts, selection of projects to be funded, compilation of data for progress monitoring. An ITI is also meant to help coordinate the use of ERDF and ESF allocations from the Regional Operational Programme with other sources of funding. This can for example be national cohesion policy programmes, other EU programmes, and European Investment Bank funding instruments. This makes it possible for increase the leverage of individual sources of funding, and to increase to total funding available in the targeted territory. ITIs are usually set up in a top-down way, but are designed and implemented on the basis of a multi-stakeholder approach.

In the case of the North Aegean Region, the ITI set up in the 2014-2020 programming period did not meet the initial expectations. According to regional stakeholders, this is linked to the ITI design. In the absence of a coordinated, joint strategy for all islands, the ITI was perceived as an earmarking of funds to smaller islands rather than as a mechanism for integrated and strategic development. They also highlight the lack of knowledge of ITI principles and objectives among local authorities and stakeholders, the understaffed re-gional authorities, the insufficient administrative capacities and the lack of technical expertise.


ESPON BRIDGES spinoff_North Aegean.pdf

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