€1.1bn for environmental protection projects in northern Portugal

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The European Commission has approved a Regional Operational Programme for the region Norte in Portugal for the period 2007-2013. The Operational Programme falls within the Convergence Objective framework and has a total budget of around €4.3 billion. Community investment through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) amounts to some €2.7 billion, which represents approximately 12.3% of the total EU investment for Portugal under the Cohesion Policy for 2007-13.

The promotion of better technological standards in the regional economy is clearly at the core of the objectives set for the Operational Programme. This is expected to enhance the competitiveness of the regional economy on a sustained basis, the domains of which include entrepreneurship, collective services provisioning, environmental protection, urban development, transports, and tourism. The aim of the programme also includes stronger social and territorial cohesion due to better employment quality and conditions and the provision of a wide range of good quality collective services, particularly in rural and less favoured areas.

The Operational Programme is structured along the following six priorities:

Priority 1: Competitiveness, innovation and knowledge [approximately 29.0% of total funding]

Interventions based on this priority are mainly aimed to reinforce the regional productive basis, thereby fostering international competitiveness of sectors operating in tradable goods. Firms in non-traditional sectors should be primarily supported, insofar as they are technology-based and contribute to the improvement of technological standards of firms operating in traditional export sectors (e.g. textile and clothing). The relative weight of innovative and technology based firms in the regional economy is expected to increase significantly.

Priority 2: Economic enhancement of specific resources [approximately 10.3% of total funding]

The goal is to make better use of local resources and specific assets, such as the landscape (tourism), the sea (fishing and related industries, tourism, ship building) and cultural and creativity endowments (in domains such as fashion, architecture and art). Actions that enhance collective entrepreneurial efficiency will also be sought.

Priority 3: Environmental and territorial enhancement and development [approximately 28.4% of total funding]

Environment protection actions will mainly cover natural and technological risk prevention, urban waste treatment, environmentally endangered area recovery (such as polluted soil, deserted mines) and seaside and river basin resources management. Territorial development interventions will primarily aim to improve the quality of a wide variety of collective services, such as water supply and wastewater treatment, education, sports and health care. The support to less favoured or disabled groups in society (elderly people, immigrants, drug addicts) is also foreseen.

Priority 4: Urban system development [approximately 23.8% of total funding]

Intervention in this field will primarily promote competitiveness and innovation in urban networks, notably by stimulating collective entrepreneurial efficiency in the framework of inter-urban cooperation. Intervention in deprived urban areas will also be sought in order to deal with the main pending social and environmental problems. This priority will also seek to improve urban mobility (investment in micro logistics, support to public transport), discouragement of automobile use in favour of walking and cycling. Finally, a small investment will be allocated to improve the connectivity of the regional urban system.

Priority 5: Governance and institutional enablement [approximately 5.2% of total funding]

Three key intervention domains will be covered under this priority :

increasing the use of new technologies in public administration services, including municipalities, in order to improve the quality, efficiency and co-ordination of the services provided;

decentralising public services to enhance citizen and enterprise accessibility;
strengthening institutional capacity at regional and local levels.

Priority 6: Technical assistance [approximately 3.2% of total funding]

Technical assistance will be used to implement systems and to lay the foundations for a sound coordination, management, monitoring, control and evaluation of the Operational Programme.

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