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European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR)

IPA III planning and programming

Planning and programming of assistance to candidate countries and potential candidates is organised as follows:

  • IPA III Programming Framework 2021-27

The IPA III Programming Framework is the overarching strategic document for the programming of IPA III funds for the duration of the 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF). It replaces the indicative country and multi-country strategy papers that served as the basis for the programming of EU financial assistance under the previous instrument, known as IPA II.

The IPA III Programming Framework reflects the specific objectives of the IPA III Regulation and focuses on the priorities of the EU’s enlargement process. Under IPA III, programming of EU assistance is programmed according to five thematic Windows, which mirror the clusters of the negotiating chapters as per the revised enlargement methodology. The thematic windows are:

  • Window 1: Rule of law, fundamental rights and democracy;
  • Window 2: Good governance, EU acquis alignment, good neighbourly relations and strategic communication;
  • Window 3: Green agenda and sustainable connectivity;
  • Window 4: Competitiveness and inclusive growth;
  • Window 5: Territorial and cross border cooperation.

In addition, a number of cross-cutting themes, such as climate change, environmental protection, civil society, gender equality and rights-based approach, are mainstreamed and therefore implemented under the five windows.

  • Bilateral actions

In line with the IPA III Programming Framework, bilateral annual actions are prepared according to a two-stage programming process. In the first stage, IPA III beneficiaries prepare strategic responses outlining how their overall policies and sectoral strategies are in line with the recommendations and requirements of the specific policy instruments of the enlargement process, and how the proposed actions would contribute to the objectives of IPA III Programming Framework. The Commission then makes a first selection of actions based on policy relevance. The selected actions are further developed into fully-fledged action documents by IPA III beneficiaries. The Commission subsequently makes a second selection based on technical maturity. Only actions that are sufficiently technically mature are considered ready for adoption

  • Regional/multi-country actions

Regional/multi-country actions are complementary to bilateral actions. They are prepared on the basis of the IPA III Programing Framework by the Commission, in consultation with IPA III beneficiaries and other key stakeholders, to address issues of regional nature, and whenever the regional approach allows for greater efficiency than bilateral actions.

  • Cross-border cooperation programmes

IPA III continues to support cross-border cooperation (CBC) between IPA beneficiaries (IPA-IPA CBC) and between IPA III beneficiaries and Member States (Interreg-IPA CBC), and to financially support participation of IPA III beneficiaries in European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) transnational and interregional cooperation programmes. IPA-IPA CBC assistance is programmed as multi-annual programmes covering the entire IPA III implementation period , while the Interreg-IPA CBC and ERDF transnational and interregional cooperation programmes are developed as part of the European Territorial Cooperation programming process.

  • Rural development programmes

The IPA III rural development assistance is provided on the basis of relevant priorities set out in the IPA III Programming Framework and the agriculture and rural development strategies of each IPA III beneficiary. Assistance is programmed as multi-annual programmes for each IPA III beneficiary, covering the entire period of the IPA III implementation.

IPA II planning and programming

Planning and programming of assistance to candidate countries and potential candidates is organised as follows:

  • Indicative Strategy Papers

The Strategy Papers are the overarching strategic planning documents that set the priorities and objectives for the 7-year period. They replace the Multi-annual Indicative and Planning Documents (MIPDs) used until 2013.

The indicative Country Strategy Papers provide the frame for financial assistance foreach individual IPA II beneficiary. They identify key sectors where substantial improvements and reforms are necessary for beneficiaries to advance on the path to EU membership. For each of these, the Strategy Paper also defines the results expected to be achieved by 2020 through the assistance, the actions that are necessary to reach them, as well as identifies indicators that will allow monitoring of progress towards achievement of those results.

Similarly, an indicative Multi-Country Strategy Paper highlights priorities and conditions for horizontal support to sector policies and reforms (including assistance to civil society), regional structures and networks, regional investment support, as well as territorial cooperation including cross-border cooperation programmes.

  • IPA II Programmes

The priorities outlined in the Strategy Papers are translated into detailed actions, which are included in annual or multi-annual Action Programmes. IPA II Action Programmes take the form of Financing Decisions adopted by the European Commission.

The bulk of the assistance is channelled through the Country Action Programmes for IPA II Beneficiaries, which are the main vehicles for addressing country-specific needs in priority sectors as identified in the indicative Strategy Papers.

Multi-Country Action Programmes aim at enhancing regional cooperation (in particular in the Western Balkans) and at adding value to the Country Action Programmes through other multi-beneficiary actions.

Cross-Border CooperationProgrammes represent the focus of assistance in the area of territorial cooperation between IPA II beneficiaries, another important form of financial assistance.

Assistance for agriculture and rural development is also addressed via Rural Development Programmes.


IPA funded activities are implemented and managed in various ways, in accordance with the Financial Regulation:

  • Under direct management; i.e. the implementation of the budget is carried out directly by the Commission until the relevant national authorities are accredited to manage the funds.
  • Under indirect management; i.e. budget implementation tasks are delegated to and carried out by entities entrusted by the Commission; they can be:
    • the IPA II beneficiary or an entity designated by it (one of the main objectives of IPA II is to encourage beneficiaries to take ownership and responsibility for implementation; indirect management by the IPAII beneficiary is therefore expected to become the norm);
    • an agency of a Member State or, exceptionally, of a third donor country;
    • an international organisation; or
    • an EU specialised (but not executive) agency.

In other words, the Commission delegates the management of certain actions to external entities, while still retaining overall final responsibility for the general budget execution.

  • Shared management; i.e. implementation tasks are delegated to EU member states (only for cross–border cooperation programmes with EU countries).

In the context of direct management, Sector Budget Support is yet another tool for delivering pre-accession assistance and achieving sustainable results under IPA II. It consists of financial transfers to the national treasury account of an IPA II beneficiary and requires performance assessment and capacity development, based on partnership and mutual accountability. It is delivered through Sector Reform Contracts.

Monitoring and evaluation of assistance

As under IPA II, IPA III includes a comprehensive monitoring mechanism with a review of overall performance of the progress in achieving results at the strategic, sector and action levels (i.e. results-based performance), in addition to monitoring of financial execution. Under IPA III the performance measurement is based on indicators set out in the IPA III Programming Framework and the annual and multi-annual programmes, while under IPA II it was based on indicators set out in the indicative Strategy Papers and the programmes.

Under IPA III, the IPA monitoring committees (Commission and beneficiaries) also continue to assess the overall effectiveness, efficiency, quality, coherence, coordination and compliance of the implementation of all IPA-funded actions. Under IPA III the focus is on assessing how assistance meets the objectives set out in the financing agreements, the IPA III Programming Framework and the Strategic Response.

IPA III assistance is subject to evaluations, in accordance with Article 34 of the Financial Regulation, and Chapter V of Title II of the NDICI Regulation. Evaluation aims to improve its relevance, coherence, quality, efficiency, effectiveness, impact, Union added value, sustainability, and synergy with the relevant policy dialogue.

Key documents