The implementation of a EUR 40 million Interreg IPA cross-border cooperation programme between Croatia and Serbia for the 2014-20 period was launched in the eastern Croatian town of Vukovar on Wednesday.

The programme covers four eastern Croatian and five western Serbian counties with a population of 2.3 million.

Olja Georis of the Croatian Regional Development Agency said the programme was aimed at strengthening the social, economic and territorial development of the border area by improving welfare and health services, environment and nature protection, risk prevention, energy efficiency, tourism, culture, the natural heritage, competitiveness and business development.

She said EUR 34 million from the programme came from European Union funds, while the remaining EUR 6 million was co-financed by the two countries. She said the first call for project proposals valued at EUR 15 million was advertised yesterday, with projects ranging from EUR 300,000 to EUR 1 million. She said the call was open to public bodies, non-profit organisations, schools, universities, health and welfare institutions.

European Commission President Vicente Rodriguez Saez said work on the programme took two years and that it was approved at the end of 2015. We expect this programme to result in many new possibilities on both sides of the border, connecting people from the regions involved in the programme and contributing to their understanding and cooperation, he said.

"We have many examples of good cooperation between the border areas of Serbia and Croatia and the results that have been achieved are visible. I'm confident that this project too will yield excellent results. There is great interest on both sides of the border," said Ana Ilic of the Serbian government's European Integration Office.

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