The Technical Assistance to Connectivity in the Western Balkans (CONNECTA) is an EU-funded technical assistance contract whose overall objective is to assist in the development and completion of the core transport and energy networks in the Western Balkans region and to support the Digital Agenda for the Western Balkans in line with the Western Balkans strategy COM(2018)65.

The CONNECTA facility contributes to the preparation of high priority transport, energy and digital connectivity infrastructure projects, ensuring their technical and economic viability, in order to bring them to maturity for investment co-financing and provides support for the preparation and implementation of short and medium-term regional connectivity reform measures (CRMs) in the Transport sector, such as road and rail maintenance schemes, rail reform, road safety and Intelligent Transportation Systems. In the context of lengthy project preparation processes, it contributes to a shorter and more flexible mobilisation of technical assistance by filling gaps in project preparation and/or accelerating project cycles for key transport, energy and digital projects. This results in a more rapid completion of the project documentation, increasing the number of projects mature enough for investment co-financing. Thus, CONNECTA boosts the Connectivity Agenda and supports the development of transport, energy and digital interconnections within the Western Balkans and between this region and neighbouring EU Member States. It also supports the indicative extension of the Trans-European Transport network (TEN-T) core corridors to the Western Balkans and the alignment with the relevant EU policies of TEN-T standards.

CONNECTA can get involved in any project phase from for example feasibility studies and cost benefit analyses through designs, assistance in tendering and studies on e.g. maintenance of built infrastructure. It generally does not get involved in the supervision of works. Within its technical sectors of transport, energy and digital, it can work on all modes of transport and on several facets of energy. These are explained in more detail in Criteria for CONNECTA involvement in a project. The Terms of Reference for CONNECTA are also included in this website for more background. 

CONNECTA and related Technical Assistance (TA) mechanisms in the Western Balkans

The Western Balkans Investment Framework (WBIF) provides technical assistance for the preparation and implementation of high priority infrastructure investment projects. Once approved by the WBIF Steering Committee, technical assistance (TA) grants are implemented either directly by the lead Financial Institution associated to the project or through an Infrastructure Project Facility (IPF) financed with IPA Multi-country programme funds. Unlike individual procurement for each approved TA grant application, IPFs are large service contracts offering a pool of consultants. TA is largely requested for preparing project documentation (such as pre-feasibility studies, general designs, feasibility studies, preliminary designs, environmental impact assessments, detailed designs, tender dossiers, etc.), bringing infrastructure projects to maturity for investment co-financing.

DG NEAR has set up support through CONNECTA. This is a technical assistance facility for transport, energy and digital project preparation, as well as for support to connectivity reform measures in transport (CTRM). CONNECTA’s tasks cover all facets of project preparation and in a variety of transport, energy and digital areas as long as the candidate project is considered more critical and as such cannot wait for the longer IPF cycles. CONNECTA offers the advantage of a quicker and more flexible process managed by the Commission. From its on-going assignments it also has the advantage of know-how on several facets of CTRM.

JASPERS (Joint Assistance to Support Projects in European Regions) is an advisory services partnership between the European Commission and the European Investment Bank, which provides independent advice to EU Member States to help prepare high quality infrastructure projects to be co-financed through the European Regional Development Fund and the Cohesion Fund. Since 2013, JASPERS has been expanding its services to the IPA beneficiaries (initially to North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, since 2016 to all IPA beneficiaries including Turkey). JASPERS’ main role is to contribute to enhancing the quality of infrastructure projects to investment maturity, in line with requirements associated with IPA financing. It supports beneficiaries in scoping and supervising the work of consultants tasked with the preparation of the necessary project documentation. In addition, JASPERS offers assistance to beneficiaries for the preparation of their sector strategies and project pipelines, to improve programming and to foster institutional capacity. The IFI Coordination Office (IFICO) is a consultancy service contract aiming to support the WBIF and ensure better coordination and cooperation between the IPA beneficiaries, the EC, the IFIs and bilateral donors. IFICO supports particularly the WBIF Secretariat and the WBIF Steering Committee. The IFICO provides a range of technical, management and communication services to support coordination among all WBIF stakeholders, including capacity strengthening to IPA beneficiaries, for example on the preparation of WBIF grant applications.  

All the above instruments are being managed or coordinated by DG NEAR (some in cooperation with the EIB).

The Commission also provides direct grants to the Energy Community and the Transport Community Permanent Secretariat for implementing connectivity reform measures in transport and energy.