This Regional Programme was launched in 2003 in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" and Kosovo*. With its three components (institutional capacity building, heritage rehabilitation and local development), it contributed to peace and reconciliation in a region undergoing complex political, legal, economic and social transition.

Supported by the European Commission in several of the projects, the Regional Programme emphasized the notion of "local development" as a concept covering the following aspects: acknowledgement of the diversity of the territories as a source of vitality and value; the setting up and implementation of sustainable development; a connection between countries and the opening up of the region to the rest of Europe; an integrated approach to conservation, planning and development issues.

If the Regional Programme originally focused mainly on post-conflict challenges in South-East Europe, it shifted increasingly towards development processes. Based on a trans-national approach, it attached particular importance to issues related to the multiple cultures and religions of the Balkans. The ultimate challenge was the long-term reconciliation between individuals and communities, a necessary pre-condition for setting up solid and sustainable regional cooperation.

Apart from its general objectives, the Regional Programme provided a global exchange of expertise and experience between neighbouring countries facing similar situations in the fields of protection, conservation, rehabilitation and enhancement of cultural and natural heritage. Strong emphasis was placed on urban and rural management, democratic and participatory processes, and the improvement of living conditions and quality of life. The Regional Programme thus helped to establish a new set of regional processes to encourage the emergence of a new kind of society where long-term development projects through dialogue and the participation of all, in the collective interest, is crucial for ensuring democratic stability and social cohesion.

Components of the Regional programme Components of the Regional programme