CARDS (Community Assistance for Reconstruction, Development and Stabilization) is the EU programme of technical and financial assistance adopted in December 2000. Its basic goal is to support the active participation of South-Eastern European countries in the Stabilisation and Association Process. Besides Croatia, beneficiaries of this programme are Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, FYROM and SR Yugoslavia. The programme will cover the period ending with 31 December 2006, and its total value amounts to 4.65 billion €.
In line with the Council Regulation on the CARDS Programme No. 2666/2000, of 5 December 2000, the CARDS programme is used for:
- Reconstruction and the return of refugees;
- Creation of an institutional and legislative framework to underpin democracy, the rule of law and minority rights, the civil society, the independence of the media, the strengthening of legality and measures to combat organised crime;
- Economic reforms;
- Social development, with particular reference to gender equality, education, teaching and training and environmental rehabilitation;
- Development of closer relations among recipient countries, between them and the European Union and between them and countries which are candidates for membership in the European Union;
- Fostering regional, trans-national, cross-border and interregional co-operation among the beneficiary countries and between them and the European Union.
The assistance is in the form of grants for financing institution-building and investment programmes. The direct beneficiaries are state administration bodies at all levels, public or semi-public bodies, institutions providing support to businesses, cooperatives, associations, foundations and non-governmental organisations. The funds may also be used for co-financing of projects.
There are two envelopes of the CARDS programme: the national and the regional one. The national envelope targets CARDS countries individually. In Croatia this component is programmed and implemented by the EC Delegation in cooperation with the national bodies. Regional component beneficiaries are all CARDS countries jointly, and programming and implementation of this component are centralized in the EC services in Brussels. Activities pertaining to this component have been conceived as complementary to activities within national programmes in the areas where joint efforts could lead to better results.