The CARDS programme (2000-2006)

The CARDS programme is intended to provide Community assistance to the countries of South-Eastern Europe with a view to their participation in the stabilisation and association process with the European Union.


Council Regulation (EC) No 2666/2000 of 5 December 2000 on assistance for Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, repealing Regulation (EC) No 1628/96 and amending Regulations (EEC) No 3906/89 and (EEC) No 1360/90 and Decisions 97/256/EC and 1999/311/EC (See amending acts).


Most Community assistance for the countries of South-Eastern Europe was until now provided under Regulation (EC) No 1628/96 establishing the OBNOVA programme and Regulation (EC) No 3906/89 establishing the Phare programme. This Regulation repeals the OBNOVA Regulation and amends the Phare Regulation, and establishes a single framework for assistance to the countries of South-Eastern Europe: the CARDS programme (Community assistance for reconstruction, development and stabilisation). The instrument for pre-accession assistance (IPA) replaces it starting in 2007.

The following are eligible for Community assistance: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, entities under United Nations jurisdiction and administration, federal, regional and local bodies, public and semi-public bodies, the social partners, organisations providing support to businesses, cooperatives, mutual societies, associations, foundations, and non-governmental organisations.

However, in Croatia, only programmes and projects that have a regional dimension are eligible for Community assistance. Croatia, which was recognised as a candidate country at the Brussels European Council of 17 and 18 June 2004, may henceforth benefit from the pre-accession strategy and instruments.

The objective of the CARDS programme is to enable the countries of South-Eastern Europe to participate in the stabilisation and association process. It covers in particular:

Community assistance is subject to respect for the principles of democracy, the rule of law, fundamental freedoms, human and minority rights, and the implementation of the democratic, institutional and economic reforms envisaged.

A strategic framework is established for the 2002-2006 period, which sets the programme's long-term objectives and priority fields of action. On the basis of this framework, multiannual indicative programmes are drawn up for three-year periods for each country. These describe the reforms to be carried out and include an assessment of the progress made and indicative amounts. Annual action programmes are then adopted. These provide precise details of the objectives, fields of action and budget, as well as the specific projects to be financed.

Community assistance may take the form of investment and institution building programmes.

Participation in invitations to tender and contracts is open to all natural and legal persons from Member States, states which are recipients under this Regulation and candidate countries. Participation by countries which are recipients under the TACIS and MEDA programmes may also be authorised by the Commission.

In implementing this Regulation, the European Commission is assisted by the CARDS Committee, which examines all questions relating to the programme.

The CARDS budget for the 2000-2006 period totals EUR 4.65 billion.

Every year the Commission submits to the European Parliament and the Council a progress report on the Community assistance to the countries of South-Eastern Europe. The Council must review the Regulation before 31 December 2004 on the basis of an evaluation report drawn up by the Commission and submitted to the Council not later than 30 June 2004.

Under the Regulation, the recipient countries may participate in the activities of the European Training Foundation and the Tempus III programme.



Entry into force - Expiry

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Regulation (EC) No 2666/2000

07.12.2000 - 31.12.2006


OJ L 306 of 07.12.2000

Amending act(s)

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Regulation (EC) No 2415/2001



OJ L 327 of 12.12.2001

Regulation (EC) No 2257/2004



OJ L 389 of 30.12.2004

Regulation (EC) No 2112/2005



OJ L 344 of 27.12.2005


Council Regulation (EC) No 1085/2006 of 17 July 2006 establishing an Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) [OJ L 210 of 31.07.2006].

CARDS programme of assistance to the Western Balkan countries

Regional Strategy paper CARDS 2002-2006 This strategic framework, adopted by the Commission in October 2001, allocates a maximum of EUR 197 million for the 2002-2004 period to assist the countries covered by the CARDS programme. Its main objectives are to resolve the regional problems in that area and to promote regional cooperation between the countries in question. The fields of action of the strategic framework are:

The annex to the strategic framework contains the multiannual indicative programmes for each country. They cover the 2002-2004 period.

Last updated: 05.02.2007