Three pre-programmes have been set up for countries that wish to join the European Union, namely: ISPA, SAPARD and PHARE. ISPA is a pre-accession instrument for structural policy granting assistance for environmental protection and transport projects. SAPARD is the special pre-accession programme supporting sustainable agricultural and rural development.

PHARE programmes have been running since 1990 in Hungary, and focus on supporting institutional development and investments. PHARE is the forerunner of the Structural Funds, whilst ISPA is the forerunner of the Cohesion Fund, and SAPARD is the forerunner of the agricultural funds. From 2000 on, PHARE has been mainly focusing on economic and social cohesion, prioritising institution building, with special regard to the "twinning" programmes and connecting supporting investments. The "twinning" programme ensures the opportunity for Hungarian professionals to increase the efficiency of their organisations by working together with European Union colleagues. Beyond the national level, the "twinning" programme will be gradually extended to cover regional authorities, such as development agencies and local governments. PHARE will no longer provide investment support for transport, the environment or rural development in the following, since these areas will be fully delegated to the scope of competency of the other two instruments. 

The new instruments that have been running since 2000 have bought about substantial changes, namely: three pre-accession programmes now operate, instead of the previously operating single pre-accession programme, and the financial framework is now double its original value. However, the way in which the three instruments operate according to completely different rules and regulation may cause problems.  


PHARE (Pologne, Hongrie Aide à la Reconstruction Économique) is an EU pre-accession fund that was set up in 1989, with the objective of supporting economic structural transformations in Poland and Hungary. The scope of the PHARE Programmes was extended to include other countries in 1996; consequently, the Programme now operates in 13 countries of the region. The launching of two other pre-accession programmes, namely ISPA and SAPARD, brought about a shift in the orientation of the PHARE Programme as well. 

Within the scope of Agenda 2000, the European Commission recommended that the PHARE Programme should focus on preparing candidate countries for EU membership. Institution building implies adaptation and strengthening of democratic institutions, public administration and other organisations responsible for the introduction and implementation of Community legislation. This also covers training public servants, public service officials, professionals and the competent players of the private sphere, as well as providing appropriate instruments for this scope of individuals


ISPA (Instrument Structurel de Pré-Adhésion) is a European Union pre-accession fund set up in 1999, with the main objective of preparing candidate countries for the receipt of funding granted by the Cohesion Fund, in addition to finding solutions to specific problems setting back accession in the area of environmental protection and transport infrastructure.   

ISPA projects are characteristically larger than PHARE or SAPARD projects, since they must have a considerable impact on improving environmental protection or transport infrastructure networks. In theory, the total expenditure of individual projects must not be less than 5 million Euros.  

Investments in environmental protection and the transport infrastructure must be distributed evenly, i.e., individual countries are required to allocate an equal share of ISPA funding in the two sectors. 

The Directorate General of the European Commission for regional policy (DG Regional Policy) shall manage the ISPA programming phase, with the assistance of Commission Delegations responsible for implementation. As opposed to the PHARE programme, ISPA shall define a financial memorandum for individual projects.


SAPARD (Special Accession Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development) is a European Union pre-accession fund set up in 2000 to support sustainable rural development, more specifically, to grant funding – primarily for private businesses and small producers - for agricultural, food industry and foodstuffs quality, as well as tourism projects. The SAPARD Programme offers assistance to candidate countries for the adoption of the Acquis Communautaire, also including preparation for operating the Structural Funds and the European Agricultural and Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAGGF). The requirement to compile a 7-year (2000-2006) agricultural and rural development plan constitutes the fundamental precondition for the transfer of SAPARD assistance. The ministries of agriculture of the given countries publish the calls for applications for SAPARD assistance.