Inter-Municipal Cooperation – IMC

Inter-Municipal Cooperation (IMC) takes place when two or more Municipalities agree to work together on any of the tasks assigned to them in order to gain mutual benefits.

IMC implies a relationship between two or several local authorities (ie entities in the first level of territorial administration) having a status of legal persons, endowed with competences, powers and resources in accordance with the European Charter of Local Self-Government.

IMC is the result of a deliberate decision and not just the mechanical implementation of a legal provision. Agreement is voluntary, rather than imposed by the law, although the law may sometimes strongly encourage or even oblige municipalities to look for co-operative solutions.


IMC aims to achieve the following objectives in different areas:

  • Health Care: Ensure availability of basic health care services (general medicine, health education, dental care…) to all citizens within a larger area, avoiding duplication of efforts and enhancing their quality (better professional skills and technologies);
  • Welfare support and social assistance: Develop jointly welfare services with a limited number of beneficiaries and related infrastructure (e.g. housing, elderly care); harmonise social policy in a territory where many families cross municipal borders, providing visible and effective support for vulnerable people;
  • Environment: Harmonise environmental policy in areas of common interest by achieving political coordination and consensus on goals and measures to reach them;
  • Education services: Build, manage, and maintain shared school facilities to offer higher level of education in rural areas and prevent closure of classes for lack of pupils;
  • Economic and territorial development: Harmonise strategic planning and perform joint studies on local development for a larger area. Improve territorial marketing to tap tourism potential. Support development of business incubators and markets;
  • Urban Planning: Develop single urban plans for larger area to rationalise other policies (housing, enterprise zones, roads…) and deal effectively with issues that cross municipal boundaries (eg social housing, transport…);
  • Cultural equipment and events: Harmonise cultural development policy. Share management of key sports and cultural facilities to optimise their use. Organise festivals and cultural events to gain better press coverage and attract more visitors from other municipalities.

Mode of operation

Once all preliminary studies and negotiations have been successfully completed, a formal procedure is necessary to create the legal basis for the IMC. Unless it is just a ‘handshake agreement’, there are two legal forms that may be selected: (a) a contract or (b) the creation of a new institution as a separate legal entity.

The procedure and the regime will be very different in these two cases, and they will be different from one country to another due to the different legislation. The method will be set out in national legislation, and the procedure will depend on the kind of legal basis that has been chosen for the IMC. The municipal Assembly of each municipality will need to adopt the contract or statute, generally by a vote that authorises the Mayor to sign the document.

Different incidents can happen during this procedure. Public opposition may be expressed in the municipal Assembly – by citizens or the media before or after the vote. Any appeal can be addressed to a Court by the opposition or any person with the capacity to do so, in order to contest the legality of the content of the contract or of the procedural steps.

Once the procedure has started, no amendment can be added to the contract or statute in any of the partner municipalities; changing the text unilaterally would prevent a final agreement.

To know more about IMC implementation, please refer to the IMC Toolkit developed by the Council of Europe

IMC’s expected results

IMC aims to achieve the following results:

  • Encourage a more co-operative political culture; this can be particularly beneficial where partner municipalities are governed by different political parties;
  • Share a common economic development challenge and having greater visibility is more successful in bringing jobs and investment into an area than a fragmented approach
  • Develop a greater sense of solidarity between the partner municipalities;
  • Create more opportunity for engaging local organisations in local self government (NGOs, sports club, cultural associations, etc) and contribute to building up social capital;
  • Encourage municipalities to explore the opinion of public-private partnerships for specific activities.

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