Territorial cooperation and territorial cohesion

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Seminar "Territorial cooperation and territorial cohesion" on 25 September 2009 in Brussels

Summary of the discussions
1) Discussion about cross –border cooperation
JC Sinner, (Grande Région) underlines the need to have better coincidence at Euro-regional level between political cooperation areas (as Grande Région is) and programming areas; such a coincidence would allow to link strategies and programmes, and to increase involvement of politicians in programmes. He also proposes to simplify the governance of Interreg projects, which is too complex (eg n+2 rule). Finally, eligible areas should be homogenous across the borders (at present NUTS 3 don't have the same size, eg NUTS 3 are bigger in LU than in DE or FR).
According to W.Bringmann (Netherlands), elimination of bottlenecks (eg for cross border workers) requires multi level governance, involving border regions and central state. In Netherlands, the border regions and the central state have drawn an action plan including central government ministries and addressing 21 specific such bottlenecks. A Task Force with has been set up and a chair was appointed to stimulate progress and formulate a common agenda in consultation with the neighbouring countries. It is intended to organize a conference with the neighbouring countries later this year. He would be interested to exchange on similar experiences at EU level.

C.Marcori (France) recalls that territorial cohesion in cross border context requires addressing territories. Since 1989, when Interreg was launched, progress has been made, but not enough, on fields such as: economic competition across the border; tax problems; lack of territorial data. On this last question, ESPON should contribute; in France, DIACT's Territorial Observatory develops a cross border strand. This requires scientific work and convergence of statistical methods.

Finally, many OP lack strategies and are "catalogues of projects". Instead of small projects with no impact, strategic projects are needed, aiming at cross border integration.

I. Barrios (Canarias, in the name of Outermost regions) summarizes Outermost regions' answer to the consultation, positions in the framework of Conference of Presidents, and CPMR commission. Outermost regions belong to other geographical areas; they have a great experience of cooperation with non Member States; it is for their economic development a necessity, and for EU an opportunity. There is already an action plan "Wider neighbourhood", but it has to be improved (coordination of funds, partnership). Finally, territorial cohesion doesn't mean only cooperation, but also coordination of sectoral policies, polycentrism, and equity.
According to J.Gabbe (AEBR) better programmes are those sharing a common bank account for ERDF and national money; this should be made compulsory. More generally, best practices are well known, it is possible to transfer and adapt them. Bottlenecks have to be suppressed both in national and EU legislations.
H.E.Basch (German Länder), structuring his intervention around the contribution by the German Länder, states that Interreg has been a success, but there are differences between New Members States and others. Stress should be put on strategic issues, such as macro regions. Territorial Agenda, and in the future implementation of Lisbon Treaty, will allow to make progress. EU27 is more complex than EU15, but networking is a major contribution to EU objectives. Mr. Basch also underlines the need for better support for administration of cooperation programmes, as well as more emphasis on exchange of best practice. He also supports a more strategic or focussed approach.
E.Gustedt (ARL), quoting ARL's contribution, insists on the need to coordinate sectoral policies, in particular at EU level between DGs.
J.Urbanik (DG RELEX (External Relations)), confirms that DG RELEX is responsible of conception, and DG AIDCO (EuropAid) of implementation for ENPI CBC programmes (Cross Border Cooperation priority within the European Neighborhood and Partnership Instrument), but there is coordination of this activity with DG REGIO (Regional Policy). Cooperation is conducted on all external borders of the EU in the East and in the South on the level of NUTS 3 regions (land borders) and NUTS 2 (sea basins). Most of the programmes are already working, some of them are in the final phase of preparation.
N.Evrard (AEM) recalls that borders are often mountainous areas; this is a paradox, because mountains are also places where cultures are meeting. He confirms that cross border cooperation has a local development dimension (eg espace Mont Blanc, concerning 3 countries), but that there are governance problems (this area is concerned by 3 cross border programmes). Integrated territorial plan is a good tool, but complex to implement. Another difficulty lies in the fact that some countries like Italy have set up national funds for co-financing, others not. In the name of Communauté de travail des Pyrénées (CTP) he underlines that CTP is an old political cooperation now managing authority for the ES/FR programme. It allows a regional approach on local issues, including urban-rural dimension and medium towns.
M.Pietzowski (EUREGIO) underlines that for EUREGIO, Territorial Cohesion is a crosscutting approach which brings many different players together. One of the most important aspects of Territorial Cohesion is that citizens have to live cohesion. That’s why one of the most important issues in EUREGIO is social-cultural integration and the knowledge of the language of the neighbouring country. Therefore, the issues in Operational Programmes can differ from region to region because of different needs. She recalls that multilevel governance is a daily need in cross border cooperation, because regions cannot solve all problems alone. She also welcomes the Dutch initiative.
M.Roth (Austria) recalls that the current regulatory framework is not suited to cooperation; simplification is still needed. For preparation of an adequate regulatory framework for the next period he proposes an increased and timely inter-institutional dialogue between Member States, EU Commission and EU Parliament to identify a common denominator of particular regulatory needs of all stakeholders.

If Cooperation should be used for implementation of a more strategic approach, it would need more resources. He confirms the need of good governance, and exchanges at EU level. He underlines that the German request for more support for cooperation programmes is currently well matched by INTERACT and invites Germany once more to participate in this programme .

A.Gordevicius (Lithuania) recalls that each territorial level should contribute to territorial cohesion (cross border, but also national, EU). There is a need to align national spatial policies.
2) Discussion about transnational and interregional cooperation
T.Eser (ESPON). ESPON is concerned twice by the discussion: as a cooperation programme itself, and as a tool for cooperation programmes. ESPON is aware of the need of knowledge expressed by the different strands. ESPON's different priorities are concerned: studies about trends, prospective; studies concerning data bases and mapping tools; and also the demand driven priority.
R.Louwers (NWE) thinks that at the moment, though there are many results on the ground, Interreg is not visible enough. The most important is to develop visibility of Interreg at EU level, and not of programmes as such.
M.Morandini (Permanent Secretariat of the Alpine Convention), in the name of common contribution with Carpathian Convention, agrees with the macro regional approach. Alpine and Carpathian Conventions already recognize the specificity of two of the most important European mountainous regions, providing a legal framework for territorial cooperation and instruments for a coherent joint development over national borders. Alpine convention is member of the Alpine space programme's monitoring committee. Carpathian area would need a specific programme, allowing to address the macro-region’s priorities as well as to transfer Alpine Space experiences.
T.Wobben (Rotopi) states that in front of challenges showed by the Regions 2020 study, cooperation is important, and requires Commission's leadership (eg on transport, TEN issues). Reinforcing integration requires capitalisation and mainstreaming; a revised Regions for Economic Change could be a good tool for this. He also stated the need for a direct involvement of the local and regional authorities in the debate about the future development of the Territorial Co-operation Objective.
S.Schreiber (Metrex) recalls that metropoles play a significant role in macro-regions. Several cities are involved in projects of EGTCs. Metrex would welcome another seminar like in this one, devoted to thematic aspects.

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