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Special report: Sneak preview of the conclusions of the EGTC project!

09 April 2010

EGTC is one of six URBACT projects that will end before summer. Its seven partners worked relentlessly for two years to improve cross-border cooperation between cities, focusing on governance. This is a rich and complex topic, but also a key challenge for a number of European regions. Leading up to their final conference (6th and 7th May), here is a look at their initial results, with Ludivine Salambo, project coordinator for MOT (Mission Operationnelle Transfrontalière), an association providing technical assistance related to the implementation of networks in French cross-border areas.

Today, in the EU27, cross-border cooperation between cities covers a number of very different realities, including such examples as the Franco-German bridge over the Rhine, the Franco-Spanish hospital in Puigcerdá, joint promotion of tourism, and joint management of public transport networks. The projects, be they operational or related to a joint development strategy, are linked to the challenges each region faces and often have an impact on the heart of the local cities.

The structures that provide operational frameworks in the 60 cross-border conurbations currently inventoried in Europe are themselves varied. Some are satisfied with a simple cooperation agreement, while others have formed non-profit associations, or have chosen the EGTC approach (European Grouping for Territorial Cooperation), a European legal instrument founded in 2007 and managed by the Committee of the Regions. EGTC enables different countries to work together in decision-making bodies related to cross-border projects and is complementary to existing instruments in this area.

"Since URBACT's EGTC project was launched in May 2008, the goal has been to create a network for sharing experiences; that is why the partners needed to reflect the variety of situations in terms of scale, but also in terms of priorities and partner structures," explains Ludivine Salambo, who is responsible for legal issues at MOT, the Lead Partner. This was the case of the six cities and urban areas that got together in the project (see sidebar).

Governance structure: a tool to help projects

Still in an experimental phase, governance is a key factor in cross-border cooperation between cities. "Due to the complexity of governance, it is often experienced as a project in itself, while it is only a framework for working together and putting means in common in order to develop actions that improve the life of inhabitants."

By choosing governance as a central theme for its Local Action Plans and discussions, the EGTC project was first able to identify leads for improving this cooperation: how to get organised politically, technically and financially? The Chaves seminar (Portugal) and discussions led to the beginnings of several conclusions that are independent of the type of structure chosen: the importance of putting together a dedicated technical team to ensure regular project monitoring; the necessity of ensuring a link between the technical and policy levels; and also the interest there is in developing ambitious projects that attract media coverage in order to get local elected officials to support them.

Although the EGTC is not given as a universal governance model, the work done helped to better identify its added value: its great organisational flexibility and the possibility to bring to the table all the players that could contribute to bringing the project to a successful conclusion, including the state. "If offers the advantage of structuring the dialogue and of perpetuating cooperation."
During the URBACT project, the Eurodistrict of Strasbourg-Ortenau, which until now had been organised via cooperation, decided to put together an EGTC.

During the project, the MOT itself felt the need for a structured framework for exchanges: "In addition to the difficulties inherent to language and cultural difference, as well as different political contexts, the large number of people involved, many of whom often have other roles within the municipalities, is one of the major challenges of cross-border collaboration."

Creating measures to involve civil society.

Another EGTC Project conclusion is that joint policy will be all the better accepted if it takes into account the expectations of citizens and of social and economic players. This was the topic of the seminar held in Tournai (Belgium), which was an opportunity to present a number of pending initiatives among the project partners and elsewhere in Europe. Among the ideas mentioned were PPT_Tournai_workshop1, often sports-related, involving inhabitants from both sides of the border, but also PPT_Tournai_workshop2 and the creation of PPT_Tournai_workshop2 within the governance structure that enable civil society to address institutional decision-makers directly. "It is necessary to communicate about cooperation and cross-border life in order for the population to support the project."

The cross-border issue is a key national and European priority

All throughout the EGTC project, partners also discussed recommendations to send to European and national institutions. "Conurbation are a place for experimenting community policies; as a result, we need to support their development."

These leads for improving the future, presented on 6th and 7th May, concern notably the designation of a dedicated European commissioner and the constitution by the European Commission of an intergroup in charge of cross-border cooperation in order to arrive at a transversal approach similar to the one set up for urban development. The partners also intend to bring to the attention of 2013-2020 Cohesion Policy decision-makers their desire to see EGTC's get comprehensive subsidies.

The partners are taking the example of the fruitful Spanish-Portuguese dialogues on the topic of healthcare (Eurocidade Chaves-Verin), inviting states to multiply the number of frameworks for dialogue border by border. Using the MOT model, creating tools to help on a national level is also being encouraged to accompany project leaders and to act as relays between the national and local levels."

Sharing experimentations at a European level has been fruitful. It would be interesting to create a network of EGTCs that could support the development of future Euroregional groupings for cooperation." The new EGC legal instrument, based on how EGTCs operate, will be open to the 47 Council of Europe Member States. It will be set up during the second half of 2010 and will facilitate setting up cross-border conurbations within countries that are not members of the European Union.

Not to be missed!

During the final conference to be held on 6th and 7th May, the EGTC project will distribute a number of documents aimed at other cities involved in cross-border projects.

  • A Handbook will bring together the various lessons learned over the two years of working together, along with the methodology used by the partners for developing their own local action plans, the main lessons learned from the project, and recommendations for the national and European levels.
  • A communication booklet will present a summary of what is found in the handbook, along with details about the local action plans in CD-rom format.




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The EGTC Project Partners:
- Mission Opérationnelle Transfrontalière (MOT),
- Lille Metropole for the Eurométropole Lille-Kortrijk-Tournai (F/BE),
- The conurbation of Strasbourg for the Eurodistrict Strasbourg-Ortenau (F/DE),
- Esztergom for the EGTC Ister-Granum (HU/SK),
- Basel Stadt for the Trinational Eurodistrict of Basel( F/DE/CH),
- Slubice for the Frankfurt(Oder)-Slubice conurbation (DE/PL),
- Chaves for the Eurocidade Chaves-Verin (ES/PT)


 
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