Everyday tales and stories from the border regions of Europe and beyond, with the aim of explaining why we border-crossers are as obsessed as we are about this subject, why it is important to all of us, and why the co-operation community needs a little bit more visibility than it normally gets.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

We have a winner!

The INTERREG IV C interregional programme was approved today (11 September). It is thus the first of the new territorial co-operation programmes to be approved - congratulations to those who chose "other programme" in this blog's poll to predict the first programme approved.

The IV C programme has very sensibly kept the "INTERREG" brand in the programme title as it's much better known and much easier to say than European Territorial Co-operation. They do not appear to have a website set up yet, although there is some info on the preceding programme's website (www.interreg3c.net/web/fic_en). The website www.interreg4c.eu is "reserved" which might be worth watching.

Watch out for the programme's big launch conference in Lisbon next week and for a rapid launch of the call for projects. The new funding period is up and running!

Monday, 10 September 2007

PEACE lessons learnt and shared

I have found a link to the above seminar on lessons from the PEACE process in Northern Ireland, which I have mentioned in previous postings. It will be held on 10 October in Brussels, as part of the Open Days series of events. It should be worth attending, especially for those facing similar challenges in their regions. You can find more information here: tinyurl.com/2eqe9d

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Programme of the week

The Ireland-Northern Ireland cross-border programme is managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (www.seupb.org), which is a joint cross-border body set up by the British-Irish agreement of 1999 especially to run this type of co-operation programme. They also run the Peace and Reconciliation programme, which runs parallel to the cross-border programme and is focussed on bringing the different communities in Northern Ireland and the border counties of Ireland together.

Both programmes are undergoing changes with the new programming period. The cross-border programme will now include areas of South-West Scotland, as a result of the widening of the definition of "maritime cross-border". This offers extra opportunities for co-operation on tourism, transport and environmental issues and is causing much excitement in Scotland (see declaration of the Irish Taoiseach and the (previous) Scottish first Minister here - http://www.scotland.gov.uk/News/Releases/2006/11/13165243). Meanwhile, the PEACE programme will now be a cross-border programme, legally speaking, rather than a regional development programme. This will offer some extra challenges for co-ordination between the two programmes, as well as meaning that project partnerships will have to be constructed quite carefully.

The SEUPB website is well presented and laid out, although navigation at times could be more straightforward. There is evidently so much experience to glean from the two programmes, but extracting it from the web is sometimes problematic. An example of this is the rumours I have heard about a conference in early October to publicise the success of the PEACE programme for other parts of the world facing similar challenges (Cyprus, the Balkans, the Middle East). A great idea, I hope all will agree, but it is impossible to find anything on the website at present. I will keep watching.

More questions than answers

I see that my friends in the INTERACT programme have talked the Commission into doing another online question and answer session next Friday (14 September). This gives the INTERREG community the chance to put as many questions as possible to the Commission on all things co-operation, and the Commission then runs around like headless chickens trying to provide coherent answers. It's quite amusing to try and picture it, actually.

More seriously, it's a great way to get a rapid answer to tricky questions, and it's certainly a good way to build up links within the whole community. Indeed, sometimes the best answer may come from someone dealing with another programme, rather than from the Commission.

Sign up at http://www.interact-eu.net/4107/0/0/1366305 to join the fun.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Crossing African borders

The complexity and challenges facing Africa's borders make the problems in Europe seem relatively minor in comparison. It is encouraging to see, therefore, that efforts are being made to address these issues.

The impressive West African Borders and Integration website (www.afriquefrontieres.org) gives much useful information about some pilot actions being carried out in the region on cross-border co-operation. They have a cross-border diaries and podcast section - well ahead of the EU in this respect. On the other side of the continent, there appears to have been a "Cross Border Initiative" of the World Bank a few years back (www.worldbank.org/afr/findings/infobeng/infob58.htm) but there does not seem to have been much since. It also seems to have been less focussed on getting local people working together and more on trade and competition issues, which is all well and good, but will not bring the local populations together as effectively.

At the continental level, the African Union has begun to set up a pilot cross-border programme as well. It is very difficult to find any information on the web, but a Google search provides this: www.africa-union.org/root/au/Conferences/2007/june/PSC/7/Final_draft_Declaration.doc. Fine words, and a decent amount of focus on the local level, but this is clearly very early days.

Finally, to see what might be possible, have a look at this site (maloti.opencms.co.za) dealing with South Africa-Lesotho nature conservation. I am not sure why they need two national sites for a co-operation project, but the project demonstrates the potential that exists for environmental protection, tourism and managed economic development. Time for an African INTERREG, perhaps?