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.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Into the Baltic

The South Baltic cross-border programme is having its launch event today in Gdansk, which is a good a reason as any to take a closer look. It's a brand new programme, created as a result of the expanded approach to maritime cross-border co-operation (anything up to 150km). Even then, the programme wouldn't exist if the island of Bornholm was not conveniently located just under 150km from almost everywhere.

This results in a five country cross-border programme, which is almost a contradiction in terms in itself, stretching across the whole southern Baltic Sea. It involves Sweden, Poland, Denmark, Lithuania and Germany (in roughly that order of enthusiasm). The Swedes were so delighted to get support for the programme that they were happy to let the Poles manage it: the Poles seem to want to manage every co-operation programmes they are involved in.

To be fair, the programme has made a good start. To be even fairer, the advantage of Poland managing so many co-operation programmes is that they are actually rather good at it, and have put in plenty of resources to get this programme moving forward. Consequently, despite the complexity of the partnership, and the fact that it is completely new, the programme is at the same stage of implementation as many more experienced programmes.

Having said all that, I still have my doubts. Maritime co-operation, by its nature, is not the same as land-based cross-border co-operation. Even close maritime co-operation is different, although it has sufficient similarities with terrestrial co-operation that it can be justified (and has been shown to work in some places). But cross-border co-operation across the southern Baltic? This is most of the way towards transnational co-operation, which is a very different kettle of fish.

It will be interesting to see the results that come from the South Baltic and how cross-border they truly are. On one level, it may not seem to matter much - once eligibility for cross-border co-operation is achieved, it is unlikely to be taken away at a programme level, no matter what the results (witness Greece-Cyprus for an example). But, on a higher level, too many poor or uninspiring results in too many programmes, and people could start to question the whole cross-border co-operation policy. And that would be a heavy price to pay for allowing long-distance maritime co-operation as a political compromise.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Being involved on a maritime cross-border program, I share your doubts. If they can work in some areas where the shores are not too far away and linked by a tunnel or bridge, they don't work properly elsewhere. Projects are more similar to transnational or interregional ones and clearly do not have any cross-border value. Let's face it, the political will of some regions to get their own program is killing the cross-border co-operation spirit.