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.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Project Record for South-East Europe

A number of the new co-operation programmes have evidently been worried about receiving very high numbers of project applications, causing much work for programme staff, and much disappointment for applicants, with all programmes having limited budgets. This has resulted in some programmes adopting a two stage process, with expressions of interest as a first step, and then full applications being invited from a limited number of projects only.

This is a good strategy on paper, but it does run a major risk - as expressions of interest (EoIs) are easier to write, there could be a lot more of them, as applicants think that there is nothing to lose at that stage. And so it seems to have proved.

First up was the new Mediterranean programme, which received a massive 531 EoIs in response to its first call. A month or so later, this was smashed by the South-East Europe programme, which set a new record of a frankly quite terrifying 821 EoIs. The Border Crosser is very glad not to be working in the programme secretariat.

All of this is, of course, good news. There is clearly enormous interest in co-operation across most of Europe. The South-East figures were especially good if you consider 1 in 4 of the 5,400 partners in the submissions came from outside the Union, and 1 in 3 of those came from Serbia. They really are so co-operative down there.

Of course, the real test will be on project quality and how relevant the content actually proves to be. But that is for later on. Now, anyone going to beat 821?

North Sea Environmentalists

I may have said this before, but those North Sea people are very clever. Not only do they have an excellent website, but they give the impression of having really thought things through. Their upcoming energy seminar in Aberdeen (see conference list on the right) is just the type of thing that Europe should be encouraging at the moment.

However, what caught my eye was the little link at the bottom of their conference page on Travel Compensation. Basically, this is a nice piece of moral blackmail about offsetting your carbon costs of getting to the conference - I say offsetting, because the other option - changing your transport type - is unlikely to be possible, unless your planning to swim Aberdeen. They even helpfully provide a form with a list of offsetting organisations and their websites.

Now, how do we get everyone doing this?

Thursday, 21 August 2008

The borders of the United States

The USA may have only 2 land borders, but what it lacks in numbers, it more than makes up for in length. The border with Canada, at 8, 891 km is the longest in the world, while the Mexican border is certainly not the smallest at 3,169 km.

The American approach to these borders has always been very different, although the differences have narrowed somewhat since 11 September 2001. On the Canadian border they have the International Boundary Commission (http://www.internationalboundarycommission.org/) responsible for keeping the border demarcated; they also have the delightful Meet Me At the Border site (http://www.meetmeattheborder.com/) which is a very good information source for those living and working at or near the border. This would be quite a good idea for some of the larger European borders too.

It is interesting to note the increasing restrictions being introduced along this border from the point of view of travel documents and the evident concern being created, especially on the Canadian side about the impact of cross-border business. Contrast this with the advances brought about by Schengen in Europe and ask yourself which continent is heading in the right direction and which isn't...

In contrast, down south, we have sites like this - http://www.americanborderpatrol.com/ - which, scarily, seems to be one of the milder sites about border control issues with Mexico. Despite this, a bit of Internet digging threw up the "Agreement for Regional Progress" (www.sos.state.tx.us/border/arr.shtml) between Texas and 4 north-east Mexican states which is as close to a Euroregion-type declaration that I have seen in North America. Admittedly, the site was a little short on info since the signing in 2004, but I count any such agreement as grounds for optimism.

I do get the feeling that this is only scratching the surface on border issues across the Atlantic, and we may return to this topic in later posts.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Fun and games in the Arctic

The Border-Crosser has always been a bit sceptical about maritime cross-border co-operation. After all, how can it be truly cross-border if you cannot even see the other side of the border, never mind walk there?

Maritime border issues and disputes are another matter altogether, as this BBC story from yesterday shows(http://tinyurl.com/67foms). Evidently, this all links in with the oil and mineral resources that are beginning to be found up north, and it can cause some interesting clashes. Global warming is also having an impact, with some potential sea routes now much more attractive than in the past.

The tensions being created by Russia's current aggressiveness will not surprise most observers, but there are also disputes between the USA and most of Europe on the one hand and Canada on the other over access to the North-West passage (or Canadian internal waters as it is known north of the 49th parallel). There is also the example of a classic border disagreement between Canada and Denmark over Hans Island (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_Island). When you get ministers flying in to bury bottles of alcohol on specific pieces of territory, you know this world is going slightly loopy.