I have been reflecting lately on the importance of political level support in co-operation actions, and in a spooky coincidence (either that, or they've been reading my mind), those North Sea people have just produced a perceptive little leaflet on exactly this topic (see www.northsearegion.eu/ivb/news/show/&tid=243).
Politics matters because it is not always immediately obvious to the political level (or to others) that co-operation matters. In comparison to a nice solid road or waste-water treatment plant in your area, the idea of local officials exchanging information or ideas with someone from the other side of the border - or even from the other side of Europe - can sound a bit wishy-washy, a bit suspicious, a bit, dare I say it, like tourism at taxpayers' expense.
These are easy accusations to throw, but, of course, they miss the whole point of co-operation. It is about sharing ideas, learning from one another, building links and better working relationships, all of which help to deliver better results for economic and social development. We achieve nothing without co-operation in any walk of life, and the EU's co-operation policy is only one, positive, demonstration of this.
But to make co-operation work effectively, it needs that political support mentioned above. It needs politicians to recognise the benefits and to stand up for such actions. It needs politicians to say that "okay, this project may not provide you with a new road, but, in a few years time, it may help provide you with a better, cheaper road, as a result of what we learn from other partners in the project now." After all, isn't that what we elect them to do?