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, 28 October 2008

Interregional Clanjamfry!

The Border-Crosser has been visiting the INTERREG IV C Forum in Lille (www.interreg4c.eu), and what a scary experience it has been. If anyone tries to tell you that co-operation is not very popular, then you should send them to one of these events. 1200 people networking like fury, with lots of techy briefings on application forms and programme manuals thrown in for good measure (the Border-Crosser gave these a miss, it must be admitted).

Some interesting political elements were tossed into the mix as well, with the key message that, to be and to remain relevant, interregional co-operation needs to link itself much more closely to national and regional programmes. This may seem self-evident - after all, what's the point of exchanging experience and best practice, if the new information gleaned is not put to good use? - but because co-operation has for too long been seen as a parallel and distinct element of Cohesion Policy, this link has not been made successfully, and many good lessons learned have never been fully implemented in the regions concerned.

It seems that this message is finally getting through, which is important for lots of reasons: not least in making a case for getting a much bigger allocation for interregional co-operation than the pitifully small amount of funds allocated this time round. € 300 million for a programme covering the whole EU (which could have been used three times over in the first call alone!) is pretty poor.

The fight for more recognition for interregional co-operation goes on, but things are looking brighter.

And if you don't understand the title, Google it!

Thursday, 23 October 2008

How to start a cross-border morning

You haul yourself into the office, get the coffee on as fast as you can, and then open the several dozen emails that have drifted in overnight. Another day stretches ahead.

And then you get a story like this: http://www.imt.ie/news/2008/10/crossborder_renal_project_wins.html - which gladdens the heart. Exactly the type of good news story needed to demonstrate the benefits that cross-border co-operation can bring.

Makes it all worthwhile, really.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Germany, Poland and tales of co-operation unfulfilled

Not everything works well, and not every example of co-operation is a shining example of cross-border harmony. The German-Polish border shows us what can go wrong and it's worth taking a closer look to try and figure out why.

History is the short answer, but more recent history than you might think. There have been cross-border co-operation programmes along the German-Polish border since the mid-nineties, but it was only with Poland joining the Union in 2004 that the programmes became fully integrated from a financial and implementation point of view. The situation was exacerbated by the fact that there were three programmes along the border, because the three German Laender refused to co-operate with each other in a single programme. Nice.

The real difficulties within the programme appear to have arisen because the German Laender have been basically able to run the programmes as they liked up to 2004. Before then, there was Structural Fund money on the German side, managed by the Laender, and pre-accession funding for the Polish side, managed by the Commission Delegation in Warsaw. Thus, it came as a nasty surprise to the Germans after 2004 when the Poles suddenly started behaving like a - shock, horror - Member State and asking difficult implementation questions and raising doubts about some of the projects the Germans wanted to fund.

Essentially, the three programmes need to operate as fully joint programmes, and, unfortunately, the impression that is given is that both sides of the border are pretty separated from each other. Much work needs to be done.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

It's Open Days time again

This way, that way, up, down, round about. It can only be the Open Days - that regions and cities meeting mega-event in Brussels. 4 days, 7,500 participants (from the EU, from the rest of Europe, Russia, China, Brazil...), goodness knows how many meetings and seminars scattered across around 30 venues. It's networking heaven.

...but it has its downside. If the Border-Crosser has to listen to one more presenter who has clearly never followed a presenting course in his life... well, let's just say it won't be pretty.

Check out all the details on www.opendays.europa.eu.