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.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Co-operation programmes co-operating about co-operating

The 13 transnational co-operation programmes have got together to organise a massive joint conference in Katowice next week (15-16 Sept) on what transnational co-operation has achieved so far and what the future might hold.  Details are available here at the impressive website of the event.

The Border-crosser thinks this is an excellent initiative.  By its nature, co-operation is evidently much more geared towards working across boundaries and looking at what others are doing than other types of programme.  And yet, getting even co-operation programmes to work more effectively with other co-operation programmes is not always so easy.  There are certainly good examples out there: the cross-border programmes on the French-Belgian border involve each other in their programme meetings; the North Sea and Northern Periphery programmes have worked very well together on the Northern Maritime Corridor project.  However, these examples stand out to some extent because they are the exception rather than the rule.

So, anything that gets programmes talking to each other can only be a good thing.  And an event like this, with almost 700 people taking part, and backed strongly by the Polish Presidency, is a very good thing indeed.  And with proceedings being broadcast on the web, even those who can't make it Katowice can follow what's going on.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

How lies the land?

As the Border-Crosser wakes from a very extended period of hibernation, he looks around and asks himself "how lies the land?" Where does co-operation sit in autumn 2011? What has happened since the last time the Border-Crosser put fingers to keyboard?

Well, the big news to start with is that the Commission's financial proposals for the 2014-2020 are out (click here). They were issued in June, and will be followed by all the draft sectoral regulations before the end of 2011. Then the fun starts, as the whole process gets pulled apart in the Council and the Parliament until some time in 2013 (springtime, if you want the Border-Crosser's best guess).

So how did co-operation do from a funding point of view? All told, pretty well it must be said. A proposed allocation of EUR 11.7 billion, equivalent to an almost 40% increase on the current figure (when you put them into comparable prices.) Certainly not as much as some in the co-operation world were hoping for, but in the overall economic context, and in the general EU budget squeeze, not to be sniffed at.

Certainly, it's not as much as the Commission proposed last time, but we know what happened when that proposal reached the Council (slashed, for those that don't know.) This time round, the proposal looks a more realistic starting point. In addition, the much stronger role of the Parliament is likely to help, as there are a lot of friends of co-operation in the Parliament, especially on the REGI Committee. That should mitigate Council (and some Commission) tendencies to cut away at the co-operation budget when savings are required. Finally, the development of the macro-regional strategy approach provides a stronger justification than has existed before for increasing the transnational co-operation funding in particular.

So, grounds for optimism.  However, there needs to be proof that co-operation is delivering now, otherwise there will undoubtedly be pressure to squeeze the budget during the negotiation phase.  Therefore, over the coming weeks, the Border-Crosser will be looking at what has been happening in the ETC programmes over the last year or so to assess progress.  Feel free to chip in and comment on what you have seen as well.