Brussels, 16 May 2014
Celebrating European Territorial Cooperation: Four borders, four problems, four solutions
The particular challenges faced by the third of EU citizens who live and work in Europe's border regions will be highlighted at an event that aims to show how EU Regional Policy is helping local people find solutions through European Territorial Cooperation.
More than 8000 ETC projects were supported in Europe's regions between 2007-2013 - in EU Members and non-Member States alike. Most of these have been centred around the EU's 60 internal borders and the citizens who live there. Relatively small in budget, the projects have many concrete outcomes: removing barriers to better security, transport, education, energy, health care, training and job creation.
19-20 May sees the annual meeting in Brussels of the Managing Authorities of the European Territorial Cooperation (ETC) Programmes who monitor these projects. They will be joined by individuals who have benefited from and participated in four flagship cross-border regional projects. Travelling, from different parts of the EU, these doctors, police, craftspeople and students will join representatives of border regions, including the Association of European Border Regions, to share their experiences of how EU cross-border projects have helped to tackle challenges from brain drain, security, health, unemployment and lack of educational qualifications.
Celebrating its 25th anniversary next year, European Territorial Cooperation, also commonly known as Interreg, has become an important cornerstone of European Regional Policy.
EU Regional Policy Commissioner Johannes Hahn said: "Territorial cooperation is at the very heart of the European ideal. These sorts of projects show Europe in action, not just between governments but cooperating at the most local level. We should bear this in mind as we prepare to vote in the European elections. This is a concrete example of what Europe is doing for its citizens – whether in the area of health, security, education or preserving our traditions and culture. European territorial cooperation is about building trust, sometimes between neighbours that were once enemies, bringing people together in their daily lives and ensuring that shared problems are solved together.
He added, "Another important element of these projects has been the part they have played in integrating the EU's newer Member States. As the external borders of the EU are constantly evolving, cooperation with the non-EU neighbouring countries has played and continues to play a crucial role in the enlargement process and the creation of stronger links for further integration, such as with the Balkans."
For 2014-2020, almost €10 billion is allocated to European Territorial Cooperation of which around €6.6 billion will go to cross-border regions. Though Interreg programmes have created significant results over the years, the new period will require each of the 91 programmes to be more focused in terms of results and priorities, in line with the new reformed EU Cohesion Policy. This should ensure maximum impact and even more effective use of the investments.
At this May19-20 meeting, a video contest "Border issues, Border solutions" will be launched to highlight the results and benefits of regional cooperation. The winners will be announced during the European Cooperation Days mid-September in Milan (Italy). Project participants and local representatives will also be available to speak to journalists during the event.
The 4 projects presented
While public spending in higher education is being cut in many Member States,. Six universities (Universität des Saarlandes, Université de Liège, Université du Luxembourg, Technische Universität Kaiserslautern, Universität Trier, Université de Lorraine) from four neighbouring countries joined forces to maintain excellence in academic and research standards for their over 125 000 students and 6 500 researchers and lecturers. This cooperation has increased cross-border mobility connecting students and researchers, and will further develop the Greater Region into a motor of economic growth.
Life threatening land mines along the Croatia‑Hungarian border during the 1990s conflict in former Yugoslavia were uncovered in 2011. The Hungarian authorities declared some of the border area an off-bounds danger site. EU funds have helped remove the mines protecting the population and clearing the way for many cross-border "Natura2000" conservation areas boosting sustainable tourism. The project is part of the EU Strategy for the Danube Region (EUSDR).
Supported by EU investments, health institutions in Romania and Serbia are now among the top medical centres of worldwide telemedicine. The project involves sharing a unique telemedicine system, allowing their doctors to use innovative e-information technologies to provide long-distance health care for patients. This has reduced medical costs, provided for better, faster and safer diagnostics, with a real improvement in health care services on the Romanian-Serbian border.
A threat to the long-standing crafts tradition in this part of Slovenia and Hungary prompted this project. Fewer people were following professional training, forcing some arts and crafts schools to close down. The "Academy of Crafts" project, has helped reverse the creating new opportunities for young people and preserving this cultural heritage. Some 1,000 entrepreneurs took part in this project.
European Territorial Cooperation is a core objective of EU Regional Policy. European regions and cities are encouraged to work together and learn from each other through joint programmes, projects and networks. The main types of cooperation programme are: