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Commissioner for Regional Policy
European Cooperation Day – Sharing borders, growing closer
European Cooperation Day/Brussels
18 September 2012
Dear colleagues from the European Parliament,
Dear friends of territorial cooperation,
Today is a very special day. For the first time ever, we celebrate territorial cooperation in the European Union.
Amid intense preparations for the next programming period, let's take the time today to step back and reflect on what cooperation means and what we have achieved. We have never done this before on the scale we are with our first official Cooperation Day.
77 cooperation programmes across the European Union are joining in the celebrations this year.
They are showing citizens from border regions how important it is that we work together and that this is what European integration is all about.
There are currently 93 cooperation programmes implemented across the Union. Most of them are dedicated to cross-border cooperation, on internal EU borders but also on borders with candidates and potential candidates and on neighbourhood borders. Others operate on a transnational basis, tackling issues across larger zones which present common features, share common opportunities or tackle common challenges. A few operate at European Union level, searching for excellence and good practice in cooperation, exchanges of experience in areas like urban development or spatial planning.
Together these programmes finance thousands of projects, each of which is a truly European project. Not only because it is financed by "European money" but because it brings together partners from different countries, directly building Europe. We need hundreds, no thousands, of projects to build the Europe we want to see.
What characterises the cooperation projects is that they bring people together from sometimes very different horizons. They help build trust. They foster mutual understanding. These are cornerstones for any long-term partnership. They are essential ingredients of European integration.
I want to take this opportunity to thank all those involved in cooperation for their dedication, their open minds and their commitment to the European ideal.
We often hear that cooperation projects and programmes are overly complex – and yet, participation in the programmes does not falter. They are popular and there is still the same enthusiasm as there has always been. Complexity – whether real or perceived – does not deter those who see the benefits of territorial cooperation.
As to the future: The European Commission, Council and Parliament are working hard to further improve the legislative framework for regional policy, including territorial cooperation. A substantial increase in funding for cooperation has been proposed and is supported by Parliament. This is a clear recognition of the importance and added-value of cooperation.
But we cannot be complacent. In the context of the current financial and economic crisis, budget constraints and austerity measures, we are more than ever obliged to scrutinise our expenditure. The ETC funding will come under pressure. Every one of us has a duty to ensure governments understand cooperation is not a luxury item, but one of the essential basics of regional policy. We must more than ever ensure that all regional policy funding including ETC is used effectively and efficiently. We will do this by putting greater emphasis on defining and monitoring results.
Future cooperation programmes will have to step up a gear when it comes to effectiveness and results. The European Commission will work closely with each programme to ensure this is done in a spirit of partnership.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Europe is at a crossroads. The crisis has sharpened our minds. It has made us think harder of how best we use public finances to promote and maintain sustainable growth and to create jobs for everyone. The reform of Cohesion Policy that I have been defending over the past 3 years is about reaching exactly those objectives. And Territorial Cooperation has an important contribution to make.
I am delighted that this first ever celebration of territorial cooperation is taking place. I want to thank INTERACT for this initiative and for their efforts to make this European cooperation day a success. And I would like to thank my own committed team in DG REGIO.
I urge all of you to take part in events which take place in your regions. I myself will join local events in Vienna on Friday.
Let this initiative be a resounding success and let it be the first of a long series of European events to ensure territorial cooperation gets the recognition it deserves.