European Week of Regions and Cities
7-10 OCTOBER 2019 Brussels

Idea lab on the future of transnational Interreg cooperation

What does it take to improve European cities and regions? How can they be made future-ready? For more than 20 years transnational cooperation has helped finding answers to such crucial questions. But what will the future bring? We want to brainstorm with practitioners and policy makers about the future shape of transnational cooperation. A keynote speech will present the niche and added value of transnational cooperation today. Participants can then actively contribute by sharing and discussing ideas in smaller groups. Outcomes of this session will inform the policy debate on the future shape of transnational cooperation.

Participatory sessions
Territorial development (regional, urban, rural)

Session summary

What does it take to improve European cities and regions? How can they be made future-ready? For more than 20 years, transnational cooperation has helped to find answers to such crucial questions.

In our transnational Interreg Idea Lab we brainstormed with practitioners and policy makers about the future shape of transnational cooperation. The session was kicked-off by a keynote speech by Thomas Wobben, Director for Legislative Works at European Committee of the Regions, who pointed out the niche and added value of transnational cooperation. Mr Wobben reflected on the Commission’s proposal on the future of Cohesion Policy that is, according to him, lacking a long-term vision.

He underlined the role of the European integration process that, supported by Cohesion Policy, should bridge the antagonistic forces of unity and diversity in Europe. The role of Interreg cooperation is to build bridges. This is well appreciated by regional stakeholders and the continuation of transnational cooperation should be guaranteed in view of the Committee of Regions and the European Parliament. Thomas Wobben emphasised that cooperation programmes deliver clear impact to their territories and should be supported by the new regulations with a proper scheme, even integrating new ways on working together.

In the ensuing “world café” debate, participants discussed opportunities, challenges and limits linked to the future of transnational cooperation in European functional areas and in macro regions. They reflected on contributions that transnational cooperation offers to the regions in these distinct areas. Respecting an area's specific economic, environmental, and societal challenges and needs, transnational cooperation plays a crucial role for cities regions beyond regional or national borders. Cooperation delivers tools, policies and networks that take innovation and regional development forward.

In terms of future topics to be covered by transnational cooperation, there was a tendency to keep a certain flexibility within the set frame of the policy objectives in order to answer to specific needs of regions and cities. Future cooperation should be nevertheless focused on linkages and on useful outputs and results.

Take away message

Transnational cooperation builds trust beyond borders and fosters European integration for a more competitive Europe.

Current cooperation areas are the right scale for building effective partnerships. Regions and cities in the existing programme areas share similar challenges and cultures, which facilitates trust-building and seamless cooperation. Thousands of businesses, universities and organisations have found that when regions and cities work closely together, they all become stronger.

We at the Committee of Regions are in favour of Interreg transnational cooperation. Transnational cooperation supports macro regions but it should also support functional areas that have a specific historic background and common challenges and needs.

 Thomas Wobben, Committee of the Regions

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