The future of transnational cooperation: what impact in a changing Europe?
Ivana Lazic from Interact introduced this participatory lab, underlining the positive impact these programmes have had since the 1990s. Three projects were presented to demonstrate the tangible results: CERIecon, cVPP and FireRS, focusing on the key transnational themes of entrepreneurship, energy efficiency and risk management, as illustrated in Panorama Magazine (July 2019). Guest speakers from the institutions contributed to these presentations: Christian Weinberger from DG GROWTH, former MEP Lambert Van Nistelrooij and Andrea Bianchini from DG ENVIRONMENT. Later, three round tables took place on the added value, challenges and new opportunities for transnational cooperation.
Six project representatives took part in the risk management round table: Fernando Aguado (FireRS), Francis Buner (PARTRIDGE), Gregor Gregoric (DriDanube), Karl Kleemayr (RockTheAlps), Vasiliki Kotrini (DISARM), Jonas Westerberg & Else Timms (DiveSMART Baltic). Transnational projects based on a shared geography, culture and understanding are key to tackling complex issues that cross administrative borders. However, the participants also emphasised the challenges of finding partners, the legal and administrative complexities, and internal communication difficulties when implementing such projects. The audience also highlighted the importance of capitalising on this culture of cooperation and strengthening ties between programmes. The project representatives then stressed the need for more extensive dialogue with political representatives and EU institutions to better inform policymakers, and for stakeholders to exchange best practices and successful methodologies.
Participants in the entrepreneurship round table emphasised the need to continue funding joint efforts to promote entrepreneurship education and support small businesses that deliver innovation on the ground, especially if results can be replicated in other regions and scaled up. Based on experiences in different areas – the Atlantic area (AYCH, Oliver Raud), north-west Europe (BioBase4SME, Tanja Meyer), the Baltic Sea region (BaltSE@nior, Beata Fabisiak), central Europe (CERIecon, Violeta Fasulo) and the Adriatic-Ionian region (Francesca Peretta) – transnational cooperation was considered a unique way to join forces across borders and initiate mutual learning processes. The impact is most strongly felt by companies involved in cooperation, which deliver improved products and services that are better accepted by customers.
The speakers at the energy efficiency round table – Jenny-Claire Keilmann (CAN, north-west Europe), Anna J. Wieczorek, (cVPP, NWE), Silvio de Nigris (STEPPING, Mediterranean), Andrea Moro (CESBA MED) and Ellen Leys (2IMPREZS, North Sea) – acknowledged that, while cooperation between countries makes access to knowledge easier, solutions need to be adapted to specific contexts. EU transnational objectives need to match local needs and Interreg’s achievements should be mainstreamed with local policies. All participants mentioned flexibility as a requirement for successful transnational partnerships. Working towards improved energy efficiency can have a tangible, favourable impact on EU citizens. Empowering local communities, be they school children, families facing energy poverty or older people, was deemed instrumental in making transnational cooperation benefit everyone.
Take away message
The added value of transnational cooperation is undeniable, with a true culture of collaboration and mutual learning processes essential for reducing territorial disparities across Europe and capitalising on achievements. However, inter-institutional communication and exchanges of best practices between stakeholders need to be improved to develop stronger public policies, while empowering local communities is key to increasing citizen acceptance.
Have a look at the session's pictures here.
"Interreg projects are extremely important for the future of Europe. Politically, it's very important to scale up these projects. You are award-winners. Be proud of it!" – Lambert van Nistelrooij, former member of the European Parliament and honorary chair of the 2019 REGIOSTARS Jury
"If you just sit in your country and only talk to your partners, you are missing an exciting opportunity! Interreg is about looking outside the box." - Christian Weinberger, Senior Adviser, European Commission, DG Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs
"cVPP is looking into a bottom-up initiative to find alternative ways of organising energy systems. Transnational cooperation was crucial for us." – Anna J. Wieczorek, sustainability transitions scholar, cVPP project leader