Cross-border cooperation, a voice for local and regional authorities in Euro-Mediterranean relations

A report on cross-border cooperation was adopted today by ARLEM, the body of the European Committee of the Regions in charge of Euro-Mediterranean relations. The report focuses on the contribution of local and regional authorities to cooperation processes in a changing Mediterranean.

Since their launching under the European Neighbourhood Policy in 2007, cross-border cooperation programmes have played an important role in turning territorial needs into tangible initiatives implemented in response to shared challenges, including among others inclusive and sustainable development, job creation and climate change.

The participation of local and regional authorities (LRAs) in cross-border cooperation programmes has been significant, LRAs representing for instance almost 20% of the actors involved in the 2007-2013 ENPI CBC Mediterranean Sea Basin Programme.

How to build on this momentum and reinforce the ownership of cross-border cooperation programmes by LRAs, ensuring that funded projects address priority issues for territorial development and provide tangible solutions to citizens’ everyday problems?

These questions are central to a new report, drafted by the President of the Autonomous Region of Sardinia Francesco Pigliaru, and adopted during the 8th plenary session of the “Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly” (ARLEM), which was held on 22-23 February 2017 in Malta*, as part of the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Within the European Committee of the Regions, ARLEM aims to foster a direct dialogue between Mediterranean elected representatives and the European Union as well as to promote interregional cooperation.

The report was designed following consultations with ARLEM members, EU institutions, Ministries, networks, civil society organizations and managing authorities of cross-border cooperation programmes. 

While analyzing the recent political transformations in the Mediterranean and the most crucial issues the area is facing – political tensions, conflicts, economic instability, migration flows, youth unemployment, environmental degradation – the report highlights the capacity of LRAs to transform challenges into opportunities by “reinforcing cooperation and working on innovative and shared solutions and approaches to sustainable and inclusive development”.

In addition, the report examines the results achieved by different types cross-border programmes, including IPA II (dedicated to Eastern Mediterranean countries that are candidates or potential candidates for EU accession), Interreg V-A and ENPI CBC. While characterized by distinct policy objectives and geographical contexts, the report acknowledges that the participation of LRAs is “key to the successful implementation of cross-border programmes.”

Regarding the ENPI CBC Med Programme – the largest Mediterranean multilateral initiative funded by the EU in the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy - the report says that, despite being a first experience of cross-border cooperation also involving LRAs from both Member States and Partner Countries, the joint actions undertaken “could impact upon and influence Mediterranean policies”.

ENI CBC Med, the second generation of the Programme, has the ambition to foster deep cooperation among Ministries, LRAs, universities, the private sector, and the civil society in view of addressing key economic, social and environmental challenges of the Mediterranean area. The Programme will continue to be managed of the Autonomous Region of Sardinia. 

Read the report “Cross-border cooperation in the Mediterranean region” (draft version)

* Mr. Pigliaru was represented by Mr. Vincenzo Bianco, mayor of Catania and head of the Italian delegation at the Committee of the Regions, for the presentation of the report at the ARLEM plenary session.