Fundamental political changes in Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans resulted in the largest transformation in Europe’s borders in over 50 years. The European Union has responded to these changes by creating a Stability Pact for the Balkans, which supports the states of South East Europe in their efforts to promote peace, democracy and economic stability for the benefit of the entire region. Within the European Union, barriers alongside its internal and external borders have progressively been reduced and territorial cohesion has become one of its main objectives, aiming at economic and social development of all regions. Changes in border regions must be managed cooperatively and democratically following the principle of partnership, subsidiarity, proportionality, and sustainability. Experience shows that inter-regional and cross-border cooperation between local and regional authorities in Europe helps them to carry out their tasks more effectively, stimulating economic and social progress in border regions. Euroregions have proven their value in fostering European integration and in successfully helping citizens to improve their daily quality of life. These cross-border cooperation structures have served to intensify local economic, social and cultural co-operation amongst peoples – in and outside the Union – by developing common activities in areas such as economic and regional development, job creation, strengthening of local and regional government functions, and improvement of communication. Citizens profit directly from the tangible benefits of such cross-border cooperation initiatives. It leads to a better understanding of each other and to more efficiency in the organisation of society.
The EPP Group in the Committee of the Regions therefore:
- is convinced that successful cross-border cooperation of local and regional actors provides a practical underpinning to regional cooperation and is an important tool towards wide economic convergence and social cohesion, as well as a determinant factor amongst the population for further integration and political dialogue;
- supports the Commission’s new strategy on “working together for growth and jobs” and demands to focus cross-border cooperation on strengthening economic potential and creating employment, whilst preserving and developing the natural environment and countryside;
- recognises that EU cohesion policy plays an important role in promoting effective cross-border cooperation, and welcomes the inclusion of territorial cooperation as one of the three main priorities for the future 2007-2013 cohesion policy; and demands that interregional cooperation also continues to be treated as a priority in its own right within the new objective, alongside crossborder and trans-national cooperation;
- notes that cross-border cooperation in comparison to the current financial period will represent a lower percentage share under the new Territorial Cooperation objective, namely 47.7%, of which 12.1% is to be transferred to the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI) and the Instrument for Pre-Accession (IPA), and consequently demands more flexibility of EU regulations concerning the allocation of funds between cross-border cooperation and transnational cooperation;
- recommends that a special status for cross-border cooperation be developed, such as for Euroregions, and welcomes the proposal from the European Commission to set up a legal instrument for cross-border cooperation notably the EGCC – European Groupings of Cross- Border Cooperation; recommends that border regions of candidate countries be associated;
- insists that the development of cross-border cooperation must go hand in hand with the strengthening of democracy and good governance by local and regional authorities, who are important actors in the implementation of concrete cooperation actions;
- stresses the importance of regional cooperation and of promoting good relations between all Member States and in particular between neighbouring countries;
- considers that regional cooperation amongst countries of South East Europe is a prerequisite for political and economic development and stabilisation in this region, while constituting a condition for the progressive integration of these countries with the EU;
- welcomes, in particular, the contribution of Croatia to the policy of cooperation and stabilisation amongst the countries of the region and encourages further such forms of trans-European crossborder cooperation;
- calls on border regions and local authorities to intensify their cooperation efforts with neighbouring regions both within the Union, taking advantage of a new geographical reality and bringing citizens closer together, and outside the Union as a means to build bridges and to promote European values based on common cultural, social, economic and political aims.