Committee of the Regions, CIVEX Commission, Seminar of multilevel governance in practice at local and regional level – decentralisation policy strategies in the European Year of Citizens
8-9 July 2013, Bolzano-Bozen, Italy
Speaking notes - Breda PECAN (Slovenia SOC), Congress member on Territorial cooperation – models and challenges of democratic governance and citizens’ involvement across borders
Ladies and gentlemen, I was very pleased to accept your invitation to attend this seminar. Allow me to introduce myself: my name is Breda Pecan and I am a member of the Slovenian delegation of the Council of Europe’s Congress of Local and Regional Authorities. I am a member of the Governance Committee and the rapporteur for transfrontier cooperation.
I am Vice-Mayor and former Mayor of the town of Izola, which is on the Adriatic coast of the Istrian peninsula between Italy and Croatia, and as such I have had a great deal of experience, good and bad, of transfrontier cooperation.
I would like to update you on the Congress’ thematic work on transfrontier cooperation.
In May last year, the Governance Committee held a seminar on ‘Multi-level governance in transfrontier cooperation’ in Innsbruck, Austria, with the cooperation of Region of Tyrol, for which we thank the President of the Congress – Mr Herwig VAN STAA.
During the seminar we looked at case studies of cooperation from Austria, Germany, Ukraine as well as reviewing the work that the Congress has already carried out on this topic.
It was decided that the best way to carry the Congress work forward was to prepare a report and resolution to give direction to our future work on this subject.
A report has been prepared and was approved the Governance Committee during its last meeting on 3 June 2013.
The report identifies several challenges to effective transfrontier cooperation, such as:
- how to ensure that projects are sustainable,
- how to assess the added value of a project,
- finding right level of administration and legal structure,
- how to create a productive working environment of partners from very different institutional and administrative cultures, and
- how to create an effective knowledge base for the transfrontier territory with a 360 degree perspective.
Despite these challenges, we are optimistic about the future of transfrontier cooperation.
We are finding a new spirit of pragmatism, where actors are actively searching for practical solutions to common local problems which arise from increasing mobility of citizens.
The financial crisis is also focusing attention on the potential benefits of transfrontier cooperation, as local and regional authorities are looking to pool their resources and avoid duplication in neighbouring states with expensive infrastructure projects, in areas such as health, leisure time, nurseries and fire departments.
Our main conclusion from the report is that a sustained programme of capacity building and training programmes is required. There is a need to consolidate and pool existing expertise to develop indicators to measure the impact of cooperation activities.
The report goes into some detail about areas of action and recommendations and there are more included in the appendix, which include elements for a possible Congress action plan. We have taken some key ideas, where we think the Congress can play an important role and have included them in the resolution.
The report and its resolution will be adopted during the Congress’ 25th plenary session at the end of October this year.
One of our main proposals is for the Congress to organise a conference next year of the main actors working on transfrontier cooperation issues, with a view to establishing a pool of expertise, to coordinate research and to develop a capacity building programme,
The reason for this is that we are not the experts and we do not have the capacity to undertake the ambitious work that we believe to be necessary in this field.
There are a number of specialised actors and associations working in this field: one of the most active – the Assembly of European Border Regions – is headed by our own Chair of the Governance Committee, Mr Lambertz (who may be present).
Where we see our own added value is to bring these different networks together, to better coordinate our work and to provide a political impetus to this activity.
We plan to report back to the Congress plenary in 2017 on the implementation of this action plan.
An important development in transfrontier cooperation is the entry into force – just 3 months ago – of Protocol 3 to the Council of Europe’s Madrid Convention, which provides a legal framework for setting up Euroregional cooperation groupings – or ECGs. This Protocol was opened for signature at the Ministerial Conference in Utrecht in 2009 and it is excellent news that it has come into force so soon. It is up to us to make use of this new instrument and to make sure that as many of our territories as possible are able to benefit from it.
An appendix is being prepared for this treaty, which will contain model legal provisions to ensure the implementation of the Protocol. This appendix is expected to be approved by the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers within the next few months,
Speaking of the work of the intergovernmental sector, I can also inform you that the European Committee on Local and Regional Democracy – which is the Council of Europe’s committee of government experts on this subject - is currently preparing a manual of removing obstacles to cross border cooperation. This manual should be finalised at their meeting in November. Once it is finished it will be made available online and should be of interest to us all.
This is a brief overview of the Council of Europe and Congress work to meet the challenges of democratic governance across borders and I will report back to the Governance Committee on the interesting case studies and experiences that I have heard during this seminar.