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THE EUROPEAN GROUPING OF TERRITORIAL COOPERATION

posted Oct 1, 2012, 7:42 AM by Plural CentroStudiEuropeo

By Greta Sarracino and Francesco Barilli

Cohesion policy is the main investment instrument for supporting the main priorities of the Union as enshrined in the Europe 2020 strategy. It does so by focusing on the countries and regions where needs are greater. One of the greatest successes of the EU has been its capacity to raise living standards for all its citizens. It does this not only by helping poorer Member States and regions to develop and grow but also through its role in the integration of the Single Market whose size delivers markets and economies of scale to all parts of the EU, rich and poor, big and small. In the Mediterranean area, this means a significant additional effort to reduce the gap with non EU States and to improve the concrete integration between operational instruments financed by ERDF and ENPI funds.

Territorial Cooperation in Europe 2020 strategy

On 29 June 2011, concerning the  proposal for the next multi-annual financial framework for the period 2014-2020, the Commission proposed a number of important changes to the way cohesion policy is  designed and implemented. Concentrating funding on a smaller number of priorities better linked to the Europe 2020 Strategy, focusing on results, monitoring progress towards agreed objectives, increasing the use of conditionalities and simplifying the delivery are among the major hallmarks of the proposal. The overarching policy orientations for future cohesion policy are also applicable in the context of European Territorial Cooperation. In fact, a separate regulation is proposed for European Territorial Cooperation to take better account of multi-country context of the programs and make more specific provisions for cooperation programs and operations, as has been requested by a large number of stakeholders.  The Commission's proposal for the Multi-Annual Financial Framework foresees an amount of EUR 376 billion for economic, social and territorial cohesion for the period 2014-2020, of which EUR 11, 7 billion are addressed to Territorial Cooperation.

Macro regional strategies for macro regional challenges

The 2007-2013 programming period has seen the emergence of new forms of territorial cooperation, tailor-made responses to address macro-regional challenges. At the request of the European Council, two macro-regional strategies have been prepared by the Commission for the Baltic Sea and the Danube Regions respectively. Macro-regional strategies are broad-based integrated instruments covering several Member States and regions focusing on the alignment of policies and funding to increase policy coherence and overall impact of public spending. Given the possible overlap between existing and future macro-regions, sea-basins and transnational program areas, the proposed regulation explicitly foresees that transnational cooperation can also support the development and implementation of macro-regional strategies and sea-basin programs, including the ones established on the external borders of the EU). In this perspective of greater and improved harmonization of rules and objectives, a new significant role will be played by the European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGCT). 

 

Characters of the European grouping of territorial cooperation

In the present 2007-2013, the EGTC is intended as the first European cooperation structure with a legal personality designed to facilitate and promote cross-border, transnational and interregional cooperation. According to the current Regulation (EC) 1082/2006, an EGTC is made up of Member States, regional authorities, local authorities and/or bodies governed by public law. An EGTC may carry out actions of territorial cooperation, with or without a financial contribution from the EU. Specifically, an EGTC may be entrusted with implementing programs co-financed by the Community or any other cross-border cooperation project with or without Community funding. It must have members in at least two Member States. The EGTC offers "the possibility of involving different institutional levels in a single cooperative structure", and thus  "opens up the prospect of new forms of multilevel governance, enabling European regional and local authorities to become driving forces in drawing up and implementing EU policy, helping to make European governance more open, participatory, democratic, accountable and transparent". Notwithstanding the great potentialities, the instrument was not fully developed.   

(Too) wide objectives for Mediterranean initiatives

In Mediterranean area, we can enumerate eight EGTCs created for different vocations, involving members from Cyprus, Italy, France, Spain and Portugal: Amphictyony, Archimed, Hospital de la Cerdanya, Duero, Espacio Portalet, Euroregion Pyrénées-Méditérannée, Galicia-Norte Portugal, Zasnet. The unbalanced compositions of consortia, as well as the undefined scopes of twinning seem to be the most remarkable obstacles to concrete efficacy. For example, Amphictyony is representing 34 municipalities of Greece, 18 local authorities of Italy, 8 cities of Cyprus and 1 public actor of France. The main aim of EGCT is “for the people of the Mediterranean to live in a continuously peaceful environment and one of constant development, financially effective, socially just and environmentally viable with cohesion and security in their areas”. Another example is given, on one hand by the Euroregion Pyrénées-Méditérannée, an EGCT with attention to a wide range of priorities: inter-regional economic development, culture, innovation and technology, research and development, tourism, environmental protection, improvement of telecommunication and transport services. On the other hand, the Hospital de la Cerdanya, founded on 4th July 2006, is a focused experimentation about a cross border health system between France and Spain. The project is about the cross border hospital settled in the Region of Cerdanya (French and Catalan) and the region of Capcir (French).

The proposals of EGCT for 2014 2020 period

 During the debate for 2014 2020 period, the Committee of Regions (CoR) with the 88th Plenary session of the 27th and 28th January 2011, has proposed and points of different problems and possible solutions in order to improve the implementation of the Institution: It has showed the weakness and the wrong organization of the EGTC, and it has appealed to the Commission to produces different modifications to the Regulation of 2006 in order to reinforce and renewed the obsolete models. On 14 March 2012 the EU Commission in its Proposal for a Regulation of the European parliament and of the council on specific provisions for the support from the European Regional Development Fund to the European territorial cooperation goal (COM (2011) 611 final/2) suggests significant modifications to the current framework, stressing the prominent role that European Groupings of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC) can play in a cooperation context. In fact, the EGTC is indicated as the intermediate body to carry out the management and implementation of cooperation programs for what concerns the Joint action plans (Art.8) and the integrated territorial investment (Art. 10). Moreover, Member States participating in cooperation program are encouraged to make use of an EGTC with a view to making the grouping responsible for managing the cooperation program or part thereof, notably by conferring on it the responsibilities of a managing authority.

A new harmonized and integrated Med context

The provision of this kind of interrelations in the framework of further ENPI/ERDF integration could represent an element of strong support to the launch of new concrete initiatives by the Union for Mediterranean in the next years, creating the basis for a more sustainable and harmonized context in the Mediterranean area facilitating the work currently in progress by high level groups and task forces engaged in the design of new Med- IPA Adriatic, South East Europe and ENPI Med Basin Programs

 

 

 

 

 

NEW ACTORS IN THE MEDITERRANEAN CHANGES The Role of Lebanon

posted Oct 1, 2012, 7:39 AM by Plural CentroStudiEuropeo

Interview with Giuseppe Morabito, Ambassador of Italy in Beirut

The name Lebanon comes from the Semitic root LBN, meaning "white", likely a reference to the snow-capped Mount Lebanon. Upon his arrival to Lebanon around 47 BC, Julius Caesar proclaimed "Lub" "Na'an", meaning "White-Land" in Semitic. ‘‘Our ancestors, the Phoenicians…’ The modern young Lebanese is not nourished from his earliest school days with his relations to a historic past in other climes, is repeated almost like a nursery rhyme. He is not insular for a quite simple reason - so many civilizations have succeeded one another in his country that he comes to regard himself firstly as a Mediterranean, secondly as a citizen of the world, but as a Lebanese all the same. Lebanon always has been a hospitable country - sometimes willingly and sometimes unwillingly – from the most ancient times, while still retaining those special virtues which are still to be found today among its citizens without the necessity of looking far for them” (A little history…and lots of stories by Gérard Boulad, 2011, Ed.). During the centuries, conflicts, occupations and civil wars created a fragile framework to carry out a solid growth. Italy has strong political, economic and cultural relations with Lebanon. Bilateral ties have been further reinforced in the aftermath of 2006 War, and Italy is Lebanon’s second largest commercial partner, and the first European one, with a strong presence in key sectors. Italy is providing a strong contribution to the development of Lebanon, making a sizeable effort on the front of humanitarian aid and reconstruction.  The work carried achieved a lot a positive results and this heritage is enriching the mosaic that makes Lebanon what it is and the different political and social identities that individuals and groups construct of themselves and of others. It also shows the value of cumulative work in pushing and achieving greater democratization and policy change: the Italian aid, in close coordination with national and local authorities, addresses the needs of the population all over the Lebanese territory. We talked about Lebanese perspectives and expectations with Mr. Giuseppe Morabito, Ambassador of Italy in Beirut.

Southern shore of the Mediterranean area is going on a complex phase: from the great hopes carried by the “Arab Spring” to real conflicts, as the Libyan war. What is your opinion about the situation in Mediterranean area? European Union and Italy which new action could begin?

It is never simple to give an evaluation of the Mediterranean situation. The so-called Arab Spring gave start to a structural change in the southern shore of the Mediterranean, pushing Europe to reflect about the old schemes of interaction and collaboration. As the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata, has pointed up, there are several new instances in Mediterranean.  So, it is important to start a deep debate with the winners of last elections, starting from Tunisia and Egypt. Therefore, the necessity is emerging to keep faith on the expressed willing by citizens to found bases of democratic systems on the principle of legality, on human rights beginning from the respect of religious minorities. Terzi minister, taking note of difficulties and uncertainties of the current phase, stressed the importance to evaluate Governments and Parliaments to the proof of facts.  It’s important to recognize the persistent instances of collaboration- first of all, Mediterranean Union ( UfM )- that register a setback, leaving wide margins of improvement to restart a balanced and structured dialogue between North and South of the Mediterranean area.

The recent events in Cairo on one hand have demonstrated how is difficult the political-institutional transition process in the post-revolution sceneries. On the other hand, they recalled Europe to play his natural role as a pole of democracy and human rights. The joint communication Ashton - Barroso for European Neighbourhood Policy, presented last 25 May at European Parliament and Member States stresses that point. The deepening of the Euro-Mediterranean relations will find its concrete implementation through the strengthening of economic support tools related to the ENP for the southern Mediterranean and the encouragement of an inclusive social and economic development in the Arab countries. The challenge for Europe, therefore, lies not only in finding new financial resources but also to support an action of foreign policy, more unified and coherent. The conditionality of the ENP budget is an encouragement to the adoption of institutional models, bodies of law and practices more oriented towards the protection of human rights and individual freedom. Finally, the perspectives of a greater economic integration (the so-called "Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, DCFTA”) and not also (lanes for the issuance of Schengen visas) should provide a substantial incentive towards democratic transition and the rapprochement of the two shores of the Mediterranean. As regards of it, the Partnership of Deauville should be also mentioned. This initiative currently includes Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia and Morocco as partners, and Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE in the role of associated countries. The Partnership, launched at the highest political levels, seems to give encouraging results

 

 In that context, what evaluation you can give about the situation on the Middle East?

The activism of Palestinian leadership for the recognition of Palestine nearby the international organizations (UN Security Council, General Assembly of UNESCO) amplifies the importance of the Israeli-Palestinian issue not only for the Middle East, but also for the entire Mediterranean region. It does not escape to the observers of the Mediterranean events that Israeli-Palestinian issue is a controversial point in the Euro-Mediterranean political dialogue. On the wave of the so-called "Arab Spring", the Israeli-Palestinian conflict risks to push a major portion of Arab public opinion of radical positions (Islamism, anti-Zionism, Arab nationalism), to the detriment of the fragile democratic transition in course, and obstructing, ultimately, the cooperation between the two shores of the Mediterranean. In a more interconnected world, conflicts across the Middle East are inevitably reflected on Europe, plumping attitudes of closure and mutual mistrust. On the delicate Israeli-Palestinian question, Italy supports the work of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Lady Ashton, in order that the two parts may resume direct negotiation, under the path indicate by the quartet (EU- USA-Russia- UN).

Italy and European Union have the duty to multiply the efforts in order to reopen a constructive dialogue.

In these days we can see the active role of Turkey - a democracy composed by a moderate Islamic party and a new reality marked by a positive economic development - which could be a reference for many Countries on the southern shore. What do you think about that?

The visit of Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi in Istanbul (which opened one of the first journey abroad by new Government) and the simultaneous press conference with his counterpart represented by Davutoglu, has emphasized the centrality of the Italian's role assigned by Turkey among the protagonists of the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern politics. The characteristics of Turkish democracy could represent one of the models viable for many countries of the "Arab Spring" (for example Tunisia, Libya, Egypt), seeking to reestablish strong state institutions after the fall of totalitarian regimes. The emergence from the ballot of moderate Islamic majorities (the first signal to this effect comes from Tunisia) should push the new governments of the southern shore to seek the moderate Islamic government of Ankara as an interlocutor and a point of reference, also whereas its role as "natural intermediary" between north and south of the Mediterranean, and "Door of the Orient".

More Regions and Cities have become actors in international cooperation in connection with their national governments and with UN agencies. How do you assess the phenomenon?

This phenomenon is certainly positive. For example, Italy carried out a fruitful dialogue with local authorities through important initiatives of cooperation;  not only in development aid, but also in economic and cultural fields, in particular about the respect of human rights and democracy.  Obviously, the application of subsidiarity principle make stronger the efficacy of initiatives at local level, but what is important, also in the case of non European Countries, is the added value of decentralized cooperation. The local and regional institutions have an immediate relationship with the territory, stronger than the national level, so they are easily able to mobilize the resources of their territories through cooperation initiatives. These actions, if good set, are strengthening democracy and accosting citizens to the institutions. Local authorities can definitely play an important role in strengthening relations between Europe and the Mediterranean in order to create a zone of stability and peace.

Money isn’t a problem: The current financial framework for Mediterranean Regions in a macroregional perspective

posted Oct 5, 2011, 3:51 AM by Plural CentroStudiEuropeo   [ updated Oct 7, 2011, 6:03 AM ]

As a deliverable of the MEDGOV project, this document attempts to contribute to the accomplishment of the discussion about the realisation of the Mediterranean macro region, approaching it in a new way. In fact, considering the complex political situation of the Southern and Eastern shores of the Mediterranean, and the limits of the current debate about EU cohesion policy, it looks likely that the financial patterns and the available future tools for the Mediterranean sea and its regions will not undergo any revolutionary change, and therefore we should wonder what we could do from tomorrow, with those resources and with those tools.

This document tries precisely to answer these questions, avoiding to confuse the macroregion with currently ongoing transnational cooperation and cross-border cooperation programmes, using the resources already available in the 2007-2013 programming period for cohesion policies, and referring to the ideas contained in the “Barca Report” and in the conclusions of the “Fifth Cohesion Report” . Due to the profound fragmentation of available resources for the Mediterranean basin in the EU programming, very often the actors that manage those resources often lose the general dimension of them, and since a unique, real place of individualisation of the priorities of the basin (not even only in its European shore) does not exist, we have to consider all resources from the cohesion policies, and which interest the Mediterranean basin and its sub-areas, and we have to analyse and integrate these resources in the various possible scenarios.

Negotiations involving the Mediterranean basin are often characterised by a specific request for additional resources devoted to this important macro regional area of cohesion, but in fact, in this area, the lines of expenditure are numerous, and the amount of available resources related to programmes strategically linked to the objectives of cohesion and development of the Mediterranean as a whole exceeds 61 billion € (a figure significantly higher than that concerning other sea basins of the European Union). And if we consider the mesoregional areas (Western Mediterranean, Adriatic and Eastern Mediterranean) it becomes clear how the allocation of operational programmes' resources undoubtedly favours the Western Mediterranean mesoregion.


The redistribution of resources in the Mediterranean area


The financial resources spent in the Mediterranean, and ascribable to EU cohesion policy, are, substantially, managed with the essential contribution of the regions, that participate in different forms to the definition of national development strategies, and that also manage a substantial portion of regional cohesion policies. Although the regions play a less prominent role in the effective management of the Mediterranean multilateral cross-border cooperation programmes, for obvious problems of institutional balance (the low development of political and administrative decentralisation in the countries of the Southern and Eastern shores of the Mediterranean prevents the creation of effective forums that could include, on the one hand, regional institutions, and on the other, national representatives) the regional system holds the actual strategic and operational governance of most of the resources devoted to the Mediterranean basin, and that are related to EU cohesion policies. Moreover, thanks to a decision shared at the interstate level, one region (Sardinia) plays the role of Managing Authority of the multi-lateral, cross-border Mediterranean programme.

The potential of the current situation
 
If we want to analyse how resources are actually redistributed, we see that the main priorities of the operational programmes are Accessibility, Cultural and Environmental Resources, Energy and Sustainable Development, as well as, to a lesser extent, Urban Development. Going into further details at these priorities, we realise that they are very similar, and, paradoxically, suggest that, in different parts of the Mediterranean, very similar projects are being financed, and this evidence is even more apparent if we analyse specifically cross-border programmes, because their territorial coverage is wide, but they concern homogeneous areas in the Mediterranean mesoregions. 

The overall picture, therefore, appears to be full of potential (abundant resources, consistent priorities, territories having to deal with similar problems), even though integrate policies struggle to emerge, as shown by the very poor use of the potential for interregional cooperation among the regional programmes ERDF and ESF.

Moreover, as we’ve already seen, excluding CBC programmes, co-financed by IPA or ENPI resources, States are fundamentally absent, both in the path of programming and during the setting of priorities, and they are little present during the managing phase as well. So one could basically maintain that the amount of resources devoted to cohesion in the area of the Mediterranean basin is under the governance of the regions.

 
In addition, the program framework is the same, in terms of EU guidelines and strategic direction, and priorities and planning choices in the design of the operational programmes strategically converge, and have, on paper, a strong potential to develop projects that can be integrated.

Having outlined the current situation, it is possible to try to design a planning hypothesis of governance of the cohesion policies for the Mediterranean, taking into account the planning and regulations of the programming period 2007-2013.

An hypothetical integrated operational programme

The resources that are actually available comprehend transnational cooperation programmes, CBC regional programmes, ENPI CBC programmes, IPA Adriatic programmes, and part of the resources (4%) resulting from regional operational programmes, as prescribed in existing regulations.


Even focusing solely on this last amount of money, if 4% of every regional ERDF programme were aimed at a joint Mediterranean planning, around 2,2 billion € could be mobilised.

This figure corresponds to about 50% of the potential financial framework, and the remaining 50% could come from a coordinated management – through agreement on priorities, projects and objectives – of territorial cooperation programmes that involve the Mediterranean basin.  

Trying to look at the experiment at the meso regional level, namely in the area of the Western Mediterranean, some sort of integrated operational programme could be built: the priorities and the resources of a new operational programme could be designed, a programme resulting from the integration between the Operational Programmes that are already operating in the common basin, and that could finance integrated cohesion projects (this programme, however, would look especially at the cohesion objectives of the Northern shore, and at the integrated competitiveness of the regions involved).

Obviously, this could be done without modifying neither regulations nor the principles for the territorial eligibility of resources, but, simply, acting on the integrated design of projects.

The hypothetical priority axes of this potential operational programme would be: Innovation, Environment and Promotion of a Sustainable Territorial Development, Improvement of Mobility and Territorial Accessibility, Promotion of a Polycentric and Integrated Development in the Med Space, and Technical Assistance.

A common framework for the Mediterranean

If, instead, one wanted to integrate all the instruments and all the tools, and try to imagine a common framework for the  Mediterranean, the potential would be even greater, and might also involve the Southern and Eastern shores.


Taking into account also the state of the art about possible Med strategies promoted by the regional system, namely most of all the ARLEM proposals and recommendations, highlighted in the “ARLEM report on the territorial dimension of the Union for the Mediterranean – recommendations for the future”, presented in Agadir on January 29, 2011, and the “CPRM Integrated Mediterranean Strategy”, submitted by the General Assembly of the CIM on March 2011, that describes the position of Med Regions, the legal and institutional structure of the strategy, and the Action Plan for an Integrated Mediterranean Strategy, some proposals for the future Mediterranean region could be carried out.

The issues to tackle and the potential for spontaneous integration

First of all, as we have seen , the issues that this area has to tackle are substantially the same, and the variables (administrative, technological, organisational, and institutional) demonstrate that the projects are not very different one from the other. Also the administrative and organisational cultures are very similar, therefore the knowledge of the projects could allow to highlight the potential for spontaneous integration, which arises from the nature of the issues and of the problems

faced, and from the organisational and technological optimisation. Medgov – a European territorial project whose objective is to carry out common regional policies at the Mediterranean level in four key sectors of development, namely innovation, environment, transport and migration and culture – aims at investing in a first experiment of common databases, which ranges over the various operational programmes, trying to highlight the potential of integration and common capitalisation of territorial cooperation programmes, that are those that  use the biggest part of the resources. This knowledge, moreover, could facilitate the attainment of a result that today is unexpected: the elaboration of integrated Mediterranean projects, that could be born spontaneously from the simple exploitation of the investments.

Another proposal could regard the creation of a Euromed Agenda, since, although various attempts have been made, on every level of European planning a clear, simple and identifiable European regional agenda for the Mediterranean does not appear.

A Euromed agenda and virtual macroregion


However, keeping in mind the experience at the origin of the project Medgov, a group of regions strongly committed, and with a certain authority, imitating the suggestion of the “Fifth Cohesion Report”, may be able to propose a Euromed Agenda of reference, and to set it at the basis of a wide discussion, but with the objective to do it inside the regional planning which has been defined from themselves. The Agenda could be a collective product, within the CPRM framework, and may be disclosed by the same regional network, through its ordinary and institutional activity. This exemplary action would tend to build a model of excellence, a guideline, that would strengthen even more the authority of the regions which are adopting this Euromed Agenda, and that would make them stronger inside the national and the European levels.

Another concept to bear in mind could be that of “virtual”, that, even if it is often associated with the concept of evanescent and of ephemeral, considered from an etymological point of view actually identifies the moment in which a thing has the power to be something more, but it is not completely that something yet, something that already has the strength in itself, but still doesn’t express it.

For this reason, starting from the “Barca Report”, the “Fifth Cohesion Report” and the “Green Book on Territorial Cohesion”, we think that the building of a serious project and plan of action of a Euromediterranean macroregion could be something more than a simple experimentation. If the Euromed macroregion were duly built (even if limited to a small but committed number of actors, Operational Programmes and projects), starting from the existing planning and priorities, and referring to projects and initiatives to integrate it or to strengthen it, it could become a virtual macroregion, a macroregion that already, in itself, has the strength to be political of cohesion.

In order to make the characteristic of “virtual” a coherent future strength, the macroregion should have three fundamental features:

 -at least a common project devoted to the stable coordination of the decision system of the implicated politics, in order to make them effectively feasible at the administrative level,
-at least a common infrastructure,
• -at least a project or a tool designed to favour the relationship among the SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) of different regions.
                                                         

The Leader’s network

In a time of heavy decisions and loss of responsibilities, with many negative effects such as the predominance of low profile agreements, and the diffusion of covered interests, a possible solution could also be represented by a Leader’s Network, because by enlarging and sharing the network of those responsible, the weight of responsibilities themselves seem to decrease. A leading group could be established and charged of start-up activities, testing the initial positive effects (this group would tend to be identified by its personal leaders – Leader’s Network –), and at least one action able to mobilise, under certain conditions, an appropriate quantity of resources to change the social and economic context towards the proposed orientation should be individuated. So, generally, the leading group should individuate the action that could generate the critical mass, trying to change the context according to new proposed orientations. In order to have positive and lasting effects, adequate resources must be mobilised, and concentrated on wellspecified initiatives, able to influence social behaviours and attitudes in a positive way. Starting from the Barcelona Global Forum, Medgov project could promote a leader’s network through the regional authorities involved.

In conclusion, in all the operational programmes that act in the Mediterranean border regions and systems, the potentialities of the area of the basin are emphasised.

But, as the “Barca Report” shows, in order to build the future development of the European system, it is necessary to invest on a series of “place based” investments, or rather on a sum of collective goods open to be used that enable the territorial system to make the most of the resources that, in perspective, are not adequately exploited.

The strength of the European identity

 

If this key concept is applied to an interregional and transnational basin system, it could let people identify a series of "collective public goods" on which we could invest to make the territories involved (the basin) more competitive. If we experience this “place based” approach starting from the current planning period, following the indications of the Barca Report, we could identify, among the operational programmes of the same level (regional policies, cross-border policies), at least a common project, a public collective good on which the investments could be integrated.

This action of the Mediterranean regional systems, forcing the Mediterranean multilevel governance, could allow involved actors to verify the conclusions of the Eurobarometer report "European Cultural Values" (both 2006 and 2007). In particular, it locates the strength of the European identity and of its history in the regions and in the nations of the Mediterranean Basin.

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                                                                                      Paolo Parrini


 


The Macroregion: An idea dictated by the speed of history

posted Oct 5, 2011, 3:12 AM by Plural CentroStudiEuropeo   [ updated Oct 11, 2011, 3:40 AM ]

Interview with Massimo Toschi, Councillor of the President of the Region of Tuscany for Peace, Cooperation and Human Rights

What could the utility of creating a Mediterranean macroregion be today, and what are the difficulties ahead in its implementation?

Now more than before, we find ourselves in a phase of great political difficulty. In the past three years, the Union for the Mediterranean has not started to act; quite the opposite, it has been de facto closed down, and we now assist to a neo-nationalist withdrawal in the policies of the European States, that find it very hard to read, precisely, Mediterranean policy. And this is a political and cultural element that, today, has a lot of weight.

All the known proposals by Prodi, for example (the Mediterranean Bank, the links between universities of the Northern and Southern shores, with equal exchanges of students and teachers, the possibility of creating proximity ties between the European Union and the Southern shore) have not been put forward; not only, but, as I was mentioning, neo-nationalist policies have re-emerged in many States, that do not care about the Mediterranean at all.

As always, then, history amuses itself, and suddenly the Mediterranean has changed its quality: let's think about the story of Ben Ali, the story of Mubarak – actually, Mubarak more than Ben Ali, because Tunisia is certainly an important country, but it is a country that has 7 million inhabitants, compared to Egypt, which has 80 million inhabitants, and also has a different political role, as it is the centre of a balance.

The extraordinarly important Mediterranean transitory phase

Starting precisely from the Mediterranean, from North Africa, a push, a drive, has started, a drive that, beginning in Tunisia and involving Maghreb countries, although with different forms, has arrived until the borders of Iran (because this is what Syria is), surprising all of us. Who would have ever thought that Mubarak would have been swept away in a week, and Ben Ali in an even shorter period of time? The West thought that, despite the authoritarian nature of these regimes, a stable authoritarian regime, with which one could interject, was still better than supporting movements of a different nature. In reality, then, young Muslims became non-violent – and this is another interesting element – and, without denying their being Muslims, they started demanding freedom and democracy, and they have, undoubtedly, changed history.

Today, we find ourselves dealing with an absence of real policies, with the Mediterranean experiencing a transition phase of extraordinary importance, and, within all this, with a war, because the war in Libya is going on; the only thing that Europe has been able to do is a war, rather than a policy, and, incidentally, with more modest results: in fact, while in Tunisia Ben Ali was ousted, in Egypt Mubarak was ousted, and the non-violent movement has spread, where the West has facilitated an opening to a military initiative, it was a disaster, and we are now, essentially, stuck. Then we can certainly say that, had we not intervened, Gheddafi would have killed millions of people, however, as of today, we do not know what we'll be able to do tomorrow.

The challenge to build a new Mediterranean policy

This is the picture. Within this framework, the responsibilities of the Mediterranean regions become, in some ways, even greater, because we have realised that a Mediterranean policy will not be bestowed on us, and it is as necessary as the European States are unprepared to put it in place, especially in light of the failure of the Union for the Mediterranean.

And a Mediterranean policy needs to be done in many ways, there is not just one keyboard: on the one hand, we have the European Union keyboard, then there is the keyboard of the regions, of the Mediterranean territories, not only of national governments. We must therefore, a fortiori in this context, (which has enormous potential, but is also a context of dramatic crisis) construct a strategy that allows even States to find again a way of realising a Mediterranean policy.

Thus, a double responsibility exists today: there is not only the responsibility of implementing a policy established by the European Union, but also the responsibility of building, of helping the European Union to rebuild a Mediterranean policy.

It is clear that the regions are located in the States, and the States are part of the European Union, and the macroregion, today, is one more challenge, namely the challenge to build, to serve as a bridge for a new Mediterranean policy that also involves the territory of the Southern shore. We cannot imagine a Western Mediterranean macroregion without imagining an initiative involving the Southern shore, we cannot think about these two things separately: firstly, because the sea compels us to think of them in an integrated way, we can also build logistic projects, or environmental projects (which are the common themes of a territory as, for example, the Western Mediterranean is), but we cannot do this without thinking about Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, and therefore we must build a policy that unites.

This is undoubtedly a difficulty, because, in itself, the macroregion is not this, but we have to think about the macroregion in new terms, and with new responsibilities, with nets not only between the regions bordering the Western Mediterranean: an effective policy which does not include the regions and the territories of the Southern shore is, today, unthinkable.

All this obviously entails a set of problems, because then there is the aspect of institutional balance, which is not easily tractable. Tuscany, for example, is a region of Italy, which is an EU country: let's say that Tuscany wants to create a macroregion with Liguria, Catalunya and PACA, for example: evidently, you create an area where regional, national and EU laws all apply, and in this framework you must add a new relationship with the regions of the Southern coast, which have very different institutional settings compared to ours (perhaps only Morocco has something that may look similar), certainly in Tunisia the game is being played now, and the same goes for Egypt, because, depending on the constitutional arrangement that Egypt will give itself, the relationships will be more or less simple. 

European responsabilities

So, we have a responsibility even in this game: the idea of participating in the electoral process, and in the process of institutional reform, in Tunisia (and we have discussed this also with the Italian ambassador in Tunisia) was born from this fact, because, if at the end of the path a new centralised State comes out, this will weaken the macroregion, and will weaken the framework of unity in the Mediterranean as well. This is what is on the agenda: we can do it or not, we can be ready or not, but, if we abandon the Southern shore, also our work (although in itself the macroregion is an European macroregion, and not a macroregion including these countries) will be affected from this, because depending on the institutional outcomes of this process, the very possibility of building a macroregion will become stronger or weaker.

The choice between war and politics 

How can the creation of a wider culture of the Mediterranean be helped? What can the regions do about it?

The Regions can respond to everything. If certain events occur, we can stand still, wait for the wave to pass, and hope that after its passage something will remain. But the tsunami shows that this policy does not work, because when the wave passes, it sweeps you away as well. So at this moment, what we to do is resuming a leading role. Of course the funds are scarce, and rarely things get done at no cost, it may also be that right now there is even less money than yesterday, but truthfully, if today the situation is this, it is because yesterday we did not think. 

Now it is necessary to start from policies, and it seems to me that Enrico Rossi, President of the Region of Tuscany, is pushing in this direction, the very idea of the creation of the Office for the Mediterranean is the idea that an issue exists, and it is important to invest people and resources on this issue, because that is a crucial matter. 

But everyone has to do their part: entrepreneurs should travel the world a little more, and also politics must play their game. The macroregion is a political and cultural response of the European regions, of part of the European Union, to an issue that concerns all of the European Union, because, even from an economic perspective, if the oil price increases, it increases in Lucca but it increases in Berlin as well; so Chancellor Merkel may well think about the Baltic Sea region, but the Mediterranean is more delicate than the Baltic, because in the Baltic there is no war going on, and the Mediterranean is a very complicated setting. 

Either you bomb, or you pursue policies, tertium non datur, you cannot find a stand-by position (and Libya is surely a parable on this, but not only Libya, because in the Mediterranean, if we look at the situation from 1956 onwards, there have been countless wars, and of course the epicentre is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but let's also think about Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Iraq). There's either war, or politics. I think there should be politics.

 

Martina Selmi and Flavia Cori


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The Union of Baltic Cities: a successful example of regional cooperation

posted Oct 5, 2011, 2:51 AM by Plural CentroStudiEuropeo   [ updated Oct 11, 2011, 1:56 AM ]

The “Union of the Baltic Cities”, founded in 1991 in Gdansk, is a constantly growing regional cooperation organisation, and a policy actor, which now counts 106 Member Cities in all ten countries surrounding the Baltic Sea (Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Russia and Sweden), as well as the cities of Grodno and Slonim, in Belarus, which have the status of observers.

According to the Statute of the “Union”, its overall, global aim is to promote and strengthen cooperation and exchange of experiences among the cities in the Baltic Sea, to act for common interests of the local authorities in the region, be a spokesman for its Members in the common issues, and support and foster the achievement of a sustainable democratic, economic, social and environmental development.

UBC Commissions and activities

In fact, as Wolfgang Schmidt (Chairman of the Commission for Business Cooperation of the UBC) suggests, globalisation leads to an inevitable competition between Countries and regions, thereby making the visibility of the regions on world markets an absolute priority, and, as a consequence, rendering regional cooperation of paramount importance. Today, the UBC has twelve different commissions on: business cooperation, culture, education, energy, environment, gender equality, health and social affairs, sport, tourism, transportation, urban planning and youth issues, and a number of successful projects already completed in a variety of issues. For example, the Commission on Environment has been one of the most active during recent years, becoming a partner of many projects, and, among the others, of the BaltCICA project (Climate Change: Impacts, Costs and Adaptation in the Baltic Sea Region), that prepares regions and municipalities to cope with a changing climate, focusing on the most imminent problems that climate change is likely to cause in the Baltic Sea Region, and calling for cooperation and integrated approaches. 

Another successful project has been the development of a Good Practice Database, created to answer the need of local authorities to find practical examples, experiences and inspiration of what other cities and municipalities have done, and how they have succeeded to speed up sustainable development in their area, a database that has now reached more than 500 good practices in English, and 400 in Russian. At the tenth UBC General Conference, held in Kristiansand in September2009, the new “UBC Strategy 2010-2015” was adopted, with the vision of a “dynamic, prosperous, democratic and stable European Baltic Sea Region, in a successful and sustainable economic, social, political, environmental and cultural development process, moving towards closer cooperation and integration”.

UBC Commission strategy 2010-2015

A particular attention was devoted to the links between the UBC and the “European Union Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region”: the latter was adopted in June 2009, and aims at coordinating action by Member States, regions, the European Union, pan-baltic organisations, financing institutions and non-governmental bodies, to promote a more balanced development of the Region, and make this part of Europe more environmentally sustainable, more prosperous, more accessible and attractive, and, finally, safer and more secure . The UBC has the potential to become a major stakeholder in the process, and wants to be an active participant in the governance of the Strategy itself, offering an effective platform for its implementation, and even influencing it.

Cooperative efforts with partner in the Baltic sea region

The “EU Strategy” is therefore the key framework for the years to come, but obviously UBC's tasks do not revolve exclusively around it. Other objectives include increasing UBC membership and partnership (UBC has more than tripled its membership from 1991, but there is still potential to include new Member cities – and in fact, according to article 3 of the Statute, any coastal city of the Baltic Sea and its gulfs, as well as any other city interested in the development of the Baltic Sea region may become a Member city of the Union); promoting expert exchanges between Member cities, by organizing a platform for a more systematic exchange programme; enhancing lobbying capacity, to get the voice of local authorities of the Baltic Sea Region heard; and promoting a systematic cooperation with partners in the Baltic Sea Region, at the European level and internationally.

Regarding this last point, UBC is already maintaining a series of cooperative efforts with many organisations of this type (for example the Baltic Development Forum, the Baltic Sea States Subregional Cooperation, the Council of Baltic Sea States (CBSS), the Forum of Adriatic and Ionian Cities and Town, the Conference of Atlantic Arc Cities, and, in the Mediterranean area, Arco Latino), and means to continue, and further develop these collaborations. Besides, the Union has the intention to establish connections with other organisations, and systematically contact them. To name just a few, common objectives could be pursued together with the “Union pour la Méditerranée” in the field of environment, energy, trade, and construction of trans-national roads; a particularly fruitful cooperation to promote a common eco-political interest in Europe could be carried out with “Medcities”; the “Assembly of European Regions” would prove to be an important forum for the discussion of many issues that also the UBC covers in its activities, therefore membership would definitely be an advantage, as it would provide the Union with the possibility of having a say in their most important topics; also, the similarities between the Union and the “Baltic Metropoles Network (BaltMet)”' aims and activities should be coordinated and used actively in cooperation. Lastly, raising public profiles and visibility of UBC is a priority, as well, because, despite its successful activities since 1991, the Union is still little known, especially among the general public.

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European and Mediterranean Area: Current and Future Perspectives

posted Oct 5, 2011, 2:10 AM by Plural CentroStudiEuropeo   [ updated Oct 11, 2011, 2:01 AM ]

Interview with Andrea Stocchiero (Centro Studi Politica Internazionale)

"In my opinion, it is important to consider that the Southern shore countries and the Northern shore countries share the same geographical area and are involved in a common process which requires a great territorial autonomy, a great proximity of power, a great decentralization; both the Southern and Northern shores face the same problems. Together we must learn the best ways to achieve the decentralization."

This is one of the most important considerations of the interview with Andrea Stocchiero, economist who coordinated and carried out several research projects on migration, economic and territorial development, decentralized cooperation, regional policies. With 20 years of professional experience in research and technical support in assisting programs of multilateral (United Nations, European Commission) and national organisms, Stocchiero is the CeSPI (Centro Studi di Politica Internazionale) Executive Director.

The Med area: peace cohesion and religius conflicts

Founded in 1985, CeSPI is one of the most important Italian research centres. CeSPI has 20 years experience in researching, training activities and dissemination about international relationships and it is an important reference for the Italian and European policy-makers. In particular, it contributes to the discussion about emerging issues both in Italy and in Europe. The work of CeSPI concerns different global scenarios (Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, Balkan area, Mediterranean area); nevertheless, as a consequence of the increasing geopolitical importance of the Mediterranean area, CeSPI has recently concentrated its attention on this area. The scope of the present interview is to know CeSPI's opinion about the most important learnt lesson and perspectives on the Mediterranean area.

The level of democracy of the Southern shore countries of the Mediterranean is an extremely 
actual topic. In particular, a perspective of lasting peace is difficult to achieve. Can Europe be an influential actor in the development of a common future with the Southern shore countries?

Considering recent events, it seems difficult for Europe to be a decisive actor in the development of a common future with the countries of the Southern shore of the Mediterranean. The last events show that the European Union is not able to express itself with a homogeneous voice about common topics like, for example, immigration. In the current moments, the national interests resurface and Europe appears weak and divided to the eyes of the external viewers. For these reasons, I think that the European Union couldn’t be a major leader in pursuing shared objectives with the Southern Shore countries of Mediterranean.

Which role can European policy (of welfare, socio-cultural politics, etc..) play in promoting 
internal policies of some countries located in the Southern shore of the Mediterranean?

In spite of the limits previously highlighted , the European Community has always been interested in supporting the countries and peoples of the South shore of the Mediterranean Sea. In January, before the recent political upheavals, the European Union had described its own engagement in favour of the countries of the Southern Mediterranean coasts using the formula “MORE FOR MORE”. With these words it declared that it would effectively sustain the above mentioned countries in the moment in which they could grant more in terms of political reforms and processes of democratization .Even we have to verify the effective solidity of this process of democratization, this process is being carried out . In my opinion, great political novelties aren’t necessary . If we look at the plans of action elaborated by the single countries of the Southern Mediterranean shores, we can see that reforms and changes have been already taken into consideration to improve the process of democratization and devolution. But till now the implementation of such reforms is going slowly, owing to the presence of governs unwilling to grant such concessions. For this reason, The European Union should quicken the time of realization of those reforms, taking advantage of the revolutions characterizing those countries, more than to elaborate new political instruments in support of the Southern shore countries.

The Mediterranean area: a multilevel governance

The initiatives of cooperation developed during the last years are centred on the administrative decentralization and the multilevel governance, that is the involvement of several political and administrative levels in the decisional process. The administrative decentralization is now an essential tool to increase the effectiveness of the policies.

What is the “governance”? Why is the multilevel approach important? What could the contribution of regional and local authorities be?

We have to avoid the Eurocentric point of view, affirming that the countries of the Southern shore  of Mediterranean have to copy our models of development, because we are involved in a federalist process too, with many difficulties. For me, it is important to consider that the Southern shore countries and the Northern shore countries share the same geographical area and are involved in a common process which requires a great territorial autonomy, a great proximity of the power, a great decentralization; both of them face the same problems. We must find together the best ways to realize the decentralization.

The Macroregion: Mediterranean area and Southeast Europe

One of the problems of the regional planning is to identify the potentialities of the regional system. This is often inserted in a geographical and strategic context which goes beyond the regional border. For that reason, the European Union promotes macro-regional aggregations that can contribute to innovation and local competitiveness thanks to its transnational and interregional dimension. However, the elaboration of a macro-region perspective can strengthen the European process or, on the other hand, it can create new divisions and tensions. At this moment, the elaboration of a Mediterranean macro-region isn’t possible. However, an exception is the Adriatic experience, that can become a South-East and Balkan macroregion.

How much is the dialogue among states, local actors and local populations developed in the South-East Europe?

The Adriatic experience is a very important experience in the European setting. It testifies the increasing importance of regions at the European level. The Adriatic experience, in particular, is the result of regions initiative: the regions have engaged to promote this experience and they have lobbied to national level to make this experience concrete. At the same time, the national government has supported this initiative because it considers the Adriatic macroregion a strengthening of the Adriatic-Ionic experience already existing. The next important steps of the creation of an Adriatic macroregion is to obtain the approval of all the Member States of the European Union. Next June the European Council will discuss (and will approve) the creation of the Danubian macroregion. This will be the occasion to discuss concretely the possibility of an Adriatic macroregion too.

Are there any common elements between the Euro-Mediterranean area and the South-East European area?

The Adriatic experience wants to connect itself to the existing experiences (the Danubian and Baltic ones). This is the reason of the Adriatic experience success. In my opinion, the European Union has to look at the whole European territory, coordinating the territorial and transnational cooperation programs. This allows to pursue common objectives and to reduce the waste of resources. If the European Union doesn’t adopt this overall overview, there is the possibility to create a new gap between the Centre-Northern Europe and the Southern Europe, deprived of appropriate tools and capacities.

Are there other experiences of decentralized cooperation (for example to favour the social and territorial cohesion) in the world? Are they useful to create an exchange with the countries of the South Shore of Mediterranean?

There are some initiatives of decentralized cooperation but they are less developed than the European and Mediterranean ones. In particular, in Latin America there are some sub-regional cooperation areas (for example, the MERCOSUR) and cooperation initiative between States (e.g. Bolivia-Argentina agreement). These initiatives are very similar to the cross-border cooperation initiatives developed in Europe and in the Mediterranean area. However, they lack a macroregional approach.

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                                                                                                    Cecilia Luppichini





Regions promote "Territorial pacts" for Europe 2020 strategy

posted Oct 2, 2011, 9:25 AM by Plural CentroStudiEuropeo   [ updated Oct 5, 2011, 1:10 AM ]

Mercedes Bresso, President of the Committee of the Regions, has recently stated that the economic crisis might result in a slow and jobless economic recovery, undermining social cohesion. In order to avoid such an outcome and to achieve the aims of the Europe 2020 Strategy, Member States should learn from the failure of the Lisbon strategy, which was due to the fact that local authorities were not involved in its implementation.

We have talked about the forging of Territorial Pacts with Filippo Terruso, Member of the Secretariat-General within the Committee of the Regions.

Q - What is the role of the regions in Europe 2020 strategy, and which are the CoR initiatives to support regional actors in this challenge?

Europe 2020 must provide joint frameworks for policy implementation. The EU must take the competences of the various players into account, and define the levels at which each action should be carried out, within a framework of multi-level governance. 

The Committee of the Regions is gaining support for its idea of forging "territorial pacts" to facilitate the implementation
of the 'Europe 2020' strategy at regional and local level. A Territorial Pact for Europe 2020 is an agreement between a country tiers of government (local, regional, national). Parties signing up to a Territorial Pact commit to coordinate and synchronize their policy agendas in order to focus their actions and financial resources on the Europe 2020 Strategy’s goals and targets.

A Territorial Pact should allow a country’s national, regional and local governments to draft and implement the Europe 2020 National Reform Programme in partnership, and to monitor its progress. To this end, a Territorial Pact should aim at:
• setting national and possibly regional targets, with recourse, when necessary, to indicators and targets other than GDP;
• implementing one or several flagship initiatives;
• identifying obstacles to the achievement of the targets at national level.

Q-Some regions such as Tuscany, Andalucia, Lazio, Piedmont, PACA and Catalonia have initiated a common path in the context of the CPMR. This process began in 2001 with the creation of the RIM (Network of Institutes of the Mediterranean) and it continued in 2007 with the development of PARM (Regional Action Plan for the Mediterranean). 
What is the position of the CoR about the creation of a macro-region in the Western Mediterranean area?

The area of the Western Mediterranean is really vast and involves many different realities. The support, at this moment, of an initiative of this kind, could remove oxygen to the nascent Union for the Mediterranean. Currently, the Committee of the Regions is closely following the path of Ionio-Adriatica macro region. President Bresso has recently accepted an invitation from the President of the Istria region, Ivan Jakovčić, to meet with the Prefects of the Croatian Adriatic Counties in order to discuss the way forward for the EU strategy for the Danube region.

For further information about territorial pacts, CoR Web site
http://portal.cor.europa.eu/europe2020/news/Pages/TerritorialPacts2011.aspx

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