Local and regional elected representatives believe that more importance should be attached to people-to-people and small-scale projects in the framework of cross-border cooperation programmes, in order to overcome obstacles at borders and to integrate border areas and their citizens. According to Dr Pavel Branda's (CZ/ECR) opinion adopted unanimously on 12 July 2017 by the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), the positive impact and EU added-value of such projects has not been properly recognised and reflected in the EUs Cohesion Policy.
Border regions are home to more than one third of the EU's population and represent a major challenge for territorial cooperation. Over the 2014-2020 period, border communities are set to receive investments worth more than EUR 6.6 billion - out of the EUR 10 billion invested in regional cooperation.
The opinion drafted by Pavel Branda, Deputy Mayor of the city of Rádlo in the Czech Republic, recommends that for the post-2020 Cohesion Policy, these projects be built into the EU's support for cross-border cooperation as legitimate instruments under the CBC programmes. It also calls on the Commission to make the necessary arrangements, including the simplification of procedures.
Regional and local political leaders believe that, in light of the current situation in the EU of growing nationalism, the migration crisis, the UKs exit from the EU and economic and monetary difficulties, it is essential to focus more on projects that bring added-value and therefore both refocus the EUs cohesion policy on people-to-people and small scale projects as well as raisinge the profile of their positive results.
The opinion stresses the findings of independent studies confirming that the variety of projects and their decentralised management mean that such projects are capable of delivering better results in addressing region-specific needs and are also capable of bringing numerous concrete benefits to citizens, although these projects are often neglected by the managing authorities for the sake of larger projects. "It is not only large projects but also the small individual projects which are essential for the success of cross-border cooperation. They help to build confidence and eliminate stereotypes and prejudices," explains Pavel Branda. They directly involve citizens, local and regional authorities and civil society organizations while developing interpersonal contacts and partnerships and creating a platform for sharing experiences from different sides of the border. Very often, just the fact that cross-border cooperation takes place is a positive result in itself. Therefore, when it comes to assessing the objectives of the EU2020 strategy, flexibility with more suitable methodology and evaluation indicators for these kinds of projects is needed in order to ensure that their contribution is not overlooked.
The CoR therefore recommends that local and regional measures be taken within the framework of CBC, as opposed to more overarching initiatives, which are considered by the Committee to be less effective and overly dominant. Local and regional elected representatives call for the development of smaller-scale initiatives, which will enable local problems to be tackled using a tailor-made approach. This will help to mobilise and involve local citizens participating in the development of larger projects and thus restore genuine trust and cooperation in these areas.