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European straits in action to save maritime cross-border cooperation programmes

After the publication of the draft regulations for the future cohesion policy in May 2018, partners of the European Straits Initiative have defended their position to save maritime cross-border cooperation programmes after 2020.

 

In June, the European Straits Initiative expressed its strong concerns after the publication by the European Commission of the draft regulations for the next programming period after 2020. This joint position adopted by the members of the European Straits Initiative was shared with the main policy makers in Europe, hoping to inflect the regulations in favour of a reintegration of maritime cross-border cooperation in the scope of “cross-border cooperation”.

All partners of the European Straits Initiative have contributed to disseminate this position across Europe: meetings with political representatives, technical interventions, mobilisation of their networks… All these initiatives were also a great opportunity to contribute to the general debate in the European Union on the ambitions for the future cohesion policy and design of future programmes.

Consultation of stakeholders by the European Committee of the Regions

On 3rd September, Pas-de-Calais County Council has carried the voice of the European Straits Initiative to the European Committee of the Regions rapporteur for European Territorial Cooperation, Ms Marie-Antoinette Maupertuis, at the occasion of a stakeholder consultation in Brussels. Ms Maupertuis has expressed her support to the many stakeholders that came to defend cross-border cooperation in maritime border regions, acknowledging the unfair discrimination of maritime borders in the current regulations proposed by the European Commission.

Debate at the European Parliament

On 5th September, the Union of Harju County Municipalities was invited to share the benefit of cross-border cooperation between Tallinn and Helsinki, over the Gulf of Finland, with members of the European Parliament. “We have the largest passenger flows in Europe, highlighted Mr Kaarel Kose of the Union of Harju County Municipalities; “it shows how much we are interdependent, despite the water between Tallinn and Helsinki”. “Maritime issues are one of our minor concerns, even though we do have some specific issues: the main topic for cooperation is international competitiveness of our region. Sea is not more an obstacle than mountains. There are no reasons to consider us differently from land borders”, he explained. Participants highlighted the key added value of cross-border programmes, which lies in the bottom-up approach based on the involvement of NUTS 3 regional authorities, resulting in programmes designed to address the real local issues. Such programmes are bringing Europe closer to citizens and building trust between people. Pas-de-Calais County Council was also represented at this meeting and took the opportunity to remind all participants the specific issue of Brexit in Dover Strait, which makes cooperation across the maritime border even more needed considering the challenges to come.

MEP Elsi Katainen (ALDE, Finland), MEP Isabelle Thomas (S&D, France, MFF rapporteur) and MEP Tunne Kelam (EPP, Estonia), hosting the meeting, were very supportive to reintroducing maritime borders in the framework of “cross-border cooperation”. “Fifty percent of EU citizens lives on the coast: it’s a lot of people, we have to defend their interests”, highlighted Ms Thomas. They highlighted the support of the European Parliament for a strong cohesion policy, which includes a significant financial support to European Territorial Cooperation and – specially – cross-border cooperation.

The numerous amendments proposed on the draft regulation by the European Parliament between July and October are moreover in line with ESI proposals: reintegration of maritime borders to strand 1 “cross-border cooperation”, delete of specific reference to maritime border regions with a fixed link, increase of budget dedicated to cross-border cooperation

 

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