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Maritime border regions and straits’ areas at the heart of the European Week of Regions and Cities 2017

Several European Straits Initiative partners have seized the opportunity of the European Week of Regions and Cities to highlight and discuss the specific challenges of maritime border regions and, more specifically, straits’ areas.

Two events of the European Week of Regions and Cities 2017 have been organised in the framework of the Interreg Europe PASSAGE project (Public AuthoritieS Supporting low-cArbon Growth in European maritime border regions).

Connecting people across maritime borders – the case of the Gulf of Finland

On 6 September 2017 in Tallinn, one of the first local events of the European Week of Regions and Cities 2017 was dedicated to a key topic when it comes to cross-border cooperation on maritime borders: connecting people. Mr Mart Võrklaev, member of the European Committee of the Regions and mayor of Rae municipality (Estonia), was chairing this meeting in presence of local stakeholders from Finland and Estonia and partners from European straits.

Ms Krista Katriina Kiuru, member of Finnish Parliament, former Minister of Housing, Communications and Education, emphasized the great links already existing between populations on both shores of the Gulf of Finland. "We are sharing our culture together", she explained, "each Finn has at least one Estonian friend". Ms Yoko Alender, member of Estonian parliament, highlighted the key issue around the tunnel project: "At the end of the day, it's all about the people: connecting people. (...) What kind of possibility would it give to the people if there was a fixed link? (...) How would they be living the Twin-Cities' life?".

Read the full article on PASSAGE project website

    

Maritime borders debated in Brussels

On 10 October 2017 in Brussels, a workshop was held with about 50 participants and 5 panelists. Mr Kaarel Kose, then policy advisor within Harju County Government (Estonia) and moderator of the workshop, introduced the topic explaining that “maritime border, from our experience, is not only an obstacle, it is also a connecting point”.

The first part of the debate was dedicated to the benefits of cross-border cooperation for inhabitants. Mr Jean-Marc Venineaux, representative of the European Commission DG Regio, explained that the EU programmes including Interreg programmes have to address the needs of territories but that cooperation programmes cannot answer the needs of inhabitants as individuals; they need to understand that “they are all part of a bigger region, where they share joint issues, (…) which is called Europe”.

Mr Philipp Schwartz, representing Interact “Knowledge of the seas” network, explained that in general cooperation across a border is already difficult, but that it is “even more challenging to bring people to cooperate across a maritime border”. “There is lots of psychology”, he said, referring to the mental barrier and cultural issues.

The second part of the debate questioned whether Interreg was the Holy Grail of cross-border cooperation in maritime border regions? “We are talking of 4% of the cohesion policy going to Interreg”, explained Ms Bjering, representative of the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions. “We have to be clear about what Interreg can do and what Interreg cannot do”, said Mr Schwartz, “the share of Interreg is trust-building in a bigger picture. (…) Interreg is exactly the soft thing that you cannot measure”. Ms Alexandra Lafont, representing the Transfrontier Operational Mission (MOT)summarised the debate: “Does Interreg solve everything? Of course not! The tools need to be intertwined and combined.

Coming to the last part of the debate about the future of cross-border cooperation in maritime border regions after 2020, Ms Bjering insisted on the need for an approach based on local priorities. “Being involved in the governance is extremely important (…) to ensure the stakeholders needs”, she said.

Read the full article on PASSAGE project website

Read the minutes of the workshop

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