30 June 2021
A Roundtable on Cross-Border Cooperation organised by the Association of European Border Regions (AEBR), the Ministry of National Planning and Economic Policy of Costa Rica (MIDEPLAN) and the Costa Rica-Panama Agreement on Border Development was held on a virtual basis on the 29th of June.
The Roundtable was moderated by the Director of International Cooperation of MIDEPLAN, Saskia Rodríguez Steichen, who made the welcoming remarks and presented the lecturers. The first lecture was given by AEBR Secretary General Martín Guillermo, on “Cross-Border Cooperation”. After a brief historical outline of municipality-led cross-border cooperation initiatives, the idea of CBC as “Europe on a small scale” and the creation of AEBR as a consequence thereof, Mr. Guillermo presented the Association’s work in fostering cross-border cooperation. AEBR is active in the European Union, where it is most developed, in extra-EU European countries, where cross-border cooperation is often hampered due to conflicting interests, and outside Europe, where it actively promotes CBC initiatives and provides assistance to local initiatives.
The challenges to cross-border cooperation stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, such as the re-nationalisation of policymaking and the adjustments made by States on their travel restrictions in their border areas, were also covered. The lecture concluded with the presentation of the present-day challenges and objectives of CBC at the European and extra-European levels, such as preparing border areas for the green and digital transitions and the improvement of multi-level governance.
The second lecture was presented by Jose Cruz, expert in CBC and International Cooperation, on the need to act outside European borders on CBC. The main initiatives in Latin America, the Middle East and Africa involving AEBR were presented, with special attention to the former. In Latin America, the EU is actively cooperating both with other regional organisations, such as the Andean Community and with groups of States, such as those on the Brazil-Paraguay-Argentina Tri-Border Area. Cooperation on CBC between Latin America and Europe also happens through the actions of EU Member States and regions, such as in initiatives carried out by AEXCID, the Extremaduran Agency for International Cooperation and Development.
Among the challenges faced by proponents of CBC in Latin America, Mr. Cruz mentions the lack of a common framework for CBC and the dependence of such projects on political stability. There have been, however, positive developments in the continent over the past few years, such as greater funding possibilities and the creation of successful CBC projects based on local governments.
The third lecture, by Raúl Nieto, an expert on cross-border cooperation from Ecuador, focused on past experiences on cross-border cooperation in the Andean Community, characterized by their multilevel and multi-actor approach. One such experience was the successful creation of a single coffee brand, used for exporting, destined for Peruvian and Bolivian coffee-growers in border areas. Another successful initiative, backed by AEBR and the Andean Community, was the development and expertise exchange organised with the High Authority of the Titicaca Lake, in the Peru-Bolivia border.
The lectures were followed by a round of Q&As, after which the event’s closing remarks were delivered by Ms. Rodríguez Steichen.
AEBR and public representatives of Costa Rica and Panama also discussed of the situation of CBC in Central America and looked for future cooperation and exchange of experiences with Europe.
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