Celebrating 5 years of collaboration between AEBR and CESCI in the Balkans
To celebrate the first lustrum of activity in the Balkans since their start in Novi Sad in 2015, with the strong support of public authorities in Vojvodina, in particular the Regional Assembly and, especially, its Chairman Mr Iszván Pásztor, the Association of European Border Regions (AEBR) and the Central European Service for Cross-Border Initiatives (CESCI) organised an online conference on 16 December 2020.
Ms Melinda Berzi (CESCI) moderated a very interesting conference, Functional cross-border regions as engines of EU integration of the Western Balkans, opened by video message by the EU Commissioner of Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Mr Olivér Várhelyi, who stressed that “CBC is at the heart of our work, bringing people and opportunities together across borders”. The Republic of Serbia was also represented at the highest level, with the Minister of European Integration, Ms Jadranka Joksimović.
Ms Alina Tatarenko stressed the strong support of the Council of Europe to CBC, and Mr Karl-Heinz Lambertz, President of AEBR, reminded how our Association already raised awareness on the importance of establishing CBC in Western Balkans at the end of the nineties after a very hard period in the region, AEBR support to CARDS, IPA-CBC and other programmes, and the need to strengthen this EU assistance. We have also followed with strong interest the work of the Council of Europe in the region, and have been regularly updated thanks to the work of two AEBR members, the euroregions DKMT (HU/RO/RS) and Nishava (BG/RS) and, particularly since 2015, to the joint efforts with CESCI, also a member of AEBR. Mr Lambertz highlighted various general challenges for CBC and how a functional conception of cross-border regions can be a smart approach to react to the pandemic and the post-pandemic. Mr Tamás Tóth, Chairman of CESCI, closed the Opening session by encouraging interested institutions to strengthen their support to CBC in the Balkans.
Ms Ana Nikolov (AEBR Balkans) and Mr Ervin Erős (CESCI Balkans) presented an impressive set of events, projects and other actions, particularly oriented to increase capacities and especially addressed to young citizens, which have been developed, promoted and implemented by both organisations in the last five years. The successful endeavour of AEBR’s and CESCI’s offices in the Balkans has been honoured by recounting the story of how AEBR and CESCI started their initiatives, outlining their natural collaboration in the area. See the joint presentation here
Then, top experts explained how functional regions and integrated CBC build trust:
– Prof. Andreas Faludi, Professor Emeritus, Delft University of Technology, who made important questions about the support of the EU to territorial cooperation;
– Mr. Kai Böhme, Partner and Director of Spatial Foresight, stressed the growing interdependencies across borders and the importance of a correct implementation of the EU Territorial Agenda 2030;
– Prof. Daniele del Bianco, Director of the Institute of International Sociology of Gorizia (ISIG), offered an excellent analysis of the preconditions for CBC; and
– Mr. Siniša Trkulja, Advisor at the Ministry of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure, Republic of Serbia, tackled governance and integrated approaches.
It followed an interesting exchange, and some look into the future by Mr Amer Kapetanovic, Head of Political Department at the Regional Cooperation Council, and Mr Martin Guillermo-Ramírez, Secretary General of the Association or European Border Regions.
This event was supported by the Council of Europe, Centre of Expertise for Good Governance.