21 November 2014, Hondarribia (Basque Country): seminar “Significance of Cross-Border Cooperation in the European Integration Process: Current Situation and Perspectives for the Future” (original title: Significado de la cooperación transfronteriza en el proceso de integración europeo: situación actual y perspectivas de futuro):



 
Participants at the seminar “Significance of Cross-Border Cooperation in the European Integration Process: Current Situation and Perspectives for the Future”, Sabino Arana Foundation, Hondarribia (Basque Country), 21st November 2014. (Source: Sabino Arana Foundation, 2014)

On 21 November 2014, Hondarribia (Basque Country) was the venue for the seminar “Significance of Cross-Border Cooperation in the European Integration Process: Current Situation and Perspectives for the Future” (original title: Significado de la cooperación transfronteriza en el proceso de integración europeo: situación actual y perspectivas de futuro). This seminar was co-organised by the Foundation Sabino Arana and the Institute of European Democrats. Some 50 delegates followed the programme.

After the opening by Juan Ma Atutxa, President of the Sabino Arana Foundation; Aitor Kerejeta, lord mayor of Hondarribia; Mikel Anton, Basque Government; and Andoni Ortuzar, President of the Executive of the Basque Nationalist Party; AEBR Secretary General Martín Guillermo Ramírez took part in the first round table dealing with the policy of cross-border cooperation (CBC) in the EU, which was moderated by Izaskun Bilbao, Member of the European Parliament and former President of the Basque Parliament. Mr. Guillermo spoke on that occasion about the vision of cross-border cooperation and the Cohesion Policy of the European Commission, emphasising challenges and opportunities in this field within the European integration process, and the need of strengthening decentralization and subsidiarity, focusing bottom-up approaches when dealing with cross-border cooperation.

Further participants in this expert group were Igor Filibi, Professor for International Relations at the UPV/EHU (Universidad del País Vasco/ University of the Basque Country), and Francisco Letamendia, Professor Emeritus at the department of political science and administration of the UPV (University of the Basque Country). They highlighted the evolution of CBC policy in the EU and the instruments available for this kind of cooperation. Both showed their concerns about the new concentration-regionalization process in France.

From left to right: Martín Guillermo, Izaskun Bilbao, Aitor Kerejeta, Juan María Atutxa, Andoni Ortuzar. Seminar “Significance of Cross-Border Cooperation in the European Integration Process: Current Situation and Perspectives for the Future”, Sabino Arana Foundation, Hondarribia (Basque Country), 21st November 2014 (Source: Sabino Arana Foundation, 2014)

The second round table, moderated by José Maria Muñoa, focused particularly on the cooperation in the Basque border area and a presentation of the EGTC Aquitania-Euskadi, which was given by its director Marc Moulin. Most participants took this chance to remind the long-lasting contribution that Mr Muñoa did for CBC in the Basque Region and in Europe during his duties at the Basque Government.

This round table stressed how important is political will and civil society participation, apart from a concept, a strategy, as well as human and financial resources available for cross-border cooperation. It is also very much needed to establish good cooperation channels for entrepreneurs (example of Bihartean, the cross-border chamber of commerce in Aquitaine-Euskadi, presented by Olga Irastorza). But culture CBC is main issue in overcoming psychological barriers and building / protecting a cross-border identity. Pantxoa Etchegoin, Director of the Euskal Kultur Erakundea, offered a very good picture of regional culture cooperation between Iparralde (the “Northern side”: the French Basque Country) and Hegoalde (the “Southern Side”: the Basque Country).

The third round table concentrated on cross-border cooperation in other European areas. Jens Gabbe, chair of the AEBR Advisory Council, had the opportunity to present the cross-border cooperation in the EUREGIO at the German-Dutch border. He informed about the history, experiences and key elements of good cross-border cooperation.Ignacio Sánchez Amor, Member of Spanish Parliament and Special Representative for border issues at the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly spoke about the fact that cross-border cooperation plays an important role in post conflict scenarios. He explained the cycle of conflict and told some examples of “re-borderization”, where “security borders” prevail over “cooperation borders”, such as the borders of Georgia and Ukraine.

Many other elements were raised by the participants, such as cross-border governance (the role of EGTCs, Euroregions and Working Communities, legal aspects, daily border problems, asymmetries, cross-border infrastructures, taxation and social security issues, cross-border organization of sport activities, etc.

More information about this seminar can be found at the website of the Institute of European Democrats (http://www.iedonline.eu/) or the Sabino Arana Foundation(www.sabinoarana.org).

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