ESPON Seminar “Change the perspective! From cross-border to interaction area”, Dresden on 11 June 2019:


The ESPON Seminar “Change the perspective! From cross-border to interaction area” took place in the Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development in Dresden on the 11th of June 2019, and focused on the on the challenges of border areas, taking a closer look at the experiences in Central Europe, in particular those from the German-Polish-Czech border regions.

Mr Robert Knippschild, on behalf of the Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development (IOER) welcomed the participants of this Seminar and briefly presented the work developed by IOER in terms of research and advice for the sustainable development of cities and regions. Mr Vassilen Iotzov, ESPON EGTC, shared an inspirational opening speech on the role of Interreg as an instrument to support cross-border visions, governance and actions. He also presented the ESPON research projects more relevant for cross-border regions, namely in terms of services, governance and externalities, as well as the ESPON data and monitoring tools available.

The first session of the day brought together representatives from three Joint Secretariats of Interreg programmes – Mrs Hana Muller Karlova (Germany/Saxony-Czech Republic), Mr Pawel Kurant (Germany/Saxony-Poland) and Mr Maciej Molak (Czech Republic-Poland). During a round-table discussion moderated by Mr Martin Guillermo-Ramirez, Secretary General of the Association of the European Border Regions, they highlighted their perspectives about the contribution of Interreg investments to alleviate border obstacles, referring not only to physical or visible borders, but also mental and administrative or legal challenges. The framework of Interreg includes actions in different axes such as regional mobility, cross-border education, common natural and environmental heritage, cross-border partnerships and institutional capacity.

The second session was focused on the available evidence and visions for interaction areas, starting with an intervention from Mr Bernd Schuh (OIR) about the challenges and pitfalls of measuring the ‘net impact’ or the performance of policy interventions. Mr Volker Schmidt-Seiwert (BBSR) shared some thoughts about territorial monitoring in cross-border areas and the ‘BBSR Spatial Monitoring System’ particularly to Germany and the neighbouring (border) regions. He shared the recommendations for action towards a permanent spatial monitoring system, starting from the identification of the most relevant topics and appropriate indicators (and respective scale) to represent spatial processes, building upon existing and successful cross-border monitoring systems, in order to secure a long-term cooperation with all stakeholders of spatial monitoring. Dr Maciej Zathey (Instytut Rozwoju Terytorialnego) presented the ‘Common Future Vision for the German-Polish Interaction Area: Horizon 2030’ based on the concept of spatial development in Poland and Germany, towards a Polish-German supra-regional contribution to the cohesion policy in relation to the Territorial Agenda 2020: “together and not just next to each other”. Mr Milan Jerabek (Brno University) shared some final inputs about the contribution of cross-border projects to strengthening the regional competitiveness of the Czech-Saxon border region.

The third session of the day ‘Interactions among funding schemes’ looked on how to strengthen the links between Interreg and other funding streams, in order to maximize impact. A special focus to the new Interreg Central Europe experimental call that can be a testbed for a new impact-driven coordination mechanism between different EU instruments, as presented by Mrs Monika Schönerklee-Grasser (Interreg CE JS) during his keynote speech. She highlighted the efforts by the EC and the Member States to “ensure the coordination between ESI funds and other relevant Union policies, strategies and instruments”. Mr Dirk Peters (DG Regio) shared the vision to CBC post-2020, a faster programming with shorter and modern priorities, specifically for border regions: “If only 20% of existing obstacles were removed border regions would still gain 2% in GDP”. Mr Peter Schenk (EC DG Research and Innovation) presented the new Horizon Europe, a €100 billion research and innovation funding programme for the seven-year period 2021-2027, including the specificities and complementarities with Cohesion Policy (ERDF) and possible types of synergies between funds. Mr Janos Schmied (DG Grow) presented the COSME programme and focus his presentation on the strengthening of the links with EU instruments facilitating cross-border market access, sharing some examples of good practices and synergies between ESIF and Enterprise Europe Network (EEN).

A moderated round table to discuss the post-2020 Interreg niches for interaction areas closed the discussions for the day, bringing together representatives from Germany, Poland and Czech Republic – Mr Riger Mackeldey (Saxon State Ministry of Environment and Agriculture), Mr Jaroslaw Sopel (Ministry of Investment and Economic Development of Poland), Mr Gregor Firschbach (German Federal Ministry of the Interior) and Mr Jan Pikna (Minisry of Regional development of Czech Republic).

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