European Territorial Cooperation

08-09-2016

Established in 1990, the first European territorial cooperation initiative, Interreg I, focused on cross-border cooperation. Action in this area has expanded over the years to cover broader initiatives such as trans-national cooperation, involving countries from wider geographical areas, and inter-regional cooperation, which brings together regions from across the whole EU. These three strands together make up European territorial cooperation, which is one of the two main goals of cohesion policy today. With the removal of Europe’s frontier posts, travelling across the border to work, visit the doctor, or simply to go out for the day, has become second nature for millions of European citizens. European territorial cooperation has brought Europeans closer together, strengthened connectivity and improved the environment, supported by EU mechanisms such as the European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation and macro-regional strategies. Yet despite these achievements, numerous obstacles to closer cooperation still remain, such as divergent national rules in the areas of employment, healthcare or social security. Recent years have witnessed increased calls to address these hurdles, with the 2015 Luxembourg EU presidency putting forward a proposal for a new instrument for cross-border projects and the European Commission organising a consultation to identify remaining bottlenecks in this area as part of a wider cross-border review. The European Parliament has also prepared a report on European Territorial Cooperation as part of this process, which will be debated at the September 2016 plenary session. While discussions are due to begin on the future shape of cohesion policy post-2020 and on the role of Interreg, the temporary reintroduction of border controls by several countries within the Schengen zone is already having a negative impact on cross-border cooperation, a clear sign that territorial cooperation may not be taken for granted.

Established in 1990, the first European territorial cooperation initiative, Interreg I, focused on cross-border cooperation. Action in this area has expanded over the years to cover broader initiatives such as trans-national cooperation, involving countries from wider geographical areas, and inter-regional cooperation, which brings together regions from across the whole EU. These three strands together make up European territorial cooperation, which is one of the two main goals of cohesion policy today. With the removal of Europe’s frontier posts, travelling across the border to work, visit the doctor, or simply to go out for the day, has become second nature for millions of European citizens. European territorial cooperation has brought Europeans closer together, strengthened connectivity and improved the environment, supported by EU mechanisms such as the European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation and macro-regional strategies. Yet despite these achievements, numerous obstacles to closer cooperation still remain, such as divergent national rules in the areas of employment, healthcare or social security. Recent years have witnessed increased calls to address these hurdles, with the 2015 Luxembourg EU presidency putting forward a proposal for a new instrument for cross-border projects and the European Commission organising a consultation to identify remaining bottlenecks in this area as part of a wider cross-border review. The European Parliament has also prepared a report on European Territorial Cooperation as part of this process, which will be debated at the September 2016 plenary session. While discussions are due to begin on the future shape of cohesion policy post-2020 and on the role of Interreg, the temporary reintroduction of border controls by several countries within the Schengen zone is already having a negative impact on cross-border cooperation, a clear sign that territorial cooperation may not be taken for granted.