IEMed Mediterranean Yearbook 2006


Panorama : The Mediterranean Year


Decentralized Cooperation in the Mediterranean: Perspectives for the Period 2007-2013

Philippe Chichowlaz

Director for inter-regional cooperation
Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions of Europe (CPMR), Rennes

The Key Factors for the Period 2007-2013

The challenges for territorial cooperation in the Mediterranean are easier to predict for the year 2006, due to a combination of several different factors:

  1. The adoption of the financial perspective. The agreement of December 16th, 2005 at last gives the territorial actors a durable framework, even if the European Commission’s original aspirations to work towards Objective 3 “territorial cooperation” have been significantly reduced in scope. Nevertheless, North/North cooperation on the Mediterranean should benefit from a budget similar to that allocated for the period 2000-2006 with the prospect of operating within a unified Mediterranean context. Transnational projects will continue to benefit from about 1.4 billion euros of Community co-financing at a rate of 75% for all participants across the board. Negotiations to designate the boundaries for the future Interreg areas for 2007-2013 are now more or less completed. The Mediterranean is one of the zones which will see most changes compared to the previous period. The new zone will in fact join up the existing  “Western Mediterranean” and “Archimed” zones, and will also include nearly all the Italian regions, as well as Slovenia. In total, 8 of the existing 25 EU countries will be concerned : Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Slovenia, Malta, Greece and Cyprus  with the possibility that Turkey could be included under the terms of its Pre-Accession instrument. Furthermore, in relation to North/South cooperation, part of the cross-border package has already been earmarked for co-financing the European Neighbourhood Policy (about 25% of the total available for cross-border cooperation), equivalent to about 1.5 billion euros. To this sum it will no doubt be possible to add similar amounts under section 4 of the budget (“external relations”), in order to cover not only bilateral cooperation, but also cooperation for a whole maritime basin, with particular reference to the Euromediterranean context.
  2. The Barcelona summit has given rise to a vigorous mobilization of regional and local actors, and this vigorous mobilization has in particular manifested itself in favour of decentralized cooperation in the Mediterranean basin. It reflects the sentiments evoked by the foreign affairs ministers of the Euromediterranean Partnership when they met in June 2005 under Luxembourg’s presidency of theEU.
  3. The European Commission is now better equipped to measure the requirements of the cross-border package  within the framework of the neighbourhood policy instrument. The regulations of the European neighbourhood and partnership instrument (ENPI) have now established the rules of eligibility for bilateral cross-border cooperation and also for cooperation on the basis of a whole maritime basin, which will make it possible to involve all regional and local partners, and will thus provide a real tool for decentralized cooperation in the Mediterranean.
  4. At the same time, the European Commission approved on January 25th, 2006 a number of programmes relating to the EU’s external cooperation with the ACP countriesand with the EU’s neighbouring countries. The regional and local dimension is a constant feature, particularly in relation ot the guidelines on the subject : ” Non-state actors and Local Authorities in development “. Recognition of the role that regional and local collectivitites have to play in the external partnerships of the EU is finally starting to become a reality after several years of uncertainty.

The Opportunities Which Need to Be Seized to Implement Decentralized Cooperation in the Mediterranean

A certain number of question nevertheless still need to be answered regarding the establishment of future programmes, not least of which is the relationship between the continuing Interreg on the North, and the component of north/south and south/south cooperation of the European Neighbourhood Policy.

Administrative and financial architecture which is going to be set up will have a major influence on the future succes of these programmes. Common sense would call for the rapid establishment of a system similar to the one set up in the Baltic over the period 2000-2006. It should be remembered that, in the case of the Baltic programme, the FEDER, PHARE and TACIS credits were administered by the same team in the offices of shared secretariats at Rostock (Germany) and at Karlskrona (Sweden), thus making the best use of the different skills available and avoiding possible elements of friction that could be caused by the specific constraints inherent in the implementation of each financial instrument. In order to avoid any operational delays in setting up programmes, it would be preferable to make a certain number of choices with regard to the location and structure of the future secretariat as soon as possible. Past experiences show that Mediterranean projects have regularly suffered delays in this respect. With the expectations created by the adoption of the new neighbourhood programme, it is not acceptable to envisage the type of delay that has occurred in the past, sometimes amounting to more than 18 months. The recurrence of a similar situation during the setting-up of a programme could have dire consequences when it comes to considering the future budget provisions for the European Union in 2008/2009. The innovatory nature of the future project means that it is even more important to anticipate the complex problems that will be involved in setting it up.

The strategy and future priorities of the “Mediterranean” programme North-North

The DG Regio main priorities for the Mediterranean zone are already known ; it is for the State Region partnership to outline the final details before entering the operational phase. In this way we know that the priorities for north/north cooperation will include risk management, control of water resources, responsibility for safety at sea, and responsibility for regional competition on a transnational scale. It should be remembered that the transition from a Community initiative (Interreg IIIb) to Mainstream regional policy (Objective 3) will reinforce the Commission’s ability to fix the strategic priorities for the programme.

Which strategy for north/south programmes ?

The definition of priorities for cooperation within the framework of the future neighbourhood instrument will inevitably be different from that applied in the north/north context. The problems of establishing a viable legal and financial framework will inevitably lead to a complete separation of the north/north and north/south programmes. Regrettable as this may be, it is nonetheless a certainty that the north/south programme will include more “people to people” projects, whilst north/north cooperation will deal more with structural projects within the framework of the EU. It remains to be seen whether it will be possible to manage, on a case-by-case basis and in a coordinated way, a number of north/south structural projects involving national and regional authorities in a very wide variety of institutional contexts. To be able to achieve this we will need to be sure of the real desire of countries on the southern shore of the Mediteranean to participate in projects agreed with the European Union in a spirit of decentralized cooperation.

New Partnership Opportunities to Be Seized

The meeting between cities and regions held during the Barcelona summit on November 26th, 2005 led for the first time to a common declaration made by all partners present. In view of the challenges to be faced and the complexity of the  parterships which can be envisaged between regional and local authorities on the southern shore of the Mediterranean, several new factors have emerged :

  • The need to make sure that the spirit of cooperation does not become dispersed, and that efforts are focused on precise objectives which involve the partners in a much closer collaboration than in the past ;
  • The need to overcome the institutional barriers existing between countries, by bringing together in the cooperation projects the decentralized levels of administration of the countries on the southern shore : the regions, the départements/provinces, and the cities. There is a real need to organize and benefit from projects by stressing much more than in the past the complimentary nature of partners and the synergies existing between them. In this way there emerges in different regions a common desire to organize cooperation between entities in a more structured fashion, particularly through existing channels. The following examples are noteworthy :
  • Cooperation between cities through the Mediterranean network of Eurocities (Med-Cities) and United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG)
    • Cooperation between départements/provinces through the Arco Latino network
    • Cooperation between regions through the CPMR and its Inter-Mediterranean Commission.

There will certainly be every good reason to develop the appropriate opportunities and methods to collaborate between these different networks, with the overriding aim of creating a type of network skill-bank, the frame of reference of which remains to be defined. Its main role could be to focus on the methodology for setting up cooperation projects, and the matching up of supply and demand for services according to the skills and priorities of each partner. Various possible initiatives which could be undertaken can be mentioned at the present moment. The most pressing need would be to mobilize all potential participants so as to establish cooperation in a structured and effective manner.