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Conference Report on the 1st EGTC Conference

"The reform of the EGTC regulation – New opportunities for cross-border cooperation of regional authorities?"

On June 5th 2014 at the European University Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder)


I. EGTC Center of Excellence

The conference was carried out by the EGTC Center of Excellence at the Viadrina Center B/ORDERS IN MOTION in Frankfurt (Oder)/ Germany. The academic staff Dr. Marcin Krzymuski, Mr. Philipp Kubicki and Mr. Peter Ulrich were in charge of agenda and setting. Student workers from the Chairs of Mr. Prof Matthias Pechstein (Mrs. Gloria Bartelt, Mr. Dorian Duda), Mr. Prof Jürgen Neyer (Mrs. Esther Franke) and Mr. Prof Carsten Nowak (Mr. Ahmet Kilic) supported the conference in organizational matters. The presentations and round tables were translated simultaneously into German and Polish by Mr. Michał Scheuer and Mr. Grzegorz Załoga. The conference resources were covered by the budget of the EGTC Center of Excellence.


II. Minutes of the Conference

The EGTC Conference started at 10 am and was finished at 5 pm. The agenda was composed by three conference panels with lunch and coffee break.
The first panel of the conference focused on the reform of the regulation regarding the European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC) and its national implementation in Germany and Poland. The first presentation by Mr. Dirk Peters of the European Commission (Team Leader in the Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy) expounded the reasons and goals of the EGTC regulation reform. Mr. Peters referred to the European Commission report (2011) that summarizes the experiences and practical difficulties of the EGTC instrument since 2006. Based on that, Mr. Peters distinguished between 3 approaches and objectives of the regulation reform: First, the removal of legal uncertainties (f.e. the participation of national authorities). Second, the simplification of forming and administration of an EGTC (f.e. the procedure of approval). Third, the strengthening of this legal instrument (f.e. the possibility to apply the legal order separately on the tasks of the EGTC). At the end of the presentation Mr. Peters underlined the necessity of national rules for the application.
The implementation of the regulation reform of the EGTC in Poland was the focal point of the second presentation by Mr. Filip Chybalski, member of the Polish Ministry of Infrastructure and Development (Department of Territorial Cooperation). Starting with the difficulties of the legal instrument EGTC in Poland (referring to the missing experience with supranational legal instruments in Poland and the potential wide scope of assignments of an EGTC), he continued arguing that the regulation reform has not changed the nature of the EGTC as a legal instrument visibly. His consultations from a governmental level on the promulgation of implementing laws are mainly focusing on the national implementation of the new EGTC regulation reform requirements. The introduction of a tacit consent is a specific challenge. The Polish side is discussing the abolition of the existing national regulation in the implementing law. A possible scenario could be the annulment of the current reference to a complementary application of a Polish legislation on associations. Finally, Mr. Chybalski pronounced the need to inform about the EGTC on regional and European level before taking this legal instrument into consideration. The foundation of an EGTC should be well thought. The legal form of an EGTC does not guarantee the absorption of EU funds.
In the third presentation of the first panel Mr. Josef Brink of the German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection presented the implementation plans from a German governmental perspective. Firstly, he said that the legal framework of the legal instrument is important but it should not be addressed as a priority. From the German national perspective the EGTC does not represent the only legal instrument for cross-border regional cooperation. Concerning the EGTC regulation, the German government does not see the necessity for national implementation as the Act on competences of the German Länder is already sufficient. The EGTC regulation is not depending on rules of application based on provisions of jurisdiction. In addition to this, the promulgation of national rules of application could result in restrictions regarding the use of an EGTC. The German government does not intend to predetermine competencies of application referring to the subsidiarity character of an EGTC. Nevertheless, the German government is interested in strengthening information policy measures regarding the EGTC. The Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure has currently published guidelined for forming an EGTC that has also been translated into the Polish and English language.
The implementation process from a German Land perspective was presented by Ms. Astrid Lang from the Ministry for Interior and Sports of Rhineland-Palatinate. She underlined that the ministry was initially well-disposed towards the introduction of an EGTC. The approach was a pragmatic one: a joint utilization of limited resources in the cross-border region of Belgium, Luxembourg, France and the German Lander Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland. Ms. Lang reported on success stories and difficulties of current and planned EGTC projects. In her report she focused firstly on the EGTC summit secretary foundation in Luxembourg representing the Grand Region including Saarland, Lorraine and Luxembourg (Saar-Lor-Lux), Rhineland-Palatinate, Wallonia. Secondly, she reported on the university in the Grand Region, a network of the Grand Region´s universities which plan to introduce the EGTC legal instrument.
The second panel of the conference put emphasis on the EGTC in practice. The speaker Ms. Agnieszka Pyzowska (Director EGTC Tatry Ltd. [PL-SK]) and Mr. Karl-Heinz Boßan (Coordinator of TransOderana EGTC [waiting for approval] [PL-DE]) reported about their practical experiences and their daily work around their formation process of an EGTC. Both speakers focused on the motives for choosing the EGTC as the legal form for joint actions of cross-border institutions. Ms. Pyzowska referred to the EGTC Tatry as an evolutionary development of the already existing long-term cooperation structure of the founding Polish and Slovakian members of the Tatry Euroregion. The aim was to take formal, legal, institutional and in terms of content cooperation on a higher level. Through the application of an EGTC as the legal form the Euroregion expected to overcome formal obstacles for joint actions. It was also intended to obtain more EU funds and to manage and implement small projects through the application of an EGTC in the Euroregion. Despite the added value of an EGTC legal framework its members still have not decided to dissolve the Euroregion´s structure.
In his presentation, Mr. Boßan focused on the role of the local entities as servants for their citizens. From this initial point, the tasks of an EGTC have to be defined. An EGTC should support measures that counteract negative developments (f.e. regarding demographic development) and support the use of endogenous potentials. The reference point for the founding process of the EGTC TransOderana need to be transportation corridors (railway, roads, rivers) in the concerning regions. Around the transportation corridors there are new residential and logistic areas to be developed.
After a short coffee break the third and final panel started addressing the EGTC in the EU Regional Policy. Mr. Dirk Peters presented the role of EGTC in the EU Regional Policy. In his presentation, Mr. Peters showed potential forms of using an EGTC in the Regional Policy referring to the "European Territorial Cooperation" (ETC) regulation (the European strategy for cross-border, transnational and interregional cooperation in the EU financial period 2014 – 2020). He highlighted that an EGTC can be a managing organization of an INTERREG operational programme (OP), an intermediate or a beneficiary of an INTERREG project or other project funds.
After the first presentation about EGTC in the EU Cohesion Policy, Mr. Peter Ulrich, member of the EGTC Center of Excellence in Frankfurt (Oder) continued talking about the "new financial period as an opportunity for the EGTC legal instrument". In his presentation Mr. Ulrich traced the development of cross-border cooperation in the European integration process leading to the institutionalization of European Territorial Cooperation (ETC) as the third column of EU Cohesion Policy. After outlining debates about Cohesion Policy in European political sciences, he presented the main changes in the new EU financial period 2014 – 2020 regarding Cohesion Policy and other EU funding opportunities (ERASMUS+. COSME, Horizone2020). To identify the "opportunities for the new financial period through the reformed EGTC" Mr. Ulrich analyzed political and strategic documents such as partnership agreements with the Commission concerning EU Cohesion Policy 2014-2020 (Germany and Poland), drafts of operational programmes for cross-border cooperation (Germany-Netherlands, Saxony-Poland, Brandenburg-Poland) and the "Territorial Agenda of the European Union 2020" by the Hungarian Presidency of the Council of Ministers (2011). While the German government criticized difficulties in the founding process of an EGTC, the Polish government welcomes the use of the EGTC legal instrument for the administration of umbrella projects that finances small fund projects, concluded Mr. Ulrich. In the draft versions of the operational programs the EGTC is only mentioned in passing and is therefore no main beneficiary of INTERREG funding.