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Leader seminar "Challenges and methodology of transnational Cooperation"

2-6 April 1997, Dieulefit (Drôme), France

 

Case study

The "La Raya/A Raia" association: taking advantage of a peripheral location

The action

The international association "LA RAYA/A RAIA", which was officialised in November 1996, is the result of three years of cooperation between Spanish and Portuguese development associations located on either side of the border just north of the main road linking Madrid and Lisbon. The LEADER programme was the instrument that enabled initiating this process of transnational cooperation.

The various initiatives that have stemmed from this cooperation have enabled triggering integrated development dynamics in a single cross-border area. They are gradually transforming regions that until now have been considered peripheral in their own countries (because they were separated by what was virtually a closed border) into a new centre of development; this is through the mutual enrichment that is derived from cooperation between two cultures and two different national contexts and specific know-hows.

 

Key elements

  • Favour closer relations between two communities divided by history;
  • Mobilise the local actors and local authorities around cross-border projects;
  • Promote a common area-based entity;
  • Create a new area-based central point as an answer to the peripheral location.

 

Local context

The area of reference of the La Raia/A Raia association is comprised of municipalities on both sides of the border covering in total 13,740 km2. It is comprised of a plateau of medium altitude broken up by profound valleys. The geographical and geological conditions are identical on both sides of the border. This homogeneity ensures continuity between the Spanish and Portuguese areas and a marked area-based identity.

The two sides of the border share the following characteristics:

  • unfavourable natural conditions;
  • traditionally a very agricultural economy;
  • a particularly low population density (13 inhabitants/km2);
  • relative isolation in relation to the centres of the two countries, worsened by poor communication infrastructures.

The history of relations between the two countries is interspersed with various episodes of invasion and attempts of invasion. In fact, the border area corresponding to the association's area of action is located at a strategically important location and because of this has been particularly tormented.

On both the Spanish and Portuguese sides, the regions are isolated because of their distance from the two respective capitals.

The entry of the two countries in the European Union in 1986 opened up new prospects in their relations. These new prospects stemmed from the Community's Interreg initiative whose specific aim is to finance cooperation actions between border regions. The entry in the European Union has also enabled the two countries which have been lagging behind in the development of large-scale infrastructures to catch up a little bit. Nonetheless, the European programmes which initially emphasised infrastructures did not really enable narrowing the gap between the institutions and the communities of the regions concerned.

 

Point of departure

It is in fact the Leader initiative that was going to trigger a process of closer relations between the institutions of the two sides. Participating in the same European programme with transnational coordination, the Leader Local Action Groups in Spain and Portugal near the border sought to establish contacts with their immediate neighbours.

The region's two Spanish LEADER I Local Action Groups took the initiative of organising a meeting in May 1993 and invited 3 Portuguese border areas. Only Raia Centro Sul gave a positive answer to this initiative, and the 3 groups (Raia Centro Sul in Portugal, Sierra de Gata and La Alcantara in Spain) met for the first time.

 

Implementation

At the first meeting, the three Local Action Groups became acquainted with one another and exchanged ideas for common actions. Discovering a number of points where cooperation was possible, they decided to formalise their intentions in a protocol agreement which was signed in September 1993. This protocol agreement provided for a whole range of activities that were to be implemented in 1994 and 1995:

  • organisation of an annual fair together, alternating each year between the two sides of the border, with the first edition being held in May 1994;
  • establishment of a statistical database;
  • appointment of joint thematic working groups on tourism, agriculture and support for small and medium-sized enterprises;
  • development of cross-border actions for activities for young people and the elderly.

With the launching of Leader II, cooperation naturally extended to the other cross-border areas eligible under the Leader II initiative. Today, the partnership is comprised of five local development associations - four on the Spanish side and one on the Portuguese side.

In November 1995, a protocol agreement was signed between the five associations to launch new cooperation actions and create the international association "La Raya/A Raia" (the word means "border"). It was officially created in November 1996. This new institution sealed cooperation between the five associations and referred to a single cross-border area.

The impact of the actions conducted since 1993 may be considered in four ways:

The establishment of new inter-institutional cooperation relations. Cooperation between the five local development associations has spread to the municipalities concerned. In the same line of thought, direct cooperation is developing between companies on either side of the border.

The joint promotion of a single cross-border area. It is here that the action had the most visible impact and aroused the most interest on the part of the institutions. This translated namely into:

the joint annual fair "Raiana", the culminating moment when the sense of belonging to the same area is expressed;

the joint participation in public fairs and events;

the production of joint material to promote the region;

the maintenance of a joint database.

The development of social relations between the two borders. The joint promotion of the region, the organisation of cultural actions and various initiatives have gradually created a sense of belonging to the same area.

The impact in terms of transfer of know-how. The cooperation actions have enabled realising the interest of organising transfers of know-how.

The establishment of the "La Raya/A Raia" association reflects the notion of belonging to a single area and the joint desire of adhering in the long term.

 

In this way, the local authorities and local actors are gradually becoming aware that they have an opportunity before them that they had not imagined before: that of being able to bring about and benefit from transfers of experiences and know-how which can play a driving role for the development of their area and which can enable them to get a "head start" over areas farther from the border which therefore cannot benefit as easily from this opportunity or even become aware of it.

 

Contacts

Antonio Joao NUNES-REALINHO

Leader Raia Centro-Sul

ADRACES

277 rua de Santana Tel: +351.72.5400200

P-6030 VILA VELHA DE RÓDÃO Fax: +351.72.5400209

 

Antonio RODRIGUEZ CAMARA

Leader Patronato Pedro de Ibarra

c/Regimiento Argel 37 Tel: +34 27.390.763

E-10980 ALCANTARA Fax: +34.27.390.904



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