Border regions show true European spirit of cooperation
Working together across borders to find shared solutions to common problems is a perfect example of European solidarity and unity in action, Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič told regional presidents and politicians at a conference organised by the Institut der Regionen Europas in Austria on 14 October.
Speaking in front of an audience from 17 different regions both within and outside the EU, VP Šefčovič said that cross-border cooperation was also a vital framework to drive economic growth and prosperity in EU border regions.
He highlighted the continued importance of cohesion policy – the largest shared of the EU's seven-year budget, set at €322bn for 2014-2020 – which continues to close the 'gaps' – economic and geographical – between the various regions of Europe.
Cohesion funding has created a million new jobs and supported more than 800,000 SMEs over the last 10 years, as well as helping to provide new job training more than 10 million people each year. It has also helped finance the building of 5000km of new motorways and 8000km of new railways, bringing even Europe's most remote regions into closer contact with each other.
In the past, he said, borders had been seen as an obstacle to growth, but now they could and should be viewed as a driver of growth and prosperity. Through EU programmes such as the macro-regions grouping together regions along the length of the Danube, or the European Groupings for Territorial Cooperation, that allow regions to set their own programmes for development and apply for EU funding for support, Europe's border regions are breaking down the old geographical, cultural, linguistic and political barriers that for so long held them back.