Building cross-border cooperation in Slovakia and the Czech Republic’s cross-border regions

The “Future hand in hand – building cross-border cooperation” project is creating a network in the cross-border region of Slovakia and the Czech Republic, with a particular focus on environmental education and culture. 

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© Ministry of agriculture and rural development of the Slovak Republic © Ministry of agriculture and rural development of the Slovak Republic

" The project created a well-functioning, cross-border network that successfully focused on sustaining cooperation among regional and local actors in the field of environmental education and culture. "

Zuzana Macekova, Managing Authority

Although once part of the same country, since the split of the former Czechoslovakia the towns along the border region have seen a gradual distancing – resulting in a general lack of cooperation in several important policy areas. 

With this in mind, the Future hand in hand - building cross-border cooperation project set out to create a cross-border network between regional and local actors, with a particular focus on environmental education and culture. 

For example, as nature does not know national boundaries, cooperation between the two countries is needed to best address the environmental issues that affect both sides of the border. Likewise, due to a shared history, these border areas share a unique, common culture that can only be preserved when both countries work together.

Towards sustainable cooperation

According to project coordinators, it was necessary to encourage the creation of new relationships based on cooperation between partners, which would then result in further follow-up and, eventually, sustainable integration of policies and activities. These ongoing activities would help overcome traditional administrative and cultural barriers that had prevented Czech and Slovak cooperation. 

The project got its start in the towns of Slavičín, Uhrovec, Modrá and Tupesy, who decided to start holding joint meetings as a means of laying the groundwork for more ingrained cooperation. Soon seeing the value of such efforts, the joint meetings quickly evolved to cover a more regional area. It also expanded its objective, working to promote intense cooperation between regional players and producing a blueprint for how to overcome border-area barriers via the transfer of information and experiences in the area of education and, specifically, environmental education and culture. 

A cross-border identity 

Although the project’s ultimate goal was to create unique new cross-border traditions, it ended up accomplishing much more. In the end, the project successfully increased the level of education, introduced innovative methods for collaboration, improved general living conditions of the area and, perhaps most importantly, brought together the residents of the border region to create a unified sense of identity.    

As a direct result of the project’s efforts, coordinators say the region is now enjoying new partnerships that have contributed to the interconnection of cultures and the creation of new friendships. For example, language barriers have been reduced thanks to a decision to publish educational materials in both languages. This in turn contributed to the mutual exchange of experiences between Czech and Slovak educators. Based on this exchange, educators were able to improve their teaching methods and, in doing so, improve the education levels of area residents. 

The project has also facilitated the coordination of waste removal, leading to a more sustainable environmental system for both sides of the border. Furthermore, the two regions have established a joint tourism effort, which has led to an increase in tourists – and revenue – for everyone.

Total investment and EU funding 

Total investment for the project “Future hand in hand - building cross-border cooperation” is EUR 341 003, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 263 733 through the “Slovakia – Czech Republic” Operational Programme for the 2007-2013 programming period. The investment falls under the priority “Support of social, cultural and economic development and cooperation in the cross border region”. 

Draft date