Academic journal article The Geographical Review

Different Borders-Different Cooperation? Transborder Cooperation in Poland

Academic journal article The Geographical Review

Different Borders-Different Cooperation? Transborder Cooperation in Poland

Article excerpt

The complex nature of transborder cooperation and the development of border regions makes for a vast and interesting interdisciplinary research field (Newman and Paasi 1998; Brunet-Jaily 2005; Popescu 20ir). Border regions are contact regions and are shaped by processes and phenomena that take place on both sides of the border. Borders are dynamic by nature, and frequently are subject to more complicated and severe transformations than elsewhere in the countries.

The peripheral location of border regions is often a cause for underdevelopment. A crucial role in overcoming this problem could be played by the development of transborder cooperation (Cappellin 1993; Kratke r999; Roper 2007), the significance of which has increased on the European Union (EU) level (Perkmann 1999; Johnson 2009). The road to truly integrated borderland regions, also called as "spaces of transition" (Newman 2006, 152), has turned out to be extremely difficult and rarely is realized fully. Nevertheless, the effects of transborder cooperation--including the activities of Euroregions--cannot be underestimated (Dolzbfasz and Raczyk 2010).

Territorial cooperation is an important element in the structural policy of the EU and its member states. Over the past twenty years, territorial cooperation has evolved from a community initiative of marginal significance to one of the EU's three most important objectives, because of the recognition of its role in EU coherence. Despite this increased significance, knowledge of all the factors affecting territorial cooperation and the difficulties in determining its target model remains insufficient. It is hard to determine with certainty whether one universal model can be implemented in all EU borderlands (Anderson and O'Dowd 1999). This lack is evident in both theory and practice, particularly in Poland and Central and Eastern Europe, where these phenomena are relatively new.

This study attempts to contribute to the debate on cooperation policy with an empirical analysis of transborder cooperation projects in various border regions of one country, taking into consideration regional specifics. A uniform approach to analyzing projects allows us to determine the significance of particular local factors, regardless of the formal, legal arrangements of the Interreg programs and the national setting--for example, legal and institutional systems, relatively uniform social behavior patterns in Poland. This approach is possible because of the very different types of borders and borderlands in Poland (internal and external EU borders (1), mountain and river borders), pronounced and small cultural differences, significantly disproportionate and similar level of socioeconomic development on both sides of the border. This uniform approach helps identify barriers and opportunities to cooperation.

OBJECTIVE AND SCOPE OF THE STUDY

The conditions for the implementation of transborder cooperation policy in the Polish border regions, after accession to the European Union, were generally similar. In this context, local conditions might have constituted an important differentiating element of the actual cooperation. The objective of this study was to identify the similarities and differences of cooperation in a number of Polish border regions and pinpoint crucial local factors determining the character of cooperation.

The study subjects were the projects conducted in Poland under Interreg IIIA 2004-2006, with Poland's accession to the EU. These constitute an element of formal cooperation. While these projects do not encompass the full spectrum of cooperation, they do form a framework for building other forms of cooperation, both formal and informal. The projects realized within the framework of this program also reflect the actual state and trends of cooperation in border regions due to the amount of funds involved, the number of actors, and the many potential planes of cooperation. …

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