Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Politics

Building Cross-Border Communities through Cooperation: Eu Regional Policy and Cross-Border Regions as Spaces of Government

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Politics

Building Cross-Border Communities through Cooperation: Eu Regional Policy and Cross-Border Regions as Spaces of Government

Article excerpt

The European Union's cross-border cooperation initiatives are perceived as an important tool for harnessing the process of European integration, which includes the ideas of fostering economic competitiveness and reducing regional discrepancies. The paper aims to analyse the role and function of notions of cooperation and cross-border communities used and advanced within the EU regional policy and, more specifically, within the European Territorial Cooperation objective. We argue that cooperation is a specific governmental technology which works through the promises of incorporation and inclusion of different stakeholders, binding them into more or less durable and institutionalised cross-border communities. Through cooperation, members of the community can be mobilised in novel programmes which encourage and harness political practices of self-responsibility and self-management. As such, cooperation is promoted as a necessary feature for building, cultivating and fostering cross-border communities in which self-disciplined citizens and other stakeholders are governed such that they are deemed responsible agents in their own development.

Key words: cooperation, community, governmentality, cross-border cooperation, European regional policy, regions

1 Introduction

The prevailing assumption in the age of globalisation is that borders are becoming increasingly irrelevant and insignificant. According to Hutton, for example, globalisation has stimulated a process in which "all borders are coming down - economic, political and social. There is a new conception of time, risk and opportunity".2 3 For many, the European Union is a clear exemplification of this borderless world.4 With the 1985 Schengen Agreement and its subsequent incorporation into the European Union acquis in 1997, the ideas of the abolishment of internal border controls and harmonisation of internal security measures were gradually realised. Furthermore, the idea of integrated economic space across the Member States of the European Union was actualised with the introduction of the Single European Market which offers four key freedoms, namely, the freedom of the movement of goods, capital, services and people. Here, state borders are viewed not only as unnecessary but also as barriers to increased competition and efficient allocation of resources and as blockages in the cross-border flows of goods and services.5

It was the Single Market project that provided the opportunity for the European Union to rationalise borders between the Member States, not as barriers but as something which creates opportunities and new possibilities for enhanced cooperation. In this context, the European Commission developed new initiatives for These initiatives are seen as an integrative element of the process of European integration, which is intricately connected to the ideas of fostering economic competitiveness and reducing regional discrepancies. The key term in this context is cohesion, that is, the economic, social and territorial cohesion of the Union. Therefore, "challenged by the idea of European integration, the strategies to describe and guide potential opportunities for contact, networking, and integration across borders are searched for".6

Within the European Union, the cross-border initiatives are fostered through the EU regional policy, which is an investment policy aimed at supporting social and territorial cohesion by reducing disparities between unequally developed regions of the Member States. Cohesion policy, as this policy is also known, consists of a set of distinct yet interrelated regional policy measures "with spatially redistributive effects based on multi-sectoral interventions targeted at specific areas".7 Between 2007 and 2012, the Cohesion policy has focused on three main objectives: (1) convergence, that is, solidarity among regions, (2) regional competitiveness and employment and (3) European territorial cooperation. While the aim of the first two objectives is to reduce regional disparities and to create jobs by promoting competitiveness, respectively, the aim of the third is primarily to encourage cooperation across borders between countries or regions. …

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