2015 marked the 25 th anniversary of INTERREG, the European Union instrument to promote cross-border, transnational and interregional cooperation. The European Commissions way to pay tribute was to publish a study:Territorial cooperation in Europe - A historical perspective . The study analyzes territorial cooperation and provides an overview of cross-border cooperation along the national borders of EU member states.
The preface of the study gives an interesting reflection of differences and linking between cross-border cooperation and European integration.
The first difference is that the pioneers of cross-border cooperation did not, at least initially, have the same goal as the pioneers of European integration, who for their part aimed from the beginning to establish an "ever closer union among the peoples of Europe", in terms of the Schuman declaration of 1950. The first cross-border regions, embarked upon about ten years later, had an approach that was both simpler and more pragmatic, in that they were loooking for practical solutions to border problems that arose when a national frontier was crossed in everyday life.
It should also be emphasaised that the stakeholders concerned have not been the same and they have not been involved at the same level: the process of European integration developed between the Member States of the EEC and, from 1992, of the EU. It is a process of interstate cooperation with a supranational dimension, in which the principal actors are the Member States. Cross-border cooperation, for its part, places public stakeholders acting at the local or regional level ... or private stakeholders ... at the centre of the action.Secondly, European integration and cross-border cooperation do not use the same tools.
The distinguishing feature of the functionalist Community method, developed by the founding fathers of Europe, especially Jean Monnet, is its supranational dimension. ... The instruments employed in cross-border cooperation have to comply with national legal frameworks.There is no single or obvious method of cross-border cooperation ... Cross-border engineering enables ingenious and appropriate solutions to be put forward for each particular case, where classic national ways of doing things prove to be ineffective.Third, European integration and cross-border cooperation have evolved in fundamentally different ways.
The process of European integration has a unique history, which has taken place in stages, involves a vast area comprising many countries ... this harmonized Europe may be encountered in numerous aspects of daily life ... In this respect, cross-border cooperation does not to appear unique. It seems to be marked by three characteristics: singularity, diversity and complexity.A link between European integration and the development of cross-border cooperation began to be established in the mid-1980s,
particularly with the project of creating a single market within the EEC. It was in order to facilitate thye implementation of this project that, following the reform of regional policy in 1988, the European Commission assigned a role to cross-border regions in the task of European integration. In 1990, the Commission introduced the Community initiative programme known as Interreg to support cross-border cooperation, which from that time on gained in strength ... The growing importance of cross-border cooperation in the process of European integration led to the introduction in 2007 of a new objective in European regional policy: territorial cooperation. This comprises both cross-border .., transnational .. and interregional cooperation.The link between European integration and cross-border cooperation intensified with the geopolitical upheavel Europe experienced after 1989. A new pan-European dimension (east-west) opened up in cross-border cooperation, giving it a role to play in the reunification of the European continent.