Despite indicatations that Europe is becoming an ever-closer Union', in some key areas European co-operation still faces a myriad of obstacles. Many European regions still encounter opposition from national governments when trying to co-operate with their counterparts in other countries. Members of the European Parliament met today with 70 members of the Assembly of European Regions (AER), representing Regions from to the European Union and its neighbouring countries, to discuss the future of cross-border co-operation in the European Union. The focus of the discussions was the proposal, set out by the European Commission in July 2004, to establish a new legal instrument for cross-border co-operation - the European Grouping of Cross-border Co-operation (EGCC) (COM (2004 496)) - which is designed to overcome the existing obstacle to regional co-operation.
This issue is of great interest to the AER, as its members, the regions of Europe, would be responsible for the establishment and operation of the EGCCs, should the Regulation be approved by the European Parliament and the Council. "Regions have a wealth of experience in the modalities of cross-border co-operation and an in-depth understanding of the problems encountered when undertaking such co-operation" said Mr Franco Iacop, Minister for European Affairs of Friuli Venezia Giulia-I, representing Mr Riccardo Illy, President of the AER and of Friuli Venezia Giulia. "We hope that the end result will be that the Parliament is able to prepare a report that truly represents the views of the regions, those actors that are primarily implicated and affected by the draft regulation" he said to Mr Jan Olbrycht, the European Parliament's Rapporteur on this issue.
In principle, the AER agrees with the the proposal to create a legal instrument for cross-border co-operation, but it believes that there are a number of legal issues that need to be clarified, in order to ensure respect for the principle of subsidiarity. It is of major importance that the regions are able to manage cross-border, interregional and transnational co-operation without first having to obtain agreement from the nation states. Furthermore, the AER believes that the proposal for the EGCC should place more emphasis upon facilitating co-operation between regions from throughout Europe, not only those with common borders. Finally, there is a need to examine how such an instrument could be used to facilitate co-operation on the Union's external borders, in the areas where cross-border co-operation tends to encounter the most difficulties.
Todays' meeting gave MEPs the opportunity to have an in-depth discussion with the Regions on the key issues raised in the draft regulation. "We now hope that this consultation will continue, in order for the regions to input into the process until its conclusion" concluded Franco Iacop.
The Assembly of European Regions is the political organisation of the regions of Europe and their speaker at European and international level. Its mission: to defend the interests of the regions in the political process and to develop interregional cooperation. 250 Regions from 30 countries and 12 interregional organisations are members of the AER.
Klaus Klipp, Secretary General, Joanna Benfield, Advisor to the Institutional Affairs Committee firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel: +32 2 421 87 57 (AER Brussels Office) or Araceli Gómez, Assistant email@example.com, Tel: +33 3 88 22 74 45 - Web site: www.a-e-r.org