Gorizia. The European framework for interregional co-operation is undergoing significant change. The European regions need to consider what affect this will have upon their future opportunities to work together. This was the task of the Assembly of European Regions (AER), at its conference on regional co-operation in the wider Europe, held in Gorizia, Friuli Venezia Giulia (I) on 28th and 29th September.
Approximately eighty representatives from 30 regions and interregional organisations, together with experts from the European Union, considered how the new legal instrument for territorial co-operation, the so-called European Grouping for Territorial Cooperation (EGTC), could be used in practice. They examined the obstacles that may still hinder its use. "The AER played a key role in ensuring that the EGTC won the approval of the European institutions" said Peter Straub, President of the AER Institutional Affairs Committee. "From 1st January 2007, regions will be allowed to use the EGTC for crossborder, interregional and transnational co-operation; moreover, agreements will be possible between Member States and third countries to allow regions outside the EU to participate in an EGTC, thus facilitating crossborder co-operation on the EU's external borders".
'Co-operation between regions plays an important role in reinforcing European integration and supporting further enlargement of the European Union. The EGTC can help regions with this important work, and the AER will be instrumental in facilitating this process' highlighted Riccardo Illy, President of the AER and of the region of Friuli Venezia Giulia.
The conference also provided the opportunity to consider the future of territorial co-operation under the new EU funding period from 2007, when regions will have to get to grips with the new Territorial Co-operation objective of the Structural Funds, the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument and the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance. The AER will give practical assistance to its member regions in this task, providing them with concrete examples of successful co-operation activities and assisting them in overcoming any difficulties that may arise when using the new instruments. "We should always keep in mind that regional co-operation is crucial to developing cross-cultural understanding, increasing knowledge of other regions, nationalities, traditions and languages, and thus stimulating public interest in European issues" Peter Straub concluded.
The Assembly of European Regions/AER is the political organisation of the regions of Europe and their spokesperson at European and international level. Its vocation is to defend the regions' interests in the political process and develop interregional cooperation. The AER brings together 255 Regions from 30 countries and 14 interregional organisations.
AER Contacts: Joanna Benfield, Policy Co-ordinator to the Institutional Affairs Committee, Tel: +32 2 421 87 57, firstname.lastname@example.org or Francine Huhardeaux, Press & Communications, Tel: +33 3 88 22 74 49, email@example.com