jueves, 7 de julio de 2011

The role of Regions in the Mediterranean

Today and tomorrow the European Institute of the Mediterranean holds a Seminar (in Barcelona’s Palau de Pedralbes) to introduce and discuss the MedGovernance project. Today the conference room was packed with professors, researchers, civil servants and students. The aim of this project is to improve the effectiveness of policies led within the Mediterranean Basin. In this Forum, researchers, politicians and experts analyse the role of Mediterranean Regions in multilevel governance, specially the potential of decentralisation for the development of peripheral territories as well as prospective scenarios for the EuroMed cooperation policy.

The rich analytical material highlights the progressive regionalisation of European and national policies. The introduction of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) in 1975 gave a major impetus to increasing the competences and funding managed by regions of the European Community and to a growing political recognition of the contribution of the regions in the involvement of subnational entities in delivering European cohesion policy. Within each Member State, the need for managing structural funds contributed to the emergence of a professional regional governance level.

Besides, the establishment of the Committee of the Regions of the European Union by the Maastricht Treaty recognised the key contribution of regional authorities to European policy-making. In the 90s the emergence of multilevel governance in the intellectual tool-box of the Union also contributed to the recognition of territorial actors.

Numerous organisations have been set up to foster the regions’ influence in European policy-making and to work as much as possible with the European Commission because of its initiative role at the beginning of the decision-making process.

The Regions are all convinced of the regional level’s essential added value. The territorial dimension engages the Regions in a new period of cooperation supporting possible cohesion policies in the East and South of the Mediterranean Basin. If in Europe the cohesion policies promoted local development, competitiveness and sustainability and offered new opportunities for many European Regions, we could expect that in the East and South of the Mediterranean Basin, weakness in territorial cooperation projects and networks have been indicated concerning the difficulty to go beyond networking types of activities and in generating effective policy change; a low degree of sustainability and a low level of involvement of external stakeholders and central State representatives; weak partnerships with discontinuous or heterogeneous operative and political commitment of partners/members; fragmentation of projects and initiatives that are often isolated and not integrated into the national or regional development.

The MedGovernance programme was launched back in 2009 with the cooperation of Regions like Catalonia, Lazio, Tuscany, Andalusia, PACA and Piedmont and it has concluded in a series of proposals and demands from the project partners: requests addressed to the EU institutions and States from Europe and the south side of the Mediterranean. Europe and the Mediterranean are thus faced with economic, social and demographic problems worsened by a deep crisis in public finances,

The deep and irreversible changes under way on the south side of the Mediterranean, at the very same time as the European Union and its Member States are initiating talks with their partners to define the EU’s new priorities:
- Implementing the EU 2020 Strategy in the Mediterranean.
- Renewing cohesion and neighbourhood policy instruments, including in their territorial dimension.
- New governance mechanisms

The emergence of approaches aimed at coordinating transnational cooperation programmes with other EU policies in areas of the European Union such as the Baltic Sea or the Danube area have been considered as an interesting perspective, though the governance process implemented in the Baltic Sea area offers a key position to Member States and national authorities, while a limited role is devolved to the local and regional level in the initiative and in the monitoring of the Strategy.

Macro-regional approaches, as experimented in the Baltic Sea area and in the Danube area, should therefore not be considered as a rigid governance model but rather as an open and flexible approach for coordinating EU policies and instruments in a transnational region. Moreover, expectations for increasing funds deriving from macro-regions are also undermined by the principle of the “3 No’s” (“no additional institution, no additional legislation, no additional funding”) repeatedly stated by Commission officials.

As for the future, the first scenario is based on the current trend of envisaging different sub-regional processes. Here, the European Union would become an archipelago of integration sub-processes. In the second scenario, a macro-regional Strategy is drawn up for the whole Mediterranean area. In the third scenario, the integration approach is led by a “bottom-up” process and by the development of macro-projects integrating European and Mediterranean strategies within local or regional priorities.

Nevertheless, the trend for a Mediterranean macro-regional Strategy seems today very unlikely given the lack of consensus existing between regions on different key issues. Finally, Medgovernance aims to propose actions to be initiated by the Mediterranean Regions themselves of course, but also to urge the EU Institutions, the European Union and Partner States, as well as the Union for the Mediterranean: Barcelona Process (UfM) to launch a series of political actions and programmes in the very near future. The solution requires a deeply renewed neighbourhood policy and has to be cooperative.