Cross-border Cooperation – CBC
Cross-border cooperation (CBC) is a concerted process of building neighbourly relationships between local stakeholders and authorities on either side of a border, with a view to overcoming such problems and fostering harmonious development of neighbouring communities. Its success should be built on clear concrete objectives and the willingness to cooperate.
Cross-border co-operation does not entail conveying additional powers to border communities or authorities. Rather it is an efficient way for exercising local authority powers. Through cross- border co-operation, communities located in border areas may seek to promote the socio- economic development of the border area, develop economies of scale to provide better services and widen cultural perspectives.
From the Council of Europe to all actors of CBC
Since its establishment in 1949, the Council of Europe, the first political Organisation of the European continent and the only truly pan-European organisation, with its 47 member states (at the time of writing in November 2013), has consistently worked for the development of a “Europe without dividing lines”, in the spheres of human rights, rule of law and democracy.
The Council of Europe is the leading European Organization supporting cross-border co-operation as part of its programme to strengthen good governance, build durable democratic institutions and generally reinforce capacity at the local level. It believes that cross-border co-operation, inter alia, enables local authorities to design and implement innovative and effective policies for improving the quality of life of their populations. CBC also fosters a sense of common belonging among citizens, and creates a greater visibility for territories which would otherwise suffer disproportionately from the peripheral position implied by the presence of a border.
The Council of Europe aims at improving and facilitating trans-frontier co-operation in its member states through confidence-building measures to increase tolerance, understanding and good- neighbourly relations between populations; through the provision of legal advice on draft legislation on cross-border co-operation and through assistance towards the setting up of trans- frontier co-operation bodies to ensure that trans-frontier relations are sustained and improved.
Four conventions, several recommendations and a handful of practical tools (all available at: www.coe.int/local) embody this work aimed at making cooperation between neighbouring or non-adjacent territorial communities or authorities legally feasible and practically sustainable.
According to these texts, the main actors of crossborder cooperation are local authorities across member States – and non-member States, in the cases provided for in Protocol No 3 – but the beneficiaries are their citizens.
CBC is not about conveying additional powers to border communities or authorities. Rather, CBC is a more efficient way of exercising their powers. Communities located in border areas seek to build up cooperation across borders in order to:
- Promoting the socio-economic development of the border area (e.g. attracting new financial resources; efficiently using local capital (nature, finance, culture, organisations, relationships, etc); improving employment opportunities, etc).
Developing economies of scale to provide better services (e.g. providing high-quality health-care and education; efficiently managing natural resources (i.e. rivers); upgrading transport infrastructures, etc.)
Widening cultural perspectives (e.g. promoting bilingualism and minority groups rights; promoting cultural diversity within educational curricula; promoting a non-ideological interpretation of history and mutual knowledge and trust, etc.)
Mode of operation
The following represents the main stages within which CBC processes develop:
Stage 1 – No relations
Initial phase. Inward looking border area characterised by stereotypes and diffidence.
Stage 2 – Info exchange
Parallel identification of border as common generator of problems and resources.
Stage 3 – Consultation
The cross-border interdependency is understood. Actions separatedly carried out but envisaging joint actions.
Stage 4 – Cooperation
Common goal is set and actions are carried out according to a shared agenda (and within the limits of each actor’s competencies and authority).
Stage 5 – Harmonisation
Policies are designed taking into consideration the cross-border nature of the area.
Stage 6 – Integration
Borders are virtual. CBC is fully integrated in the policy making process.
CBC’s possible results
- CBC may positively influence management practices in partners’ institutions as each partner seeks to emulate the best practice of others or of the CBC body itself (e.g. peer-to-peer and on-the-job learning).
- CBC may encourage a more co-operative culture both among different partners and within the same type of partner. Competitive behaviour is turned into cooperation for the common interest.
- The process of jointly applying for external funding may help to develop the will and capacity of each partner for partnership-working with other public, private and voluntary organisations both within and beyond the CBC arrangements.
- If a CBC body is established and is responsible for a number of issues which would have been otherwise under the direct management of LAs, elected representatives can focus more on their strategic responsibilities, using CBC as an effective tool to achieve them.
- Since CBC is not a statutory obligation on local authorities, it is implemented only when its benefits can be felt. This increases accountability and transparency since promoters will act to take credit for it.
- Partners may develop a greater sense of solidarity; this contributes to the amelioration of the social environment.
- CBC is an integration practice in line with the priorities and values of the European Union. It fosters the sense of belonging to a common Europe.
- CBC may create more opportunities for engaging local organisations and citizens in local self government, fostering citizens’ sense of ownership of local and European democratic institutions.
- CBC may bring opportunities to participate in Inter-Municipal Cooperation (IMC) activities and to develop them at a cross-border level (e.g. Euro-Districts, Euroregions).
- CBC encourages public-private partnerships (PPPs).
CBC encourages the harmonious cultural growth of border areas, builds up social capital and
promotes the peaceful co-existence of people.
CBC Useful Materials
- C2C – City-to-City Cooperation
- Manual on Removing Obstacles to Cross Border Cooperation
- CBC – Cross-Border Co-operation
- Handbook on Transfrontier co-operation