With a view to the programming phase 2014-2020, COTER members called for the simplification of procedures to create new EGTCs and hire staff, as well as a stronger promotion of non-EU countries' participation in the groupings and a wider flexibility within the proposed thematic concentration of resources.

The persistent economic crisis is pushing more and more regional and local authorities to look for transnational and cross-border cooperation opportunities to better deal with challenges ranging from the improvement of transport and energy facilities to the development of workers skills and the opening of local labour markets. This potential was highlighted during the debate by COTER members and by representatives of the European Commission, of successful initiatives such as the EGTC Euroregion Galicia - Norte de Portugal and the EGTC Raba Duna Vag which involves the Hungarian county councils of Győr-Moson-Sopron and of Komárom-Esztergom, and the Self-governing Region of Trnava.

“Territorial cooperation enhances convergence between EU regions and is all about: exchanging experiences, exploring ideas, finding synergies. I indeed believe that European territorial cooperation is a key driver of regional development and as such brings a clear added value to cities and regions across Europe” said Marek Woźniak (PL/EPP), COTER chair and Marshall of the Wielkpolskie Region. "EGTC budget should be based on more autonomy, giving priority to multilevel and 'Bottom-up' approaches, which are more flexible and fit the needs of local communities" said the José Luís Carneiro (PT/PES), Mayor of Baião and co-organiser of the seminar, adding that: "EGTCs should also provide the less developed regions with a further opportunity of accessing to EU funding".

All interventions made it clear that European Territorial Cooperation, by basing itself on geographical and economic rather than administrative realities, can provide new opportunities for jobs and growth and thereby support the implementation of the Europe 2020 strategy through the creation of regional hubs. To this purpose COTER members endeavour to improve coordination between European Territorial Cooperation and Structural and Investment funds, and call for more partnerships between private and public funding at the EU, national and regional level in the development of territorial cooperation projects. These possible synergies should be taken into account in the elaboration of the 2014-2020 operational programmes, and EGTC can be the effective vehicle for putting them into practice.

Referring to the programming exercise, COTER members note that due to their multilateral nature, ETC operational programmes cannot be ruled by the partnership agreements elaborated between each EU Member State and the Commission, and express concerns on the status of preparation of cross-border, transnational and interregional operational programmes. An active involvement of local and regional authorities in the latter, in line with Article 5 of the Common Provisions Regulation on partnership and multilevel governance, needs to be ensured.

With regards to the revision of the EGTC regulation, seminar participants agree that it is of crucial importance that the current negotiation between the European Parliament and Council will succeed in reducing bureaucracy in the groupings' constitution and hiring of own staff, as well as facilitate the participation of non-EU countries. They also reiterate the CoR's call for more flexibility in the implementation of ETC, notably with regard to the proposed thematic concentration, exemptions to certain rules for small projects and higher co-financing rates for less developed regions.

Picture: Copyright Committee of the Regions