The quality of governance in post-communist countries moved into the spotlight of the European Union institutions and policy makers for a combination of reasons: the end of the Cold War and the democratization process that followed and its inherent market system; the re-scaling and re-territorializing process taking part in the Central and Eastern Europe or a new role played by governance indicators in the development of a country. Increased cooperation across national borders raised additional questions on the role played by governance in territorial cooperation.
Measuring and monitoring the impact of regional policy on an aggregate scale is a relatively recent goal for the EU. The increasing prominence of good governance as a key instrument for territorial cooperation and sustainable development has been accompanied by a mounting interest in the elaboration of a huge range of governance indicators and measurement methodologies. Nevertheless, in the context of the actual financial and economic crisis, defining suitable indicators capable to capture the contribution of territorial cohesion programmes remains a challenge. In order to overcome these shortcomings, the actual European and national legislation should allow regions to cooperate and to consent to the sharing of best practices. Such legislation has to be coherent on top but flexible enough in its regulatory powers in order to suppress possible cross-border bottlenecks.
In this sense, countries like BeNeLux and Germany provide the biggest number of success stories on how to use governance indicators for measuring development of borders areas. Policy makers from these countries promoted governance as the most appropriate alternative to the way in which traditional government exercise power. Governance understands power in a smart and non-totalitarian sense. Smart power, defined by Nye as the power not exercised over, but with others in order to more effectively achieve policy outcomes (Inge Kaul, The Governance Report, 2013: 41), brings added value to the management of the border areas.
Opposite to governance, the traditional approach to power, so common before the fall of the Iron Curtain, implies a tidier and more top-down order of politics, unfit for the new transformation taking part in this part of Europe. During totalitarian regimes, state borders played an important role in securing the conservation in power of the political elites. For much of the past century, the Westphalian system of national states was the predominant concept of state building in Europe. Some authors, like Anderson, consider this view of the world as evolving into a confusion between societies and states, commonly known as “nation-states” (J. Anderson, L. O’Dowd, T. Wilson, 2003: 2). Nevertheless, in terms of governance, the institutions, rules and key players acting to protect the borders of the former communist states had a peripheral role. Paradoxically, this vision on borders – as being taken-for-granted – converged at central level into a wide-spread attitude of ignorance towards the needs of citizens living in these marginalized areas.
Under these circumstances, after the fall of communist regimes, the citizens and institutions of the border areas found themselves confronted with complex processes of re-scaling and re-territorializing. In addition, the ongoing globalization and the territorial expansion of the European Union (EU) raised the awareness on cross-border cooperation and governance as central elements for reaching the integration criteria set up for these new democracies by the Copenhagen Council (1993)[i].
Put differently, the EU is facing the continuous dilemma on how to develop different responses to structural demands such as globalization, climate change or ageing population, that might hinder the fulfillment of its unification ambitions. Territorial cooperation enhances the responsive capacity of the EU to these problems by offering the financial support for the creation of joint trans-national, regional and cross-border institutions, able to support the unification goals (Lisbon Treaty, 2007: 12)
Under the mounting pressure of the next programming period (2014-2020), the debate on how to better use the EU funds is at its peak. For this purpose, on this blog we aim to develop a more profound understanding of the challenges confronting the cross-border areas and to actively participate in the development of cross-border governance.
ANDERSON, James, O’DOWD, Liam, WILSON, M. Thomas, New Borders for a Changing Europe, Cross-Border Cooperation and Governance, ed. Frank Cass Publishers, London, 2003
KAUL, Inge, Meeting Global Challenges, Assessing Governance Readiness, The Governance Report 2013, ed. Oxford University Press, 2013