During the implementation of a cross-border programme, the following EU Regulations must be respected: EC Regulation 1080/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the ERDF; Council Regulation no. 1083/2006 laying down the provisions on the ERDF, ESF and Cohesion Fund and the Commission Regulation no 1828/2006 setting out the rules for the implementation of the first two Regulations. For the purpose of this article I analyze only the first two Regulations.
According to the Article 6 of the EC Regulation 1080/2006, the ERDF gives attention to the naturally disadvantaged geographical areas such as border regions, mountains or sparsely populated areas. Moreover, the same Regulation stipulates that effective and efficient interventions depend on the existence of a good governance system, together with partnerships among all the relevant territorial and social-economic actors (cf. EC 1080/2006: 1). Thus, a clear connection is established between the ERDF, good governance and the stakeholders from the border areas.
In specific terms, the EC Regulation 1080/2006 draws a clear link between priority axes and their regional specific targets. The former are chosen in accordance with the EU’s strategic guidelines on cohesion, the strategic reference framework of the Member States, and the results of the ex-ante evaluation of the programming area. For the quantification of the later, the EC Regulation proposes the usage of a limited number of outcomes indicators, according to the principle of proportionality. In short, these indicators must be able to measure the achievements of an Operational Programme (OP) at the level of a target group and in relation with a certain baseline situation.
One week after the adoption of the EC 1080/2006 Regulation, the European Council issued the 1083/2006 Regulation stipulating that the ERDF is the subject to a separate institutional arrangement on management, monitoring and inspections. As a result, the Member States are responsible for the management and implementation of the OPs. At local level, joint institutions have the responsibility to develop monitoring and evaluation systems capable to reflect the efficiency and effectiveness of both the OP (EC Regulation 1083/2006: 7).
While doing so, these institutions should explore the possibility to enforce, for the next programming period, the provisions of article 37 (6) (b) of the present Regulation and to initiate cooperation with other institutions acting at regional level. More exactly, this article seems as the only way to run cooperation activities outside the scheme of ETC, namely in the larger programmes of Objective 1 and 2 of the Cohesion Policy. Because the rules of ETC do not apply in this case, such types of projects may require accurate planning and preparation, but they can be regarded as complementary activities to ETC and can contribute to positive spill-over effects from the border area towards other regions and to the development of new types of good governance indicators.
Similar with the cases of the Lisbon Treaty and the Europe 2020 Strategy, the notion of good governance fails to come up as a milestone objective for these two Regulations. In conclusion, it can be argued that the EU Regulations governing the implementation of cross-border programmes are not very successful in promoting good governance as a prerequisite for effective and efficient interventions. If so, such a drawback can clearly affect the performance and even the identity of supranational institutions acting in the border areas.
For this reason, I consider that the EU should go beyond its daily rhetoric and clearly define, through its legislation, the notion of good governance . While doing so, governance in cross-border areas must be framed both as a prerequisite but also as an objective for all the economic and social actors involved in cross-border cooperation.