Marius Niculae

Cross-border cooperation is set to continue as one of the main objectives of the ETC for the next programming period of 2014-2020. In a unique construction such as the EU, which blends inter-governmental and supra-national institutions, national and local governments it becomes mandatory to use clear terminology and simplify the public speech. According to Ferdinand de Saussure the origin of words is not natural but cultural – otherwise we would all speak the same language (cf. Saussure, 1959: 204). His theory would then imply that words create reality. Cross-border indicators are not an exception from this rule.

I first have to mention that it is not an easy task to access reliable information on cross-border indicators, to find their data sources or the measurement methodologies. For example, the HU-RO Programme uses six sets of indicators: programme level indicators, horizontal indicators, priority axis indicators, mandatory indicators, other indicators and specific project indicators. While researching the EU documents of indicators, I felt the need for a consolidate approach similar with the one in the White Paper on Governance initiative. The EU should publish it on an annual basis.

The effort to establish clear and measurable objectives is a constant preoccupation for both scholars and managers. Many times, private sector led the research in this field. More than 35 years ago, Peter Drucker argued that “members of an organization develop an increased awareness of purposes when top managers develop and communicate a clear mission statement” (Drucker, 1974: 61). Same logic applies also when building systems of indicators aimed to support useful decision-making processes and to capture the provision of public goods within a good governance system. Besides the fulfillment of such tasks, the indicators must avoid paralysis and be understandable for all the stakeholders, without long explanations or any misinterpretation of their meaning. A step forward towards this goal is to craft indicators with an easy access mechanisms and transparent definitions. Before going further we need to mention that input, output and outcomes indicators apply to both Programmes and projects while context indicators are provided only at Programmes level.

Output indicators must be fulfilled through the project’s activities during the implementation period. As a specific request, the cross-border projects need to achieve at least 80% of the quantifiable outputs. Opposite to this, the outcomes (results) indicators must be achieved during a five year sustainability period. In this way, the Programme tries to establish a certain continuity in terms of outputs and outcomes between the actual and the next financial programming period and to maximize its own impact in the border area. Another set of indicators used by the Programmes’ guidelines are the so-called input indicators. The latter usually define the amount of human, financial and physical resources available for the implementation of a given project or Programme.

For the next programming period, the European officials are more concerned about the impact of the territorial cooperation Programmes on the quality of life of citizens from border areas. Based on this new found interest, it appears that the EU vocabulary establishes a clear causality relationship between different categories of indicators. In first instance, there is an obvious correlation between input and output indicators, more exactly between the resources made available for the implementation of a certain Programme or project, and the ways in which the needs of the target group are answered. According to some scholars, measuring this relationship can bring useful observations about the added value of the implemented Programme/project. In other words, the efficiency can be measured by calculating the ratio of the input indicators over the output indicators (cf. W.van Dooren, 2010: 17).

The other interesting relationship that the EU terminology puts in place is the relation between context indicators and outcome (result) indicators. Context indicators are usually defined by national statistic services and used to measure a general objective to be met, a resource to be mobilized or an effect to be obtained. For this reason, “a context indicator produces quantified information with a view to help actors concerned with public interventions to communicate, negotiate or make decisions [i]. Thus, context indicators are highly dependent on their environment. According to the same source, “outcome indicators represent the immediate advantages of the programme for the direct beneficiaries and are quantified during the monitoring period[1].

Although similar at first glance, outcome indicators refer to the immediate sustainability period, while context indicators are supposed to reflect the achievements of a certain programme on a long run. In addition, the outcome indicators play a role in measuring the effectiveness of a Programme. More exactly, they are able to capture the dimension of the quality of life on which policy can claim to have an effect, while the context indicators are dealing with the overall impact of a programme and detect its strengths and weaknesses[ii]. Both context and outcome indicators can offer valuable feedback for future corrections and share the capacity for positive spill-over effects. If the latter are those economic variables active in every border-areas and proved as non-adjustable through a single policy governmental policy, then local stakeholders are encourage to cooperate and produce public goods.

In our specific context, effectiveness is defined by the relation between output indicators and outcome indicators. In other terms, the effectiveness is the ration between the output and the policy action. By comparing initial needs of the target group with the outcomes of a programme / project one can obtain useful information about its utility and sustainability (cf. W.van Dooren, 2010: 21). I can conclude that input, output, outcomes and context indicators play a key role in measuring the effectiveness and the sustainability of both projects and programmes.

In my opinion, there is also another reason for which the EU chose to focus more on the effectiveness and the overall sustainability of programme and it has to do with the differences between private and public sector. According to van Dooren, the private sector allows a clear conceptualization of performance in relation with outputs and efficiency, while in the public sector this correlation is unsatisfactory (2010:18). In a cross-border dimension this conceptualization becomes difficult even for a private company. More precisely, both in the private and public sector, outputs are expected to have practical effects at the level of the target group. Yet, the actual institutional system of the EU cannot capture the added value of these outputs, especially when 80% of the European budget gets spent via national and regional public institutions, acting under a complex umbrella of national and Europeans laws (cf. B. Laffan and J. Lindner, 2010: 225).

Managing the EU budget for a multi-annual financial framework implies political negotiations and multi-level administration going from national level to the EU’s level. It the system is flawed, then it can be exploited by the so-called rent-seeking entities with the intention to defraud the EU budget (idem). This is one strong argument in favor of setting up good governance as the reference system for a cross-border programme. While attempting to do so, decision makers should pay attention to what Robert Dahl identifies as the “burdens of information, knowledge and understanding” (1994: 31). That is, the burden that a wrongly developed cross-border governance systems can place on its citizens, additionally to those already imposed by the national states.

Fersinand de Saussure

DRUCKER, Peter, Management: Tasks Responsibilities and Practices, ed. Harper and Row, New York, 1974

van DOOREN, Wouter, BOUCKAERT, Geert and HALLIGAN, John, Performance Management in the Public Sector, ed. Routledge, 2010

LAFFAN, Brigid, LINDNER, Johannes, in Policy-Making in the European Union, sixth edition, Oxford, 2010

DAHL, A. Robert, A Democratic Dilemma: System Effectiveness versus Citizen Participation,

Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 109, No. 1, 1994



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