November 26, 2013
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 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 exercise of power by traditional government. 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 an 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 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 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). In addition, territorial cooperation acts like a nudging instrument for the local governments in their efforts to overcome the structural disparities dividing the European regions.
For these purposes, it is mandatory to insist on the formulation of governance indicators able to measure the impact of these structural adjustments, together with reliable data sources and achievable results. While doing so, we have to consider the influence of the political environment on the definition and measurement of governance indicators. As already mentioned above, some of the CEE countries are still trapped in the logic of a methodological nationalism , while others were capable to diversify their political instruments and adapt them to the needs of the local communities.
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. But for this to happen, political will is needed. Thus, it’s our task to constantly promote the ETC as a key point on the EU’s political agenda.
Author : mariusvalentinniculae