Marius Niculae

Usually, the indicators set up for cross-border co-operation Programmes are national driven and do not properly match the local needs for joint development. Furthermore, they lack transparency (non-clear data sources and no measurement methodologies), thus they are not well suited to reflect any improvements in the quality of life of the citizens living in the border areas.

This article propose several recommendations that can improve the capacity of local institutions to argue for causality between the development of a border area and the implementation of a cross-border Programme. While we point out that there will never be a perfect set of indicators capable to measure a Programme’s capacity to deliver public goods, we stress out that the formulation and use of transparent indicators can enhance the communication between different layers of stakeholders.

For the next programming period we have five recommendation for a better set of cross-border indicators:

Recommendation 1:

High level sets of indicators, such as the ones set up to measure the achievements of a cross-border programme, are vastly dependent on their addressing environment. In countries where central governments have an important impact on the definition of local development strategies, policy makers should account for the infrastructural capacity of public good production. If the latter capacity is low, than the costs of a cross-border Programme to deliver tangible results are high. Thus, the EU funds are misused and the public goods are under-produced. This is why, understanding the specifics of the border regions is central to the effort of developing reliable sets of indicators, capable to capture the positive impact of the Programme at the level of the target area.

My recommendation for policy analyst in charge with writing the next Operational Programme 2014 – 2020 is to find a method to convince national, regional and supra-national stakeholders to agree on a so called ‘super set’ of indicators similar to the one set out by the New Hungary Development Plan (2009), that reduced the number of indicators from 1885 to 23. While doing so, special attention has to be given to clear data sources, qualitative and quantitative measurement units and methodologies.

Recommendation 2:

One downside of the CBC Programmes is their lack of time to establish reputation as credible sources for public good delivery. Hence, such programmes are inclined to easily allow rents-seekers to access the EU funds. My recommendation is to move away from the indicators defined to serve the narrow perspective of specific internal stakeholders and to promote transparent and publicly available sets of governance indicators, able to answer the needs of the border region. The advantage is twofold: first, such indicators are more useful for the purpose of divers target groups; second, they can encourage fruitful discussions and better understanding of the casual mechanisms that may affect the likelihood of a cross-border governance system.

Recommendation 3:

Since the EU is a union of law, links between beneficiaries and the implementation agencies occur within a legal framework. However, given that more than 80% of the EU budget is spent through national and regional public institutions, the reimbursement of the EU funds depends on the national legislation. Additionally, according to the EU Regulations, the member states are accountable for the management and implementation of a cross-border Programme. This is one of the main reasons why cross-border indicators are biased by the so-called methodological nationalism.

My recommendation is to set up indicators capable to measure the extent to which national legislation impairs the fulfillment of the general and specific objectives of a Programme and to find new ways to enhance the applicability of EU Regulations at a cross-border level. To this end, good governance system needs to be clearly defined by the EU Regulations. More exactly, good governance should not be label only as a prerequisite for effective and efficient interventions but as a goal in itself.

Recommendations 4:

Indicators are just one part of the monitoring and evaluation system. This is why, for the next programming period, my recommendation is to revise the indicators within the broader framework of the monitoring and evaluation system. Small adjustments can have a positive impact on the performance of a cross-border Programme. By contrast, a complete revision will affect even more the capacity of the Programme to capitalize its results. We do not want to burden the Operational Programme with highly complex calculation methods. However, we stress out the fact that measurable indicators, as part of a broader evaluation and monitoring mechanism, can better reflect a causal relationship between the needs of the border area, the objective of the Programme and its envisaged result.

Recommendation 5:

We cannot discuss about cross-border indicators in the absence of institutions ready to enforce their utilization at the Programme’s level. The supra-national agencies in charge with the implementation of cross-border programmes should be committed to the role of agenda setters at cross-border level.

Our recommendation for the Joint Technical Secretariats/Managing Authorities is to take the lead and use their leverage upon the local stakeholders to ensure the development of a cross-border infrastructure of institutions capable to create added value at the level of the border area. Through added value we understand better health services, access to education for marginal groups or mobility of the labor force. There is a great need to steer out these institutions from their dynamic of achieving results through quantitative procedures and to make them accountable for creating knowledge, find solutions to policy problems and deliver public goods.








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