Cross-border cooperation. How to invest in the future?

PortalSamorzadowy.pl - 05-10-2018

Resources from EU cross-border programs should be slated for investment in infrastructure, such as border crossings. However, so-called soft instruments must not be ignored. Both categories improve the quality of cross-border cooperation. These are the conclusions of one of the debates of the Eastern Economic Congress in Białystok.

"The current EU financial framework for 2014-2020 has dedicated slightly fewer funds to cross-border cooperation programs than the previous one, and it is said that the next will assign even fewer, because the European Commission wishes to shift the emphasis from cross-border cooperation to international projects that involve at least three countries", said Cezary Cieślukowski, Vice-President of the Podlaskie Regional Assembly and the Chairman of the Niemen Euroregion during a debate entitled "Impact of cross-border cooperation on the development of Eastern Poland".

In the meantime, according to the beneficiaries and institutions that manage these programs, there is still an unmet demand for cross-border funds.

"We closed the call for applications to our program in the middle of July 2018 and are now in the process of assessing the submitted projects", said Miłosz Wielgat, project manager of the joint secretariat of the cross-border Poland-Russia program. "As many as 118 projects were submitted, with a total expected funding of more than 190 million euro, while the budget of the program equals just 62 million euro."

"If we devote money to soft support, i.e. social development, training, etc., perhaps we should do so with funds from local government and the regions, and reserve hard EU resources for investment?", asked Kazimierz Zdunowski, President of the Polish-Belarusian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. To his mind, cross-border cooperation programs should mainly cover infrastructure investments, such as bridges, border crossings, railway lines, etc.

Dariusz Bogdan, President of the Science and Technology Park Poland-East in Suwałki, took issue with this opinion. "In recent years, Poland has carried out many infrastructure projects, but we have not yet invested in social development", he said. He argued that both project categories should be given equal support.

"Entrepreneurs in Podlasie mostly think their prospects lie in the West, even though the Belarusian border is just around the corner", Bogdan said.

A proper balance between infrastructure investment and "soft" projects was also recommended by Marek Siergiej, CEO of Promotech.

"A year ago, we wanted to start cooperating with a company from Grodno and came up against serious problems with regard to staff visas, for instance. Soft projects break down mental barriers that make it impossible to forge deeper economic ties", he argued.

"We are talking about "hard" and "soft" solutions, while the key word here is "project", which must deliver tangible results," said Sergei Tkachenko, Head of Administration of the GrodnoInvest Free Economic Zone. He believes that a good example of an efficient implementation of cross-border programs in tourism, for instance, is the Augustów-Grodno canal, which works and attracts tourists,

Cross-border cooperation, the debate concluded, has no doubt left an imprint on Eastern Polish regions, and, on the local level, builds ties that would take a much longer time to form without cross-border resources.




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