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Study: EGTC as an Instrument for Promotion and Improvement of Territorial Cooperation in Europe

Executive Summary 

By adopting Regulation (EC) No 1082/2006 of 5 July 2006, a new instrument for territorial cooperation was established: the European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC). An amending regulation was adopted in 2013 and came into force in June 2014. Since 2006, up to 54 EGTCs have been established (until April 2015). The EGTC instrument is used for various purposes and can thus be characterised as an instrument that can be flexibly applied in different contexts as regards member constellations, thematic focuses, or different legal backgrounds in the respective EU Member States. Compared to other instruments for territorial cooperation, the EGTC legal instrument is a relatively new and not yet matured instrument, and different challenges occur in the founding and running of EGTCs.
 
In order to contribute to the debate on how to improve the instrument in the future, the European Parliament’s REGI Committee seeks to gain insights into the use of the EGTC instrument.
 
The study’s overall aim is to assess the role EGTCs play for EU Cohesion Policy in general and for European Territorial Cooperation (ETC) in particular. It furthermore presents a clear picture of recent involvement and the potential for future involvement concerning the European Neighbourhood Policy and outermost regions. As the amended regulation came into force less than one year ago, only the first achievements could be taken into consideration to develop tentative conclusions for further developing the EGTC regulation. This regards for instance the amendments for the participation of overseas countries and territories (OCT), the greater variety of potential tasks of an EGTC and the changed approval procedures.
 
The study is divided into five main chapters. The first two chapters build the basis for the analysis in the remaining chapters: Chapter 1 describes the objectives, design and methodology in more detail, and Chapter 2 describes the EGTC legal instrument. With the adoption of the EU Cohesion Policy regulations 2014-2020, the legal embeddedness of the EGTC instrument in EU Cohesion Policy has been strengthened. EGTCs may contribute to the implementation of EU Cohesion Policy for instance by implementing Joint Action Plans or acting as Managing Authority or as sole beneficiary of a programme.
The analysis shows that the instrument is still little used for managing EU Cohesion Policy funds. The majority of EGTCs aim to conduct cross-border cooperation projects and deal with several themes relevant for cross-border areas. Only recently has the EGTC instrument become more prominent for facilitating theme-specific cross-border cooperation and transnational and interregional forms of cooperation. The EGTCs furthermore vary considerably in terms of size, both in terms of the number of members and the covered territory.
 
The analysis of EGTCs in practice allows for drawing general lessons on their application and development as discussed in Chapter 3. Practical experience shows how motivations differ for founding an EGTC and which factors may facilitate or hamper the set-up of an EGTC. The creation of an integrated strategic approach for regional development, stabilisation and continuity of cooperation, increased visibility of cooperation and the improvement of the participation in EU programmes are particularly important motivations. National legal differences and different ways of implementation of the EGTC regulation remain and may either delay or even impede the foundation of EGTCs.
 
The objectives and tasks found within EGTCs are as varied as the motivations. They typically conduct joint projects, facilitate cross-border communication, promote exchange and learning processes and develop thematic plans, strategies or visions. These tasks are performed particularly often in the fields of spatial development, transport, tourism, environment and culture.
 
Correspondingly, the main achievements of EGTCs also vary considerably. Some have already made successful use of EU funds, mostly from Interreg programmes. However, they have also realised various benefits without necessarily using EU Cohesion Policy funds and still contribute to this policy’s objectives. Nevertheless, not all EGTCs are similarly successful. Some EGTCs suffer, e.g. from limited resources, low institutional capacities or a lack of political commitment. Despite the theoretical option that EGTCs may be considered as private entities, they are (nearly) all public entities. Liability decisions are often influenced by national rules of the seat country rather than independently decided by the EGTC members. Location decisions are mostly the result of assessments of selected criteria or are based on one player’s particularly strong role in the initiation process or level of commitment.
 
Both the development of the EU Cohesion Policy programmes for the funding period 2014- 2020 and the amendment of the EGTC regulation raise the question of which role EGTCs may play in the future. This is discussed in Chapter 4 of the study. The analyses point out that there is principally a strong alignment between the objectives of the EGTCs and EU Cohesion Policy objectives 2014-2020. Nevertheless, the number of Operational Programmes referring either to EGTCs as single beneficiaries in general or to specific EGTCs in their programme area is still rather low. In part this may result from the small size of the EGTC in relation to the programme areas. If EGTCs are mentioned they usually occur in ETC programmes, and several EGTCs were actually involved in the programming of ETC programmes relevant for them. Although there is some interest among EGTCs to utilise the more integrated instruments of Community-Led Local Development (CLLD) or Integrated Territorial Investment (ITI), they rarely seem to be available to EGTCs.
 
The future role of EGTCs is also considered with respect to the territorial dimension of its use, i.e. in how far the EGTC instrument provides a new potential for neighbouring countries and outermost regions. Despite some attempts to include regions from neighbouring countries as members in EGTCs, this has not yet materialised. Further attempts are under way. Similarly, the attempts have been even fewer in outermost regions where so far no EGTC exists; however, the foundation of one corresponding EGTC is currently in process. Lack of knowledge and institutional capacity seems to hamper the use of the EGTC instrument in the outermost regions, whereas various reasons have prevented the inclusion of members from neighbouring countries.
 
The conclusions of the study are presented in Chapter 5. They point out some general lessons and specify typical key success factors. Some of the elements that successful EGTCs build on are: well-coordinated cooperation structures, the ability to identify and communicate the specific added value of the EGTC instrument, having a common understanding of how to achieve their long-term objectives and making the required resources available. Some more forward-looking conclusions reveal the quantitative and qualitative changes the EGTC instrument is able to achieve.
 
To read the whole study, follow the link below. 
 
Source: European Parliament Policy Department Structural and Cohesion Policies. 2015. European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation as an instrument for promotion and improvement of territorial cooperation in Europe. http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/STUD/2015/563384/IPOL_STU(2015)563384_EN.pdf