Brussels, 26 June 2014, Subject:EGTC, the new Regulation and National Authorities, CONTRIBUTION: VASILIS XENOS-GAVRIELIS MANAGER OF EGTC “AMPHICTYONY” ON THE EGTC PLATFORM

Subject:EGTC, the new Regulation and National Authorities
Brussels, 26 June 2014

Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen citizens of Europe,

A warm hello to all of you who are here today, from the various quarters of Europe, and of course to our hosts. Our subject is “EGTC, THE NEW REGULATION and NATIONAL AUTHORITIES”.
In Greece, where I am from, there are two EGTC groupings, “Amphictyony” and “EFXINI POLI”, whose positions on the subject I will present to you in brief, as a reference point for further discussion. I will start my statement with what we believe to be the permanent root cause for the various aspects of the subject.

The relationship of the EGTC's, the implementation of the new Regulation and the position of the national authorities are not a technical issue. They primarily constitute a political issue that has to do with whether the political will for the position and the role of EGTC's in European affairs, as laid down in Regulations 1082/2006 and 1302/2013 of the European Parliament and the Council, is embraced by the governments of the Member-States and how this diffuses to the national contact points and the competent bodies that manage issues of Regional and Cross Border Cooperation. An issue that has to do with the question, whether national authorities see the EGTC's as partners and collaborators in a common effort, or as an obstacle. And finally, an issue that has to do with whether all of us understand the added value of territorial cooperation and social and economic cohesion in the common European conscience and action that we all hope to achieve. And this, at a time when procedures for a multilevel governance across the entire European Union reach their pinnacle.

The choice of topic was not random. It shows the concerns, shared by all of us, about how much the situation will improve with the new Regulation. What will be its fate? What does it improve? We must not forget that the framework in which we are required to act, is a political-economic and social environment which, in some places more and in others less, is characterised by a deep cultural, and not only financial and monetary crisis. The message conveyed by the recent European elections was clear and unambiguous. It was a message for all of us, who live and operate close to the European citizen.

In an environment such as this, it is only natural that the problems are not only technical, but deeper and more substantial. First of all, the amount of time required to establish a EGTC – a span now reaching up to 12 months (instead of 3-6 months). And I continue.
We do not participate in the drafting of the operational programs of the national NSRF's. This effectively cancels the provision of the new Regulation on territorial cooperation and the possibility of the EGTC's to also act as a managing authority for any program. Programs with the concept of territorial cooperation and social cohesion are treated in the same manner.

There is no provision for the institutional presence in the design and formulation of strategies for macro-regions (only on an occasional basis). And this, while we are asked to provide partnership in the implementation of programs, which however is the main component of our existence.

Problems are bound to arise when the time comes to recruit suitable staff, depending on the needs and programs that the EGTC is asked to implement (ASEP). This brings me to the major contradiction: The fact that we are not able to perform actions which can, on the other hand, be performed by individual municipalities – members (e.g. programmatic agreements, participation in administrative or other reforms).
Under such conditions, the EGTC's will never be designated as strategic partners of the European Commission in the implementation of the objectives of the EU 2020 strategy. E.g. with the supply, through the EGTC platform, of data for implemented projects and partnerships on a local and regional level and with their participation in the process of periodic evaluations. They will not assist in macro-regional policies.

So, what's next?

Step one: Strict enforcement, in practice, of the new Regulation 1303/2013 by all national authorities. The political will, as expressed by the European Parliament and the Council, should find its full expression in everyday action and practice without delay (possibly by establishment of an observatory).

Continual step: A continuous dialogue among ourselves, but mainly with national authorities.  A dialogue that needs to be established by us (such as the one we are having today) and that shall be held in a city of the country that holds the Presidency. That way, local and regional communities will have the opportunity to hear about the EGTC's, to experience their activity and, most importantly, to feel the presence of Europe in their neighbourhood.

I would like to conclude with the words of Jean Monnet, one of the great visionaries of the EU. There are, he said, two categories of men: those who want to be someone, and those who want to do something. We choose the second category. Let it therefore be our belief, that EGTC'S HAVE COME TO STAY IN EUROPEAN AFFAIRS.

Thank you.