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Minorities in a Seamless Europe

The Role of Transfrontier Cooperation in Maintaining Ethno-cultural Diversity International Conference, Budapest, 15 September 2009

Prime Minister’s Office, Budapest 2010

Minorities in a Seamless Europe

The Role of Transfrontier Cooperation in Maintaining Ethno-cultural Diversity International Conference, Budapest, 15 September 2009

Prime Minister’s Office, Budapest 2010

Published by the State Secretariat for Minority and National Policy of the Prime Minister’s Office

Publisher: Ferenc Gémesi 1055 Budapest, Kossuth tér 4. Hungary Budapest, 2010



Letter by Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai


Knut Vollebaek, OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities


Prof. Francesco Palermo, Senior Legal Adviser to the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities


Prof. János Rechnitzer, Scientific Consultant, HAS Centre for Regional Studies, Research Institute of West Hungary


Ludmila Sfirloaga, President of the Chamber of Regions, Congress of Local and Regional Authorities in Europe


Alan Phillips, President, Council of Europe Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities


Vesna Crnić-Grotić, 1st Vice-Chair, Committee of Experts of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages


Gerhard Stahl, Secretary General, Committee of the Regions of the European Union


Erika Törzsök, President, Public Foundation for European Comparative Minority Research


Péter Udvardi, Managing Director, Ister-Granum European Grouping for Territorial Cooperation


Susanne Reichrath, State Secretary, Government of Saarland


Gábor Kaba, Mayor, Jimbolia/Zsombolya


László Gazda, Chairman, Regional Development Council of the Northern Great Plain



Summary of the international conference „Minorities in a Seamless Europe” László Hovanyecz

Letter by Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai

Dear Mr. High Commissioner, Mrs. Minister, Mr. Presidents and Mrs. Vice President, Mr. Chief Secretary, Ladies and Gentlemen, Being the Prime Minister of the Republic of Hungary, I would like to welcome the speak- ers and participants of the international conference on “Minorities in a Seamless Europe. The Role of Trans-Frontier Cooperation in Maintaining Ethno-cultural Diversity”; the rep-

resentatives and experts of OSCE and the Council of Europe; the heads of the diplomatic representations accredited in Budapest; the organisers of the already functioning and the still pending regional cooperation initiatives.

I would have liked to hear your presentations and gain an insight into your opinions on

the various forms of cross border cooperation, however, my other commitments as head of government did not make this possible. Allow me therefore to share my thoughts with

you on the subject in this alternative manner. The thoughts expressed in June 2008 by Knut Vollebaek, High Commissioner for OSCE, and today’s main presenter provide a palpable description of the development of the sys- tem of relations maintained by the peoples living in our region. It is exactly 360 years ago now that with the Peace of Westphalia minority rights were suddenly placed in the centre of international attention and debates concerning minority rights started to emerge. Since the creation of the nation state system, the situation of minority communities has often raised the attention of other, usually neighbouring states. Owing to increasing globalisation in recent decades, states have become progressively more and more multi-national although ethno-cultural and political borders rarely overlap. For this very reason, the social and economic processes that shape our region often make us face difficult and unexpected challenges in Central and Eastern Europe. Regard- less whether we are majority or minority. The actors of social and economic life try to take advantage of the new opportunities that have presented themselves with cross border traffic, cross border developments and cooperation. In contrast to this, common political thinking has it that minorities are not the solution to, but part of the problem.

I am personally convinced together with my Government that the present attempts at

enticing or seeking conflict ought to be replaced by a different approach that is no longer based on the constant revaluation of the past and does not serve narrow, part interests. We need constructive approaches based on European values that can guarantee long- term stability. In 2009 we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the birth of the Council of Europe. European cooperation has a lot to thank this organisation for. It suffices to say that the Council of Europe was the first organisation to put the question of cross border cooperation on its agenda. Although the mandate of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe is pri- marily designed to guarantee interstate peace and security and, as such, it is not restricted to the protection of minority rights, the recommendations made by the minority high com-

missioners of the organisation had made an immense contribution to the improved protec- tion of minority rights. The role played by minorities in interstate relations ought to be given special emphasis for the purposes of today’s conference. The historical changes in our region opened up the avenue for us to develop new policies that are sensitive to the needs of minority com- munities, cooperative and, at the same time, consistent with European principles. Owing to such endeavours, Hungarian communities today can become active players and agents behind regional processes while retaining their linguistic and cultural self-identities. Cross border developments also require new approaches from our peoples. Long-term planning and common thinking that is capable of seeing beyond local interest are essential preconditions to the success of these programmes.

Using mostly EU funding and making local efforts, we now have the opportunity to re- kindle the artificially broken relationships which are essential for the success of the peoples living in our region. These new cooperation projects may be put up in opposition to the political views that promote exclusion and revive nationalist sentiments. I think that all states in our region must understand that while European integration breaks down physical and legal boundaries, no-one can build new legal or linguistic barriers for political or other reasons, no-one can discriminate equal European citizens on ethnic or linguistic grounds. In recent years we have tried to ensure that, wherever it was possible, EU develop- ment and investments would also be used to narrow the gap between the border regions of neighbouring countries and other more developed areas. It was in this spirit that we synchronised our development plans and this is also party the reason why we keep joint government sessions where regional cooperation and the development of regions with minorities are top priority subject matters.

I therefore consider it an honour and a sign of reinforcement of our efforts that this con- ference on cross border cooperation and the maintenance of ethno-cultural diversity is being held in Budapest of all places.

I welcome you here today in the hope that with common thinking we can go beyond the

logic of politics stemming from the grievances of the past decade and with the promotion

of cooperation between the regions, Europe can really become a seamless place.

I wish you all the best in your work.

Budapest, 15 September 2009

Gordon Bajnai

Prime Minister of the Republic of Hungary

Knut Vollebaek

OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you very much for the invitation to speak at this important Conference. I am pleased to be back in Hungary. Hungary has long been in the forefront for promoting mi- nority rights in the European Union and beyond. Outside observers are probably unaware of the fact that Hungary was among the countries which had insisted most on minority rights provisions in the European Constitution and the Lisbon Treaty. In the past 20 years, we have been witness to sweeping changes in Europe. Some 20 years ago, European borders were mined, fenced with barbed wire and guarded by Ger- man shepherds. A popular Soviet song immortalized the climate of fear at those border posts with these lyrics: “On the border the clouds float sombre, the severe country is steeped in silence…” Today, much of Europe is whole and free. The Iron Curtain has been lifted. The cult of strongly guarded borders is now a thing of the past. All EU borders have been thrown open and are purely nominal. We may sometimes notice them when we drive past the road sign; when we go to shop for samples of culinary delicacies in a village or town “on the other side”; when we queue at a petrol station in a neighbouring country to take advantage of the cheaper prices. Indeed, Europe is becoming seamless. There are few better illustrations of this than the restoration of the Mária Valéria Bridge between Esztergom in Hungary and Štúrovo/ Párkány in Slovakia. This wind of change however has brought new concerns: human trafficking, illegal drugs and transnational crime. At the same time, though, it has created unprecedented opportu- nities to heal the scars of the twentieth century. Transfrontier co-operation can and should benefit both majorities and minorities, and help us to preserve Europe’s rich ethnocultural heritage. The Preamble to the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities clearly links transfrontier co-operation with – I quote – “the realisation of a tolerant and prosperous Europe.”

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Europe boasts a solid legal footing for transfrontier co-operation. The 1980 Council of Europe Madrid Outline Convention paved the way for transfrontier co-operation. This revolutionary document has helped countless communities in many regions of Europe. It

helped optimize land use along transfrontier rivers, create and manage transfrontier parks and foster links between municipalities. The Madrid Convention also contains a model agreement on transfrontier co-operation between schools. This document is particularly important for the amicable relations be- tween cross-border communities. Its aims are both noble and ambitious: to promote the knowledge of the language and culture of the partner country, to develop personal rela- tions and exchanges of experience and information, and to bring about early bilingualism in the education system. The Protocols to the Convention go even further. They allow for the establishment of fully-fledged transfrontier authorities, some of which are already suc- cessfully operating in Europe. The 2006 EU Regulation on the European Grouping of Territorial Co-operation should give further impetus to transfrontier links. It empowers local and regional authorities to take the lead, without the often cumbersome negotiations between the capitals. This new and innovative instrument will make it easier for local communities to apply to the EU Structural Funds and improve their livelihoods. Ultimately, this will benefit – economically and socially

– both majorities and minorities. There is one important principle that underpins all of these documents: the promotion of co-operation on a territorial rather than an ethnic basis. The rationale behind this is that the whole population in a particular area, irrespective of their ethnic background, should benefit. Co-operation along ethnic lines between border regions may generate suspicion in some quarters about the true motives of such links. It may equip those who portray transfrontier co-operation – particularly in minority populated areas – as irredentist with a trump card. Granting benefits to the population of border regions on an ethnic basis is equally dan- gerous. Creating privileged and less privileged communities in a neighbouring State on an ethnic basis is fraught with grave security risks. In my view, such moves risk reigniting the powder keg that was once Europe; the Europe we all want to leave behind.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Although the legal framework for transfrontier co-operation is in place, our record in this field is often patchy. One reason is … borders. While most of Europe’s borders are now permeable, some Eu- ropean nations are still excluded from the common European space. While the Schengen agreement has facilitated cross-border contact for many communities, it greatly compli-

cates transfrontier contact for others. For example, it makes it more difficult for minorities

– Lithuanians and Poles in Belarus, Poles and Hungarians in Ukraine – to maintain cultural

and educational links with their kin-State. Fortunately, there is good news on this front. I know that Hungary and Ukraine have agreed on visa-free travel for Hungarian and Ukrainian nationals living within a 50-km area

on both sides of the border. A similar agreement has been recently inaugurated between Poland and Ukraine. And talks are underway between Belarus and its neighbours, as well as between Russia and Norway. These are excellent examples of privileges accorded on a territorial basis and benefiting all ethnic groups living in the border areas. In addition to visa-free travel, it would be a good idea to somehow institutionalize co- operation between local and regional authorities in non-Member States and their coun- terparts in Member States. I am not quite sure how this could be practically achieved. Perhaps, the newly launched Eastern Partnership could provide us with the mechanisms. One thing is clear though: this would improve the lot of many minority populations living on the periphery of the EU. Another determinant of successful transfrontier co-operation is its economic viability. Numerous studies have shown that transfrontier co-operation is most effective in those areas where local populations feel tangible economic benefits. One such example is Ister- Granum. There, century-long linguistic and cultural ties between Hungarian Esztergom and Slovak Štúrovo/Párkány are reinforced by strong business links. For example, many people on the Slovak side commute daily to work at the Suzuki plant in Esztergom. The economic component of transfrontier co-operation is closely linked to our goal of preserving cultural diversity. Support for traditional crafts, regional food production or eth- nocultural tourism in the border areas can contribute to this goal and make these activities sustainable forms of income. The success of transfrontier co-operation also depends on the involvement of all sec- tions of the population. Often, an ethnic majority in a particular State sees transfrontier co- operation as a “minority thing”, which helps minorities maintain links with their kin-State. I cannot emphasize enough the need to involve the majority. Whether it be a football match, a visit to a library or a meeting between schools, exchange groups should ideally be multi- ethnic. This particularly applies to language learning. Bilingualism is an essential component of transfrontier co-operation. Cross-border areas shall be ideally bilingual areas, where all, majorities and minorities, learn each other’s language. Finally, bilateral relations between countries have a major impact on transfrontier co- operation. Rancorous disputes between countries over minority issues do nothing but stifle cross-border contact and interaction. This is why politicians in the capitals must get their act together and resolve any differences in the spirit of friendly and good neighbourly re- lations. In doing so, they should be guided by the rules and the principles established in international human rights documents. The use of specifically created multilateral mecha- nisms to resolve such disputes is particularly desirable.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Most of the successful cross-border projects sprout forth at grass-roots level. As I mentioned before, the task of politicians in the capitals is to create an amiable inter-State atmosphere. These projects can then ripen and yield tangible benefits for local border regions and minorities resident there. Bilateral treaties are the key instruments at the disposal of central government. Such treaties, first and foremost, establish a broad framework of good neighbourly and friendly relations between States. They often regulate the full range of common interests. Significantly, such treaties may also contain clauses concerning the protection of national minorities. Indeed, international instruments, including the Framework Convention and the HCNM’s Bolzano Recommendations, encourage States to incorporate such clauses in bilateral treaties. This recommendation rests on the premise that bilateral agreements and mechanisms help States share information and concerns, pursue common interests and ideas, and further protect particular minorities because they require the consent of their State of residence. In short, such agreements can alleviate any concerns that neighbours may have about the treatment of a kin-minority. They may also ease suspicions about the use of minority issues as a pretext for external interference. And they can help create mechanisms to settle disputes, which may arise. Bilateral treaties must be based on international standards of minority rights. They must certainly not fall short of or compromise existing obligations or commit- ments. In addition, drafters of such treaties should avoid preferential treatment for certain minorities over other groups or individuals within society. Finally, treaties should provide mechanisms for political consultations and/or joint commissions to follow up on the provisions of the treaties. This would ensure that their spirit is being lived up to. Bilateral treaties are not a panacea for removing hurdles to transfrontier co-oper- ation. They are not a substitute for a domestic policy of integration with respect for diversity. They do not supersede international standards. One must also be wary of not using provisions of such treaties as tools to meddle in the internal politics of States. Bilateral treaties cannot replace multilateral mecha- nisms, which have the essential attributes of independence and impartiality. When disputes over minority issues arise, bilateral arrangements may become, more or less, useless. The sides may have very divergent positions, or their political weight of the sides can be uneven. In short, we cannot bilaterize everything.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Throughout European history, border regions, and minorities who often reside there, have suffered. In war, these were the scenes of ferocious battles. In peace, they were

treated with suspicion by the capital and subjected to assimilation. Very often, the best these regions could hope for was neglect and economic oblivion.

In recent years, a decisive turnaround in the fortunes of border regions has taken place.

European integration, advances in minority rights and a new political climate have sta- bilized them. What was once the excluded periphery, now exhibits growth, employment and social development. Furthermore, European integration and its relative, transfrontier

co-operation, help preserve minority identity in the border regions and lay to rest lingering disputes and suspicions between States.

A Hungarian proverb says, “No roast pigeon will fly into one’s mouth.”* Transfrontier co-

operation will not flourish by itself. There is still work to do. The job of policymakers is to

support grass-roots initiatives by cultivating a healthy bilateral climate and a robust legal framework. We have some good examples of cross-border co-operation, but we need many more. Only then, will minorities become bridges connecting States rather than the bone of contention between them.

Thank you for your attention.

* Senkinek sem repül szájába a sült galamb.

Francesco Palermo*

Senior Legal Adviser to the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities


The link between transfrontier co-operation among regional and local authorities and ethnic diversity – i.e. the use of crossborder activities to facilitate contacts between popu- lations divided by a border – has been a vital underlying driving force since the beginning of transfrontier experiments in Europe. Indeed, it has provided the momentum for establish- ing and developing a host of transfrontier activities. 1 In recent times, transfrontier co-operation has become an increasingly “normal” phe- nomenon, both quantitatively and – more importantly – qualitatively. The adoption of sev- eral remarkable provisions on transfrontier co-operation at international and supranational level, such as the additional protocols to the Council of Europe’s Madrid Outline Conven- tion 2 and the EC Regulation on the European Grouping for Territorial Cooperation (EGTC) 3 , now make this phenomenon the rule rather than the exception. In fact, nearly all border areas within the EU are at present covered by some form of transfrontier co-operation agreement between regional or local authorities. Precisely for this reason, however, the link with ethnic diversity is increasingly seen by many nation States as potentially problematic. This is particularly the case in areas where the majority or a sizeable minority of the population is ethnically homogeneous with the (majority of the) population on the other side of the border. Transfrontier co-operation involving national minorities, and particularly those whose kin-State is on the other side of the border, is often (and simplistically) perceived as a potential threat to the territorial integrity of a State and to the loyalty of minority groups to the State of residence. 4

* Professor Palermo delivered his presentation under the title “Transfrontier Co-operation as a Means to Maintain Ethnocultural Diversity: Limits and Opportunities”. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and are not necessarily shared by the High Commissioner or the OSCE.

1 See Council of Europe (ed.), Examples of Good Practice of Transfrontier Co-operation Concerning Members of Ethnic Groups on the Territory of Several States, Strasbourg, 1995.

2 Outline Convention on Transfrontier Cooperation between Territorial Communities or Authorities, ETS No. 106 (1980), supplemented by additional Protocols no. 1 (1995) and 2 (1998). A third additional protocol is currently being elabo- rated.

3 Regulation EC 1082/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council, 5 July 2006, OJ L 210/19 of 31 July 2006.

4 It could be said that nation States often see transfrontier co-operation as a potential threat to their integrity when it deals with ethnic homogeneity rather than with diversity. Inasmuch as the populations on either side of the border are ethnically different – as is the presumptive rule in a context still dominated by the nation State – transborder co-oper- ation is per se a way to deal with ethnic diversity, facilitating contacts between different populations sharing common problems. This is, however, never seen as something problematic. Rather, it is commonly considered as a factor of potential integration, intercultural exchange, functional co-operation and other “positive” consequences. The problems are rather perceived when the majority of the population on both sides of the “co-operating border” is ethnically ho- mogeneous, since in this case co-operation is often (and superficially) associated with irredentism. See, for example, Bruno Luverà, Oltre il confine. Euregio e conflitto etnico: tra regionalismo europeo e nuovi nazionalismi in Trentino-Alto Adige, Bologna 1996; more recently, Stefan Wolff, Disputed Territories. The Transnational Dynamics of Ethnic Conflict Settlement, London, 2003. For a rather opposite view see Fried Esterbauer, Guy Héraud and Peter Pernthaler (eds.), Föderalismus als Mittel permanenter Konfliktregelung, Wien 1977.

Therefore, a paradox is to be observed. On the one hand, the increased opportunities for transfrontier co-operation open up important avenues for maintaining and promoting eth-

nocultural diversity, by providing new tools for co-operation across the borders, including that based on ethnocultural affinity. On the other hand, the same opportunities are likely to provoke some resistance by nation States that see their sovereignty “threatened” by trans- frontier co-operation with a strong ethnic component. Such resistance might eventually make it more difficult to co-operate across the borders in areas where minority populations reside in relevant numbers than in others, thus indirectly discriminating against minority groups. How can transfrontier co-operation help maintain and increase ethnic diversity without being counter-productive to interethnic co-operation across the border? This paper argues that effective transfrontier co-operation can immensely benefit minority groups and that States’ suspicion can be allayed provided certain conditions are met: 1) transfrontier co- operation should be properly understood; 2) it should focus on territories rather than on groups; 3) it should proceed from the bottom-up; 4) the involved territories should enjoy

a sufficient degree of autonomy, and 5) this autonomy should be used in a responsible way.

Avoiding conceptual mistakes: the need to separate different concepts to better combine them

A negative attitude towards transfrontier co-operation derives largely from its being con-

fused with other concepts and instruments that are inherently different from it.

In most of the modern international instruments the link between transfrontier co-operation

and minority rights is established and clearly spelled out. The first document that clearly con- nects the two is the CSCE Copenhagen Document of 1990: para. 32.4 declares that persons belonging to national minorities have the right “to establish and maintain unimpeded contacts

[…] across frontiers with citizens of other states with whom they share a common ethnic or national origin, cultural heritage or religious belief”. This provision is also reflected in the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities: Article 18 stipulates that “where relevant, the Parties shall take measures to encourage transfrontier co-operation”. More recent bilateral treaties on minority issues regulate transfrontier contacts too: this is the case practically everywhere in Central and Eastern Europe. 5 This clearly dem- onstrates that transfrontier co-operation involving national minorities and ethnocultural diver- sity is an integral part of international minority-rights standards and commitments: therefore, States are obliged to promote and not to obstruct this form of co-operation. The practical relevance of these provisions, however, remains limited. Part of the reason

is that too often transfrontier co-operation raises expectations that cannot be met: this is

5 See R. Hofmann, Introduction to “Special Focus: Crossborder Cooperation and Minorities in Eastern Europe: Still Waiting for a Chance?”, in European Yearbook on Minority Issues, vol. 6, 2006/7, 140.

the case when an instrument such as transfrontier co-operation is confused with (and used instead of) other concepts and tools, such as bilateral relations and minority protection.

involved groups often become hostage to inter-State relations. In this context, “perception” matters just as much as or sometimes even more than “real-

Transfrontier co-operation is the joint management, by the populations involved and their local authorities, of a set of specific issues relevant to both sides of the border. It is an instrument for territorial management at regional/local level. For this reason, it profoundly differs from bilateral relations, as these are carried out between States, while transfrontier co-operation involves territories either side of borders. Similarly, minority protection can be

ity”. When transfrontier co-operation creates (real or perceived) misunderstandings about being an ethnic rather than a territorial exercise, the whole process is easily stalled and minorities are deprived from the benefits that transfrontier co-operation can provide. Just such an example is one of the most successful and peaceful minority protection regimes, namely that of South Tyrol, which suffered negative consequences as a result of

an important consequence of transfrontier co-operation, but it can hardly be at its core or


not entirely clear approach to transfrontier co-operation. In the 1990s, the parliaments

its only raison d’être.


the regions of the former Kronland Tirol (currently the Austrian Land of Tirol and the Ital-

A clearer conceptual distinction between transfrontier co-operation, bilateral relations

and minority protection can be found in the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minori- ties’ 2008 Bolzano/Bozen Recommendations on National Minorities in Inter-State Rela- tions. Recommendation 16 first addresses bilateral relations on minority issues: “States should cooperate across international frontiers within the framework of friendly bilateral

and multilateral relations and on a territorial rather than on an ethnic basis”. Then the same recommendation continues emphasizing the role of “[t]ransfrontier co-operation between local and regional authorities and minority self-governments” in contributing “to tolerance and prosperity” and encouraging “dialogue on minority issues”.

A clearer picture of the available instruments, their use and their consequences could

help States, territories and groups involved in transfrontier co-operation in ethnically sensi-

tive areas to avoid conceptual and practical overlaps, and thus remove some of the most recurrent objections against co-operation across borders.

The territorial element: from transfrontier to territorial co-operation

The focus and the very essence of transfrontier co-operation is the territory rather than the groups who live in it. More precisely, the groups can benefit from transfrontier co-operation to the extent that the territory as a whole gains from it. In fact, from the aforesaid it is clear that transfrontier co-operation does not equal protection of persons belonging to minori- ties: other instruments are designed for minority protection, including bilateral treaties on these issues. 6 Not only is transfrontier co-operation territorial because it must involve and benefit a ter- ritory with all its groups, irrespective of their ethnicity; it is territorial also because it needs to be carried out at territorial level, being a bottom-up and not a top-down exercise. 7 When transfrontier co-operation gains a national dimension, it looses most of its potential and the

6 See in particular A. Bloed, P. van Dijk (eds.), Protection of minority rights through bilateral treaties: the case of Cen- tral and Eastern Europe, The Hague, Kluwer, 1999 and E. Lantschner, R. Medda-Windischer, “Protection of National Minorities through Bilateral Agreements in South Eastern Europe”, in European Yearbook of Minority Issues, vol. 1, 2001/2, 535-561.

7 See U. Beyerlin, “Transfrontier Cooperation between Local or Regional Authorities”, in Encyclopedia of Public Inter- national Law, Instalment 6, 350.

ian Autonomous Provinces of South Tyrol and Trentino) started to meet on a regular basis and the establishment of a Euroregion was envisaged. However, elements such as the

proposed name (“Europaregion Tirol”, evoking the historical union of these regions) or the top-down and highly institutionalized approach, raised severe objections in the capitals. 8 The consequence was that transfrontier co-operation – even in an area where autonomy and minority rights are strongly developed – came to a virtual standstill for about a de- cade, because of fundamental misunderstandings on using transfrontier co-operation as

a substitute for re-establishing the old “Kronland Tirol” in a presumed “post-Westfphalian”

environment, and ultimately to co-operate on an ethnic rather than territorial basis. Only recently, new forms of co-operation on a more technical and less political basis were initi- ated, from a mountain-rescue service to joint cultural activities: the re-establishment of a climate of trust, including in the capitals, is currently leading to the potential establishment of an EGTC in the area involved. However, much time was lost due to taking the wrong initial approach to crossborder co-operation in an ethnoculturally sensitive territory. 9 The territorial essence of transfrontier co-operation is reflected in the evolution of ter- minology. Clearly, terminology has been not consistent in this area, and several different terms with subtle nuances have been used: crossborder co-operation, transborder co-op- eration, transfrontier co-operation, interregional co-operation, interterritorial co-operation, territorial co-operation; let alone the different terms in use for the different areas where co-operation is in place (ranging from “Euroregions” to “Working communities”). 10 While

8 For a detailed description see F. Palermo, J. Woelk, “Cross-Border Cooperation as an Indicator for Institutional Evolution of Autonomy: The Case of Trentino-South Tyrol”, in Z.A. Skurbaty (ed.), Beyond a One-Dimensional State:

An Emerging Right to Autonomy?, Raoul Wallenberg Institute Human Rights Library, Nijhoff, Leiden/Boston, 2005, pp. 277-304. See also P. Pernthaler, S. Ortino (eds.), Europaregion Tirolo - Euregio Tirolo. Le basi giuridiche ed i limiti della sua istituzionalizzazione, Trento, Regione Autonoma, 1997.

9 On a more general note, this example tells us that transfrontier co-operation in ethnoculturally sensitive areas is initial- ly more effective the less formalized it is. Territorial co-operation carried out in the penumbra of formal provisions might be quite useful in a first phase of confidence-building. After such a first, experimental phase, the interest of territories and groups need to be strongly safeguarded, and this can only occur by means of stronger (public) legal guarantees, provided there is the need for speeding-up the institutional integration. What matters, however, is the limitation of any symbolic “spill-over” by means of the choice of functional instruments, since all this cannot but be aimed at establish- ing more effective and functional-oriented forms of governance. See further F. Palermo, “Trans-Border Cooperation and Ethnic Diversity”, in J. Kühl, M. Weller (eds.), Minority Policy in Action: The Bonn-Copenhagen Declaration in a European Context 1955-2005, European Centre for Minority Issues & Institut for Graensregionsforskning, Syddansk Universitet, 2005, pp. 161-185.

terminology differs even among the international actors involved, 11 it is worth noting that the most recent instruments place emphasis on the co-operating territory rather than on the borders. In particular, the proposed third protocol to the Council of Europe’s Madrid Outline Convention speaks of “Euroregional Cooperation Groupings” and even more no- tably, EC Regulation no. 1082/2006 establishes the European Grouping for Territorial Co- operation (emphasis added). This is an important indication that what really matters is no longer the border as such (often a historical scar) but the territory, stretching over two or more States and including different ethnocultural groups.

Co-operating territories as “new centres in the periphery”:

genuine territorial autonomy and using it in a mature way

Transfrontier co-operation, its concept, its terminology and its latest normative develop- ments emphasizes the territorial element and minimizes the ethnic component and the cen- trality of a border. This, however, implies that in order to establish an effective collaboration that can contribute to the preservation and the enhancement of ethnocultural diversity, the co-operating territories enjoy a sufficient degree of autonomy and make responsible use of such autonomy (as summarized in conditions 4) and 5) set out at the beginning of this paper). It has been effectively pointed out that transfrontier co-operation creates “new centres in the periphery”, 12 thus developing a real potency that capitals cannot have: a potency that comes from being “central” for the first time in centuries. While transfrontier co-operation needs to operate on a territorial rather than ethnic basis and the motives behind it must be clear in order to avoid misunderstandings, it is also necessary that territories are given a chance to effectively and openly co-operate. In other words, to avoid an ethnically-centred form of transfrontier co-operation, territories must have powers they can jointly exercise with their counterparts on the other side of the border. Put differently, to be effective, trans- frontier co-operation requires some degree of territorial autonomy, at least at local level. 13 If territorial autonomy is not sufficiently developed, transfrontier co-operation is either driven by the capitals (and then, when involving ethnically mixed areas, it may raise con- cerns that the minorities are used as another State’s “fifth column”, or it overlaps with bilateral relations, as described earlier) or it is meaningless since the authorities involved

10 See further A. Engl, Future Perspectives on Territorial Cooperation in Europe: The EC Regulation on a European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation and the Planned Council of Europe Third Protocol to the Madrid Outline Conven- tion concerning Euroregional Co-operation Groupings, EDAP Papers, 03/2007 (available at


11 The Council of Europe generally uses the term “transfrontier co-operation”. This is the reason why this term is also used as a general reference in this paper.

12 R. Toniatti, “How Soft Is and Ought to Be the Law of Interregional Transborder Cooperation?”, in R. Kicker, J. Marko, M. Steiner (eds.), Changing Borders: Legal and Economic Aspects of European Enlargement, Frankfurt, Lang, 1998,


13 B. Groß, P. Schmitt-Egner, Europas kooperierende Regionen. Rahmenbedingungen und Praxis transnationaler

Zusammenarbeit deutscher Grenzregionen in Europa, Nomos, Baden Baden 1994.

do not have powers they can exercise jointly. Precisely because transfrontier co-operation requires a territorial approach, it also re- quires strong territories and some degree of autonomy: transfrontier co-operation man- aged in the capitals keeps the involved territories in the periphery. The lack of territorial autonomy is one of the obstacles to fully developing the existing international instruments on transfrontier co-operation, especially in Central and Eastern Europe, where the very idea of territorial autonomy is approached with great suspicion. 14 In fact, all existing international documents take the “minimum common denominator” ap- proach, meaning that only in areas where local or regional governments have substantive powers can transfrontier co-operation be effective. Transfrontier co-operation is ultimately the external projection of a territory’s own powers: under all legal systems it also requires, to be effective, a co-operative and non-confrontational attitude on the part of the autono- mous territory towards central government, which still has the power to stop every action. In other words, autonomy must be there and must be used in a mature and constructive way in full harmony with the centre. Again, a confirmation of this trend comes from the recently introduced 2006 EC Reg- ulation on the EGTC. On the one hand, this instrument clearly reinforces the territorial paradigm, having the potential to become a key instrument for the development of border areas. On the other hand, compared to other existing instruments, it gives States a much stronger position than ever envisaged in transfrontier co-operation. For example, it allows for the States themselves to be part of an EGTC (Art. 3), unlike the very paradigm of the Council of Europe’s Madrid Outline Convention and its protocols; 15 moreover, Articles 4.3 and 13 of the EGTC Regulation contain reservations regarding the general interest of the State, which can be used as a reason for not participating in an EGTC or for withdrawing from it; not least, a somewhat “statist” approach of the EGTC Regulation emerges from its not being open to participation by associations, NGOs, etc. Therefore, the impact of the EGTC will depend, on the one hand, on the degree of autonomy enjoyed by the involved ter- ritories and, on the other hand, on the capacity of these territories to effectively co-operate with their capitals, who otherwise can stop every initiative they might not agree with.

14 For further explanation and a critic to this approach see F. Palermo, “When the Lund Recommendations are Ignored. Effective Participation of National Minorities through Territorial Autonomy”, in International Journal of Minority and Group Rights, (16), 2009 (forthcoming).

15 See E. Decaux, «La Convention-cadre sur la coopération transfrontalière des collectivités ou des autorités locales», in Revue Générale de Droit International Public, Tome LXXXVIII 1984, 557-615.

Concluding remarks: towards a European law on transborder co-oper- ation and its essential features and the consequences for ethnocultural diversity

In today’s Europe, territorial co-operation across the borders, including in ethnoculturally sensitive areas, is becoming the rule rather than the exception, both in quantitative and in qualitative terms: the legal framework, at international and domestic level, no longer allows transfrontier co-operation to be considered as a narrowly defined exception. Rather, in the

emerging European law for territorial co-operation, joint activities across borders are physi- ological and any limitation of them is to be considered exceptional. The evolution of the legal framework, particularly at international and supranational level, has markedly increased the number of available legal forms for transfrontier co-operation.

It is fair to say that at present international law and comparative developments are so rich

in this field that each area of territorial co-operation has recourse to a wide selection of suitable instruments in terms of, for example, how institutionalized the construction will be,

the different fields of co-operation or the degree of involvement of central government. Minority issues are embedded in the larger context and cannot be disconnected from it:

the more efficient the overall governance, the more resources are available to minorities, the least likely it is that minority rights are neglected and even less that minority issues can develop into conflicts. The best contribution transfrontier co-operation can make to the preservation and the development of ethnocultural diversity is the improvement of the overall governance and living conditions for all in a given territory. If a transborder territory develops well, all groups living in it benefit and interethnic tensions are reduced; con- versely, if this does not happen, minorities are usually the first to be negatively affected. Transfrontier co-operation is an instrument for territorial management that can indirectly benefit from the ethnocultural diversity of the involved territory (as it makes the territory more pluralist) and can indirectly help maintain the ethnocultural diversity of the territory (by making it more central and improving the overall living conditions and the success of

a territory). Given its territorial dimension, transfrontier co-operation is more effective the more developed and mature territorial self-government is. Finally, if these elements are appropriately considered, combining transfrontier co-op- eration and minority protection can help improve both territorial co-operation and ethn- ocultural diversity. This, however, always remains a delicate exercise, one that requires constant rebalancing, permanent monitoring and extraordinary socio-political sensibility.

János Rechnitzer*

Senior Research Fellow, HAS Centre for Regional Studies, Research Institute of West Hungary

The Dividing Line: Border

When looking at cross border cooperation, it is necessary to say a few introductory words about the idea of border, the recent changes in context therein, and its significance in terms of nation states and their territorial structures. Let us begin by defining the concept of state border. A state border is an imaginary line that divides state territories from each other and other territories not under any state sov- ereignty. The border therefore is always destined to divide areas with different international legal statuses. International law does not have any material or legal provisions concern- ing where a borderline ought to be drawn in any specific instance. In history, the different states tended to use different principles to underpin their decisions concerning the demar- cation of borderlines. These included the principle of natural (geographical) boundaries, historic boundaries, ethnic boundaries or the principle of self-governance of people, or simply the principle of the victorious having the upper hand over the defeated. From this it also transpires that the concept of borders innately carry in themselves the possibility to divide or to connect alike. The multiple functions and roles of borders are further highlighted in the classification used in economic geography. According to this, a border may be interpreted as a dividing spatial element or a filtering zone, which reinforces its dividing role, whereas alternatively it can be seen as a peripheral zone or a connect- ing spatial element, which supports connectedness and close relations (Nemes Nagy, J.


In history, quite until recent times, borders were always seen as politically drawn lines, or zones under strict militarily control between two nations. The border is a symbolic signifier and also a real territorial demarcation representing a real dividing line at which the scope of authority of one state ends and the other one’s begins. Within the borderlines, the state operates as the sole proprietor and protector of national state functions. The protection of citizens is still an important part of state functions, which, in practice, manifests itself in the control of military, the protection of borders, the determination of extradition treaties, and the guaranteeing of the safety of citizens abroad. Borders are therefore the symbols of national sovereignty. During past centuries, their dividing role was far more dominant than their connecting functions. In the wake of WWII in Western Europe, the possibility of cooperation between given border regions had gradu- ally become a reality with demilitarisation, reconstruction, and peace and simultaneously with that the dividing and separating roles of the borders weakened as more ground was gradually conceded over to cooperation between nations, economies and cultures.

* Professor Rechnitzer delivered his presentation under the title “Peculiarities of Cross Border Regional Cooperation”.

The abolition of borders in the seventies was intensified by the explosion of globalisation. Borders were in the way of free capital movement, the penetration of new technologies, the movement of goods across countries, the expansion of communication networks, the new models of consumption, and ultimately the enforcement of the systems and institutions of world economy that were far more superior to national powers. Globalisation was also one of the many driving forces behind cross border cooperation as the gaining of power by the USA and Japan in world economy and the increasingly fierce competition had ultimately propelled Europe towards unification. With the establishment of the Common Market and the ongoing European integration, the gradual abolition of borders and the establishment of a single European Economic Space was now in progress. The establishment of the ideological foundations for regional trading blocks was much encouraged by the “concept of a Europe without frontiers” defined in the Single European Act and the penetration of the concept of supra-nationalism. Parallel with this, the concept and significance of borders were greatly transformed. The roles of cross border regions and border regions had changed; they were now seen as strategic areas, as the zones of integration and economic synergies. Border regions in many cases were peripheral areas in the given countries. These areas were often hard to reach from country centres; their economic structure was often one-sided, the com- munity network often incomplete, infrastructure heavily lacking facilities and far inferior to other, more central regions of the country; these areas were also struck by faster erosion of population as the unfavourable conditions only reinforced outbound migration. In many instances, these border regions showed great similarities in their territorial features, they were simultaneously and mutually going down the line as a result of being isolated. Seg- mented markets in border areas needed to be integrated into the national and international economy hence their development was one of the main themes of regional politics. Cross border relations were strongly influenced by the relationship of the two neigh- bouring countries of course. Border region activities were understood as the relationship between one state’s internal political and economic disposition to that of the other, and also as the specific isolation of the state from the outside world (Aschauer, W. 1995). In many cases, the convergence of different cultures and peoples as well as economic cooperation may promote the mutual exploitation of the advantages of being a border region while open borders may increase the inclination to cooperate, and promote a better understanding of neighbours respectively. At the same time, motivated by political con- flicts, the isolation and seclusion of states can prompt hostilities. The changes described above were first witnessed in Western Europe (in the decades after the war quite until recently), where integration was the deepest and restrictions were lifted the fastest. This is where the first organisations and the most effective cross border cooperation projects were realised. Eastern Central Europe in the cold war years was strongly characterised by much reserved relations largely defined by the nation states. Despite the uniform political systems adopted, the isolation and separation was just about as strong as it was towards

countries with hostile ideologies and economies to the Eastern bloc. The Eastern bloc was not tightly sealed off only towards Europe but also within the block itself as their citizens and the economic units therein were only allowed to keep contact and build rela- tions through specific and controlled channels. These channels had been expanded by the eighties but there was still no real border region cooperation as it was mostly considered to be the means of political demonstration.

Cooperation before the change of regime

Hungary is bordered by seven countries (Austria: 356 km, Slovenia: 102 km, Croatia:

355 km, Yugoslavia: 164 km, Romania: 453 km, Ukraine: 137 km, Slovenia: 679 km, total border length: 2,246 km) this also means that despite being a small country it has lots of border zones. 31.3% of the total area of the country is considered a border region 1 , and 26% of the population (app. 2.6 million people) inhabit these areas. A large share (43%) of Hungary’s settlements is located near borders, which is largely owed to the fact that the border zones are often made up of micro-village regions. When border regions are seen as catchment areas of major cities, we find that 46 out of the country’s 150 micro-regions are located in border regions, in other words, 30% of Hungarian cites are close to a border. Border areas in Hungary also feature a peripheral character (as was the case mainly in the state socialist era), at the same time, the extent of relative backwardness compared to other, more central areas is different in each border area and is largely dependent on past historical events and the changes in the political and economic system. In the era of state socialism, the centralised state economic management model did not make it possible at local or medium levels to establish and nurture cross-border relation- ships even between the “sister countries” of the Socialist bloc. There are few and scarce examples for the establishment of local relationships apart from the protocolary and su- perficial sister-city status of a few selected towns like county capitals. The establishment of cooperation and the building of relations always followed a predetermined script. Cities and counties rather developed sister-city and -county relationships 2 with the identical ter- ritorial units of other Socialist countries, but these never included border area settlements or, let’s say, Hungarian settlements or counties of neighbouring countries. The few cross border relationships that were allowed to develop were based on the fol- lowing model (Tóth, J. 1996). The leaders of one of the counties decided that they wished to establish cultural relations with the county or city across the border. This intention was first put before the national party and various government forums. If the central power or- gans deemed the initiative acceptable, the neighbouring country’s state party and govern- ment leadership was sought by way of diplomacy with a view to establishing ties. If they

1 Border regions are considered to be urban and near urban areas (CSO micro-regions) that are adjacent to a country border, are directly connected to it (through a permanent, temporary or former border crossing point).

2 “Existing” relationships could many a times be only discerned from the names of system-built housing estates as it was a political trend to name new estates after the sister-towns or counties.

also considered the initiative worthy of their support, the leaders of the county and the city of their own was given authorisation by the leaders of the neighbouring state to establish ties. When the concerned counties and cities on both sides of the border were granted authorisation from the central party powers, the establishment of sister-town or sister- county relations was begun with spectacular protocolary proceedings. These however, were always fundamentally dependent on the relationship between the two states and far too often relationships were forced to be broken up or banned altogether. In the era of state socialism, the state and situation of the particular border areas was as follows:

- Hungarian-Austrian border: Until the sixties, it was considered a “dead border” be-

cause there were practically no personal and economic ties in the border regions. Relief

was brought by the seventies when tourism was gradually picking up momentum with shopping tourism taking the leading role by the end of the decade. Economic ties were also brisk and inter-institutional cooperation was also blossoming. The eighties were charac- terised by sparkling and dynamic personal contacts with increasing production coopera- tion between economic units coupled with the movement of illegal labour force. In 1989 the barbwire fence dividing the two countries was brought down and the introduction of the world passport was the start to a new era in the history of Austrian-Hungarian border region. (Rechnitzer J., 1990).

- Hungarian-Czech border: This was the longest border stretch in Hungary running along

679 km. It changed a number of times since 1945 with the deportations and forced dis- placements in the wake of WWII, the Czech authorities displaced app. 40,000 Hungarians from the former Upper Hungary. As a result of these acts, more than 100,000 people were moved over to the Hungarian side of the border. By 1948 the citizens of the remaining Hun- garian communities were totally limited in their rights therefore there were no cross border relationships built quite until the end of the fifties. Cooperation afterwards started a slow development. Based on its features, this border region is divided into two parts: Danube region, East Slovakian border. Danube region: potential transport and development zone, industrialised area. The free movement of labour in this stretch of the border is typical (e.g. in the Gyôr textile industry and the Danube Industrial area), which was unique at the time. Another important aspect of cooperation was the Gabčíkovo-Nagymaros Waterworks, which became a source of conflict from the eighties between the two countries, but was also one of the main symbols of the change of regime in Hungary. Relations between economic units and mainly agricul- tural cooperatives were frequent (e.g. assistance was given at the time of harvest because of the different harvest times, agricultural machine production, mutual holiday-making), but shopping tourism was also intensive (between border cities) and so was holiday tourism (Lake Balaton, the Tatra Mountains) and vice versa. The East-Slovakian border zone: Peripheral agrarian area spotted with dominating heavy industry in some areas (metallurgy, machinery). It is fact that in the past, this had helped

and even encouraged cooperation between plants. This area is still a potential zone for cooperation, primarily between the Miskolc and Košice areas. All bilateral cooperation be- tween other cities was restricted to shopping tourism. The Hungarian-Slovakian border relationships were institutionalised in the era of state socialism. In 1971 the two countries had set up a permanent work committee (Regional Development Work Committee), which, in 1977, prepared a mid-term development con- cept concerning their mutual border (1977-1990) and some of the ideas had indeed been realised (e.g. cooperation in water management, transport management, e.g. road recon-

struction, synchronisation of regulation plans, etc.). The political and environmental con- cerns and objections against the (Gabčíkovo-Nagymaros) waterworks and dam coupled with harsh economic times were in the way of implementation (Hajdú, Z. 1996).

- Hungarian-Soviet border: Despite the economic, political and military alliance, the bor-

der was almost as tightly sealed off (in particularly delicate times) as the Hungarian-Austri- an border. This is mainly due to the fact that the sub-Carpathian has always played a high strategy role with strong military presence in the area. The Soviet military presence – albeit

not directed against Hungary – had naturally paralysed cross border dialogue, which was hindered by thousands of factors. One of the most important of these was fear of Hungar- ian political agitation since a population of 200 thousand ethnic Hungarians lived in the border area on the Soviet side. There was a single border crossing point: Záhony, which functioned as a public road and railway crossing point alike. It was designed to serve the

larger regional centres but also functioned as a reloading centre since this was the place where broad gauge cars had to be unloaded and the contents reloaded on standard gauge cars and thus the larger share of cargo destined for Western Europe (mainly Austria and West Germany) was also reloaded in Záhony.

- Hungarian-Romanian border: Despite official propaganda (“the Romanian-Hungarian

border is a fine example of friendship and cooperation between socialist brothers”), real cooperation was heavily impeded by various factors such as the constant violation of mi-

nority rights and permanent hostilities. Bilateral relations at a national level were also mod- est. These also restricted everyday contact despite the fact that the peripheral position logically and naturally would have required cooperation. The Hungarian language spoken widely in the area could, in theory, have become the very foundation to build cross border cooperation on, but instead it became the most important impediment in the way of build- ing relations. It was much more important for the Romanian government to alter the ethnic character of the area than to allow or promote cross border cooperation and relations. Even civil relationships were limited by strict administrative measures.

- Hungarian-Yugoslavian border: A “dead-border” in the fifties and sixties since the con-

siderable political opposition had caused all forms of relationships to thwart in this period. From the seventies relations began to thaw. It was now possible to establish economic ties and cooperation (e.g. the processing of agricultural crop), while shopping tourism in the main cities along the border (Nagykanizsa, Pécs, Szeged) picked up and more and more

Yugoslavs hopped over the border to do their shopping in smaller towns as well. Similarly, Hungarian shopping tourism also intensified in border cities on the other side of the border. The border region was inhomogeneous as far as official relationships were concerned:

while there was brisk cooperation between Zala county and Slovenia, city-to-city relation- ships blossomed along the Croatian border (Eszék-Pécs), while institutional cooperation was dominant along the Serbian (Vojvodinan) border stretch (most areas are inhabited by Hungarians). During state socialism, being a border region did not entail any advantages when it came to dispensing central resources, what is more, these regions felt they had rather been disadvantaged. Cooperation between border regions was fundamentally political in nature, primarily designed to serve as means of propaganda with no major economic, so- cial or human content behind it. Border regions therefore were not only backward in terms of development, but were also disadvantaged quite until the change of the political and economic system.

New types of cooperation in the nineties

Emerging in 1989, the political and economic transformation had a heavy impact on the spatial structure of the country and of the border regions in particular. Swift reaction to the change of regime is well illustrated in the territorial distribution of world passport ap- plications. The highest number of passports was applied for in the capital, in the Austrian- Hungarian border region, in the larger international border crossing areas, in major tourist destination regions, and in areas having a larger German ethnic population. This shows that the border-region populations had instantly taken advantage of free travel. The rea- sons are fundamentally economic as many tried to take advantage of the differences of the price structure evident between two neighbouring countries, while at the same time the disadvantages of being a border region were also being removed. Yet, the differences between the specific border regions intensified and swelled. The most fundamental reasons included the dichotomy of centre vs. periphery, the smaller and grater spatial structural movements (Ruttkay, É. 1995), and the differences in the economic and social character of the regions on either side of the border (Rechnitzer, J. 1997). As far as the dichotomy of centre and periphery was concerned, the centres and the border regions within their catchment areas were swifter and faster to adapt to the altered condi- tions (Golobics, P. 1995) offering greater employment opportunities and being subjected to smaller or greater hiccups in the transition period. During the times of spatial structural changes, certain border regions had been greatly devalued (e.g. the former Soviet, pres- ently Ukrainian border) and these were left out of modernisation for years. Smaller centres were unable to receive innovation and hence the structural crises had further deepened; this was often coupled with intensifying cross border illegal acts and crime (black econo- my, crime, human trafficking, COMECON markets). In the end, these border regions came

out triumphant of the transition as long as it was not the case of periphery meeting periph- ery, i.e. the borderline did not separate two permanently disadvantaged regions, but where the sides were able to profit from the other in terms of development driven by investment, shopping and service tourism, labour force, transportation and manufacturing, improving cultural and institutional relations, etc. Today border regions are considered peripheral of they lie on the edges of the backward areas and regions of the country and hence may actually be termed dual peripheries (the “periphery of a periphery area”). Such may be the Ukrainian, the eastern Slovakian, and partly the Romanian border stretch. There are also differences in specific economic characteristics. When comparing re- gions by the density of companies, the Austrian and the western Slovakian border regions essentially encompassing the Danube areas and partly coincide with the Vienna-Győr- Budapest axes, rank number one. Along the Yugoslav border, the high values are given by the economic organisations and associations established in Szeged and catchment area during and after the Yugoslav wars (1992-1996) which, in many cases, were set up for the sole purpose of saving business and personal assets. The claim that centres were better at adapting to the transition than border regions without a main centre is certainly verifi- able in terms of figures in border regions sporting a large city (Győr, Sopron, Szombathely, Szeged). We need only to look at the above-average unemployment rates (13.0% in the Ukrainian border region, 13.4% in the Eastern Slovakian border region) coupled with poor per capita incomes well below the national averages, and the modest number of joint ventures – particularly those established with a partner from the neighbouring country. All this boils down to a total absence of the possible positive side-effects of economic cooperation. In these peripheral border regions, the connecting regions are simply unable to receive development resources from each other, there are no considerable differences between the comparative indices of the economies, and the elements of the institutional system are incompatible. Let us see a few examples. There is available manpower on both sides of the border, but there are no jobs; there are production resources (agricultural produce on the Hungarian side and natural resources on the other), but given the lack of capital, none of these can be utilised. The bottleneck of communication (transport, accessibility, the number and distribution of border crossing points, the bureaucracy associated with border checks) badly impedes the development of contacts. Finally, the different legal, institutional, and not the least economic situation (unstable national currencies, high infla- tion) also add to the lack of cooperation and investment. Let us now look at the peculiarities of transition by border regions, as this may help highlight the considerable differences and indicate the directions interventionist measures ought to be taking. Austrian-Slovenian border region: Considered the success region and one of the great- est winners of transition. Geographical position became more important hence the trans-

formation of the structure of the economy was smooth and swift (rapid privatisation, sig- nificant FDI), the former large industrial structure was gradually and steadily being renewed with considerable FDI. Wagework dominated the Fordist mass production as SMEs were slow to emerge. Nonetheless, the expansion of the service sector is strong; its structure is becoming increasingly diverse. Income positions are favourable and the local and re- gional markets are brisk; this is reinforced by regular and diverse shopping-service tour- ism. Cross border relations are institutionalised, in 1998 West Pannonia was established. The frameworks and resources of cooperation have been clarified, and there are numerous opportunities for joint development in the border region (Rechnitzer, J. 1997). Slovakian-Hungarian border region; Danube region: It is a region exploiting and utilis- ing the impacts of the Vienna-Bratislava-Győr-Budapest innovative axis in the last third of the nineties. The cut-back of one of the main columns of the former large industry (min- ing) resulted in a very long transition, while the revival of the other (the Danube industrial area) was slow to begin. The border region is characterised by gradual stability and slow reorganisation, where the functions of the centres have not yet been expanded hence the service sector has limited presence. Cross border relations are most intensive in the household sphere and are concentrated in the border-crossing points (Komárom, Eszter- gom), but have not yet been institutionalised. The number and quality of contact points (the Esztergom Bridge) need be improved. This seems to be on the agenda on both sides as far the municipalities are concerned, however at a national level there has been a careful shift away from such notions because of the reshuffling of political relations. (Rechnitzer J., 1999). Economic activity in the Danube region has been brisk and considerable in the first decade. There have been three essential centres formed (Győr, Komárom, Esztergom) that successfully built up concentrated relationships but beside these, the attraction of Slova- kian centres particularly that of Bratislava and its catchment area is becoming tangible. The East-Slovakian border region: The former large industrial centres underwent a crisis hence the region is characterised by considerable and permanent employment tensions. The transformation of the economic structure is extremely slow, the opportunities for ag- ricultural production are poor, the service sector made limited entry and the population is fast eroding (aging, growing proportion of Roma population). (Dankó, L., Fekete, É. 1996) The situation is similar in the neighbouring eastern border regions. We are witnesses to the characteristics of a continuous, long-term peripheral great region showing similar traits and encompassing a number of Eastern European countries (Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania) (Gorzelak, G. 1998). As a result, no economic and social renewal can be expected to trickle in from neighbouring countries. It is encouraging to note that along the River Ipoly, the relations between cross border communities and micro-regions are improving, which can contribute to joint efforts to find solutions to common problems. This brought about the foundation of the Ipoly Euro-region Cross Border Interregional Coop- eration by the mayors and key non-profit organisations of the region encompassing the Danube-Ipoly National Park in April 1999. As for the eastern Slovakian-Hungarian border

stretch, we have periphery meeting periphery and this results in little economic activity in the region; what is more, backwardness, underdevelopment and disadvantages only inten- sify along the Hungarian border line. Ukraine border region: Essentially the same problems characterise this region as those of the eastern Slovakian border region; these features and characteristics are also typical of the Hungarian-Ukrainian-Romanian border area. This region has always been a pe- ripheral area between Hungary and Transylvania; even the significant Hungarian regional development support injected into the region was unable to make a difference. Given the numerous border adjustments of the 20th century, the border areas in all three countries are burdened by tensions and hostility. These potential sources of conflict have not yet been dispelled by the Carpathian Euroregion Interregional Association established in 1993 as the first Eastern European cross border cooperation. There is a great need for concerted multi-regional development efforts (e.g. improving the transmissibility of border crossing points, opening up new ones). However, due to the differences in public administrative levels and competences and the fundamentally different problems of the concerned coun- tries, the central and regional levels are also unable to dedicate attention and most of all funds into the area to promote cooperation. It has been seen that the inhabitants in the region are mobile contribute greatly to shopping tourism and its facilities (e.g. COMECON markets) in large centres. It is this border stretch that is the most infested with illegal activi- ties today (e.g. car and human trafficking, organised crime) (Süli Zakar, I. 1997). There have been no major changes witnessed in this border region in recent years, the opening of the Schengen borders left the region unaffected; what’s more there’s stricter border controls, but the significant differences in living standards encourage black economy. Romanian border region: The triad border region reflects the peculiarities of the great region and is also characterised by peripheral position, but nowadays there are an increas- ing number of large centres on both sides of the border that are making significant efforts to improve cross border activities. In the north eastern border region, because of the higher Hungarian population, there is greater activity on the Romanian side, which manifests itself in more diverse and more intense economic relations while community-to-community and regional cooperation is reviving (Dancs. L. 1999). In the south-eastern border region (in Békés and Csongrád counties) there are a number of large centres that are likely to become competitors in the future (Szeged, Békéscsaba, Temesvár, Arad), but economic relations are slow to form (Lengyel, I. 1996). In September 1998 the Danube-Tisza-Körös-Maros Re- gional Cooperation was established. Today it is seen as a real opportunity to synchronise common matters in the region, however the Kosovo war posed a great obstacle and halted the operation of the organisation. It is evident that there is a clear and well-defined desire for community-to-community and regional relations; however, the number of border-crossing points, the border traffic thereon, and their geographical distribution do not promote mul- tilateral cooperation. It is evident now that with the accession of Romania to the European Union, growth in the western part of the country accelerated. As a result, the large Roma-

nian border towns are now undergoing rapid changes (Arad, Temesvár, Nagyvárad, Szat- márnémeti), which increased their demand for labour from the Hungarian regions, and they became important competitors to large and medium-sized Hungarian towns. Serbian border region: It can be considered a gradually dynamic region on the edge of the Great Hungarian Plain. The main centre of Szeged and the medium-sized town of Baja exercise a strong impact on the border region, and there are also a number of active small towns scattered around that are active in their functions and the renewal of ties. Relationships in the private sphere are strong with spectacular turnover figures generated by private travel, while the activities of the economic organisations emerging during the Yugoslav wars are considerable and there have also been loads of experience amassed to operate the “grey economy” of cross border cooperation (Pál, Á. 1996). The accessibility of the border region is perhaps the most favourable of all the eastern border regions. In the event of Serbia being consolidated and Vojvodina being granted autonomy, the economic and cooperation activities in the border region are likely to intensify and a great number of activities may finally be legalised. The Croatian border region: This is the southern periphery of Transdanubia which is essentially connected to the other side to a centreless periphery with no bridging across the natural geographical border (River Drava). The ongoing Croatian-Serbian political ten- sion (Baranya triangle) excluded certain border stretches from developing relations while in other areas there is heavy and brisk shopping tourism (Barcs, Csurgó, Nagykanizsa, Zalaegerszeg). The institutional forms of cross border cooperation are slow to evolve. The various initiatives to establish cooperation have not yet won the support of the other party (e.g. the Gjurgjevac dam on the Croatian side and the Danube-Drava National Park on the Hungarian side). There are, however, major plans at an interstate level concerning the improvement of traffic (Rijeka-Zagreb-Budapest expressway), which, when complete, will certainly improve relations between the two countries but it is not likely to enhance cross- border activities in the border region.

Experiences gained in the past twenty years

It clearly transpires that there have been major changes in the past twenty years with respect to Hungary’s cross border relations. There are huge differences in terms of level of development in the different border regions, which is not only determinant with respect to the current situation of the regions but also defines the direction of future development. Cross border cooperation has a major impact on regional development. The management and support of these special areas is receiving increasing emphasis in the regional policies of the European Union and the institutional system of interest representation has been established. Hungary also integrated into these organisations as far as it was possible and under the framework of the Phare programme it succeeded in having European Union funds allocated to developing planned cooperation not only along the border between the

European Union and Hungary but also along other (Hungarian-Slovakian and Hungarian- Romanian) border stretches. Political documents of the Hungarian regional policies (OTK, 1998) highlight the importance of cross border cooperation and define border area as a special regional unit. European Union membership also helped expand cross border rela- tions however there have not been major breakthroughs not because of the lack of support but owing to the different attitudes and institutional environments of the different countries, and also because of mutual negative sentiments towards each other. The various levels of development, the results and deficiencies of cross border coop- eration will be detailed below followed by recommendations concerning the expansion of possibilities, and the widening of the directions relations may be developed.

National political level In 1997 Hungary signed (Act XXIV) the Madrid Convention on cross-border cooperation between territorial authorities accepted in May 1980, which provides the theoretical frame- work for cross-border cooperation. Indent c of Article 1 (6) of Act LXV of 1990 on Local Governments states that local gov- ernments may “freely enter into partnerships with other local governments, unite in regional and national interest representation organisations to represent and protect their interests, cooperate with foreign local governments in their scope of responsibilities and authority, and may enter other international local government organisations”. In consistency with the Constitution of the Republic, the Act on Local Governments clearly allows for the establish- ment of foreign relationships by local and regional governments; it follows then that cross border cooperation is also permitted. The interstate contracts made with neighbouring countries typically treat the subject of cross border cooperation – albeit only on the surface – and the possible relationships local governments may develop. The differences in intensity and content is due to the differ- ences in the political relationships between the various countries but these contracts never impede the establishment and operations of cross border cooperation in compliance with international obligations. Cross border cooperation is an important element in the modernisation support pro- gram launched by the European Union and in the realisation of the Phare objectives. The Austrian-Hungarian cross border cooperation was a successful programme in which more than EUR 40 million in support was realised in less than five years, and the programmes did make an invaluable contribution to expanding relations across the border while, at the same time, the learning process was begun to understand and process the forms of European Union support. The programme was extended over to the Hungarian-Slovakian and the Hungarian-Romanian border regions although to a lesser extent and given its mag- nitude it was more of a demo of the possible directions cooperation may follow. Prepa- ration is now under way to work out programmes to assist cross border cooperation as defined by the European Union’s regional policies, to integrate its the political principles

and means, and to establish the operational frames of the system of institutions. In the first period of European Union support, cross border cooperation was implemented under the framework of the Interreg programme, but these projects made no real breakthroughs. The expansion of cross border cooperation and the renewal of the existing frameworks are hindered by a number of factors as follows. The political relationships established with neighbouring countries are hindered by sensitive issues (historical peculiarities, cultural differences, ethnic issues, environmental problems, different economic and institutional systems, different times of accession to the European Union and international organisations, the weak functioning of macro-regional (Central European Initiative) organisations), which arbitrarily arise and never bring about long-term tranquillity or – to be more precise – never bring about united cooperation in the region. These hectic political wills, which fundamentally embody the new national con- sciousness of neighbouring countries, have a strong bearing on cross border cooperation. Hungary is one of the destinations of international illegal migration which prompts a number of national and security issues or – for that matter – calls for the stepped up man- agement thereof. Yet the terms and conditions of travel still need be clearly settled with neighbouring countries, mainly the ones that have been left out of the European Union in the first round of accession (as for Serbia, only a few days ago the agreement on the abolition of the visa requirement was signed; travel terms are now only problematic with the Ukraine). The problem is only exasperated by the fact that border regions have a high population of Hungarians who have a legitimate claim to establish and maintain long-term and safe relations with the mother country. At a national political level, the importance of the cross border relationships and the op- portunities behind them have not yet been specifically expressed. The policies concerning transborder Hungarians have a clear-cut system, the frameworks and institutional condi- tions are clear, but cross border cooperation is even more complex than that. It must be recognised that Hungary has been presented with the opportunity to become a key state in Central Europe (by which we mean the Carpathian Basin), a process which may be helped and shaped not only by entering international organisations, but also by cross bor- der cooperation. The system of relations established by the network of thousands of cross border cooperation initiatives can provide a stable and secure framework for coexistence as the countries involved will not only be able to strengthen each other (positive impacts on economy and regional development) but also improve the position of the entire great region in the international arena (e.g. European Union accession, security policies, interna- tional recognition, etc.). The problem of frontier space or secondary integration space was first pinpointed by Zoltán Hajdú; he believes that with the enlargement of the European Union a transitional space in Eastern Central Europe may evolve and this is particularly true for Hungary. Fron- tier or secondary integration space means that owing to increasingly intensive cross border relations and the national-cultural ties, a peculiar situation may unfold in the border regions

between Hungary and the countries that do not join the European Union in the first round. For a number of reasons (such as the high concentration of Hungarian ethnic minorities living in the border regions, cultural identity, and the fact that the only way to the European Union leads through Hungary for these countries, etc.), there is a need for cooperation that is different from the relations established along the internal or external borders of the European Union The Hungarian borders cannot be sealed off under the Schengen terms because this would cause these traditional cooperation to break up and major political and social problems to arise. Temporary solutions are required in personal traffic, cargo transport, economic relations, employment, the use of institutions, at the same time, the neighbouring border regions ought to be made more accessible, easier to reach. Intensive cross border relations must be reckoned with long-term; the framework of this is provided by the Euroregions and other forms of cooperation (community-to-community, region-to-region, and institutional cooperation). According to European practice, cross border cooperation is characterised by a bottom to top organisational makeup being initiated by regional organisations since the regions have direct understanding of the problems, and their own predestination stemming from their peripheral positions, or their opportunities for development, for that matter. At the same time, there are (e.g. economic, infrastructural, institutional-legal, regulatory, financial, etc.) tasks that the local or regional organisations are unable to handle and hence may be allocated to the central government. It is not obvious, or in fact totally unclear, who, in the Hungarian public administration system, is responsible and to what extent for cross border cooperation; which ministry or authority is responsible for supporting and encouraging this matter at government level. Cross border cooperation has a bearing on foreign poli- tics, local government, and public security, national security, national policy and strategy, infrastructural, regional development, economic and employment, environmental, interna- tional aid issues and, of course, on transborder Hungarians. It transpires from the list that cross border cooperation involves complex tasks that are diverse and therefore may easily remain unnoticed amongst the multitude of government responsibilities, which acts as a counterforce to cooperation. It would therefore be expedient to reconsider the following tasks stemming from cross border cooperation and delegate appropriate public adminis- trative representation to them accordingly.

Regional and local level Hungary today does not have a stretch of border without intensive cooperation activities, without regular, organised formal or informal relations between the neighbouring areas, their constituent elements, the communities, or the actors of regional development. In the past twenty years there have been tremendous changes: “dead borders” have been revived, in other places the previously brisk shopping tourism plummeted, or quite to the contrary, underwent a boom, while “dead borders” or border stretches threatened by war

evolved, in other words, we are being faced with a constantly changing and reshaping regional phenomenon. As a result, the regional processes in border areas show great di- vergence. It cannot be said outright that each of the border regions came out a winner as

a result of the opening cross border relations of the past ten years, but the opposite would

also be untrue. There may be significant differences within the same border stretch; let us therefore sum up the reasons for these differences on the bases of our research projects. Many border lines are characterised by physical obstacles such as poor infrastructure on both or at least on one side of the border; this may mean incomplete or unprofitable road networks, insufficient or remote border-crossing points that are difficult to access. Being close to the country’s border under these conditions is a definite disadvantage. The re- moval of these physical limitations often does not fall into regional or local scope of author- ity; they are subject to government level agreements made with the neighbouring states. As a result of the different interests and financing conditions prevailing in each country, the responsible authorities often fail to identify the limitations that require the most urgent attention and instead abolish limitations that are not so important; nonetheless, border

regions must constantly provide information on the points of tension and the means of resolving such conflicts. Spatial structural limitations are understood to be present in areas periphery meets pe- riphery, i.e. two backward regions are side by side. Unemployment is high in many border areas adjacent to former socialist countries; these areas often lack the economic restruc- turing other, more developed regions had already undergone a long time ago, the structure of the communities on both sides of the border is similar being mainly made up of micro- villages and small, scattered communities. Small centres lack functions; they are located in the first line of communities right next to the border. The second line of settlements usually includes large or medium-sized cities therefore it is perfectly understandable that coopera- tion between these regions is determinant in shaping the present and future. However, the large centres do not yet have economy boosting resources that can produce long-term re-

sults either in their own regions or on the other side of the border. It is evident now that the large Hungarian centres such as regional centres or county capitals, and secondary county centres do have surplus energies and may now be able to assume important roles (within 5-7 years) in the organisation and shaping of cross border cooperation. On the other hand,

it is also clear that the centres now compete for investment mainly and shape their range of

the business sites they have on offer for foreign investors, or the utilisation of their existing

transport infrastructure according to the directives of the competition (e.g. regional airport, railway hubs, network connections, etc.). The lifting of spatial structural limitations is heav- ily dependent on the ability to share the regional development concepts of the regional and centre communities, the synchronisation of the components that can shape cross border relations and the compilation of joint programmes relying on the former two factors. Financial restrictions are construed as having no or insignificant own funds available to support cross border cooperation and government funding is not used to encourage cross

border cooperation (exception may be the targeted appropriation for economic develop- ment to encourage the cross border activities of SMEs). No county and regional develop- ment funds are earmarked to support cross border cooperation, the local/regional (local government) funds are finite, they are merely sufficient to organise and implement certain special activities. The financial bases of cross border cooperation ought to be reconsidered; this system of relations and the development of their conditions must be emphatically enforced in gov- ernment programmes linked to regional development and in the targeted appropriations used to promote their implementation. When making use of European Union funds, efforts ought to be made to increase the funding allocated to border regions, to expand the scope of utilisation and further border stretches be included among the beneficiaries (Croatian, Yugoslavian, Ukrainian). Financial assistance has a heavy impact on the relationship of local and regional entities, which may lay down the foundations for widening cooperation between the other actors of regional development. Competence limitation is understood to be a case where the local/regional authorities on both sides of the border have different scopes of authority and rights as a result of which no substantial and continuous relationships can develop. Analyses have demonstrated (Rech- nitzer, J. 2000) the differences between the regional organs of the given countries which range from financing through supporting institutional relations all the way to the planning and implementation of development. When working out cooperation methods, the prin- ciple of minimum competence ought to be pursued, i.e. forms of relations and programmes need be supported that will yield results for both parties involved and where the interests of the higher decision-making authority (regional unit, government) may be enforced. Local and regional competencies are expected to expand in the long-term, therefore cooperation funds may be increased; in other words it will be expedient and necessary to maintain and also to support all forms of cross border relations. Periodic or permanent tensions in border economies tend to limit or curtail cooperation, in the sense that the relationships established with the other country with a focus on specifi- cally on the border regions may deteriorate either as a result of the changes in the market conditions, the performance capacities of the national economies, the changes in the price and taxation systems, or the exchange rate fluctuations of the national currencies. Chang- ing market conditions and international economic policies may exert major influence in one or more centres which may be temporary (one-two months) or permanent (one-two years). Temporary and permanent tensions in border regions may severely affect communities and centres, however their resolution is fundamentally subject to interstate agreements there- fore the local/regional organisations are powerless and limited to communicating the prob- lems. Long-term solution may be brought by the stabilisation of Central European economic cooperation, the evolution of their developed and operable system of institutions. The circle of political, economic, social and other tensions is considerably large accord- ing to our studies. Here is a quick list just to mention a few, certainly not in rank of impor-

tance: relationships are hindered by unresolved environmental issues (Bős-Nagymaros, Gjurgjevac), the increasing environmental load on border region communities generate so- cial tension, periodic border opening incurs high costs (from practical experience we know that the minimum fee for two border guards and two customs officers is 4 x HUF 6,500/ hour, which adds up to HUF 312 thousand forints over a period of 12 hours), the legal re- strictions on travel and freight transport (e.g. entry fee into Yugoslavia (abolished); import restrictions, e.g. Croatia (has been eased); human and animal health control: e.g. Romania; road toll: e.g. Slovakia for coaches; bureaucratic inbound travel, public safety, e.g. Ukraine and many other – often arbitrary – restrictions. The methods of resolving political, eco- nomic, social and other tensions cannot be defined; they have a negative impact on cross border cooperation; they are periodically restricted, but are unable to halt the processes. Long-term regional level cooperation means stability and is able to compensate for or even resolve periodic tensions through political interest representation.

Institutional relations The institutional frameworks of cross border cooperation were taking up concrete shapes in contracts in the last third of the nineties. Today we may witness the develop- ment, reorganisation or decomposition of cooperation initiatives. The considerably diverse structure of the regional levels is being reshaped and often relationships are developed at medium levels, while city-to-city and micro-region-to-micro-region contracts are also be- ing signed and similarly, community-to-community cooperation is also taking up more and more ground. We must also not forget the border regions characterised by a mixed combi- nation of different regional levels. The classification of versatile and institutionalised cross border relationships is not an easy task. Perhaps it is not even worth the effort since we are witnessing the renaissance of these new forms of cooperation, which has essentially become popular over the past three-four years (after the signing of the Madrid document in 1997). The results, therefore, cannot be evaluated, no clear stance can be adopted in support of or against the contractual forms; the organisational system of cross border rela- tions still needs be left to mature. However, anomalies and limitations that impede cooperation and the implementation of envisioned objectives or, for that matter, promote the renewal of the existing ones already in this accelerating period are certainly worthy of classification. Eu(ro)region is a popular organisational form that is willing to reflect a Western-European type cross border cooperation in its name and in which primarily mid-level or equivalent large cities act as initiators. At present there are Eu(ro)regions in all border regions of the country, their number is on the rise, the population encompassed within the regions ranges from a few hundred thousand to 11 million; there are initiatives affecting a number of different countries, in most cases, however, they are limited to areas dividing only two countries. Their aims are far-reaching including the common improvement of cross border areas,

the development of common points of connection such as economy, infrastructure, cul- ture, environment, and education; the synchronisation of regional development plans, in

other words the exploitation of advantages stemming from being a border region and the tackling of disadvantages. Mid-level acts as initiator and no independent legal persons are engendered through the contracts; they only declare cooperation intentions whose terms and conditions are guaranteed by the participating parties themselves. Cooperation oper- ates institutions in various forms typically in committees while independent secretariats or agencies are still uncommon. The following difficulties must be expected when Euroregions are set up and operated:

- The management and organisation of cooperation remain unsolved, committees operate unsystematically and at random, the Hungarian territorial and urban authority apparatuses are unprepared for the operation of regular international co-operation: they lack both ex- perts and experiences.

- In most cases participation and integration of cities, medium-sized towns, county and

regional centres are unresolved despite the fact that actual relations are performed in these centres, while co-operation agreements are concluded by border cities.

- The multiplication and parallel operation of organisations is noticeable: smaller Eurore-

gions are organised within larger ones or further territories are included, thus new combi- nations are set up. Fast increase in the number of organisations subverts the authenticity of the existent initiatives: as their objectives are repeated, action plans and programmes

are fragmented.

- Connection between cross border cooperation and the regional development systems

and institutions of the countries involved remains unresolved, as county and regional de- velopment councils are responsible for regional development, while county councils take

the initiative in and arrange cross-border co-operation, thus, among others, they elaborate the programmes.

- The institutional system and the instruments used in regional development are funda-

mentally different in the various countries. As in most cases they are centralised and have no impact on actual developments (e.g. there are no regional development concepts and programmes in the neighbouring countries), for this reason, decisions are made on govern- ment level, which, however, represents an interstate dimension.

- Legal regulation is deficient and ambiguous. Legal status (at the moment only the Car-

pathian and the Sajó-Rima Euroregions have declared that they consider the organisation as a legal entity) is ensured pursuant to the 1981 resolution of the European Council only if the countries concerned regulate the legal framework of such cooperation in interstate agreements. As the interstate agreements concluded between Hungary and neighbouring countries fail to regulate the form of cooperation to be established between local authori- ties, they cannot be assigned an international legal status, and can only be considered cas- es of regional international cooperation. For this reason, they cannot, by themselves, apply for funds at international tenders or take out loans, and they have no assets of their own.

All this also means that they cannot implement independent regional and economy devel- opment initiatives. Steps have been taken (Standing Conference of Local and Regional Authorities (1993), with a clear position adopted by the Council of Ministers in the Council of Europe (1995)) to reform the legal framework of cross border cooperation and clearly state the right of local authorities to enter into international agreements (partial international legal status) with similar authorities as well as with other international organisations. While in Western Europe, Euroregions de facto have a legal status as the organisational systems of cross border cooperation, in Central and Eastern Europe even these loose forms of co- operation are not seamless because national autonomy is gaining increasing importance in these contries. City-to-city, town-to-town and micro-regional cross border cooperation can be consid- ered important forums: in this dimension actions are specific and practical, primarily con- cern institutions without requiring independent organisations, they are more frequent and involve more participants from a wider range. Regional development has its effects felt only indirectly (e.g. improvement in transport between towns, joint infrastructure development, provisions for crossing points), however, there are also examples for the presentation of development concepts and the comparison and synchronisation of ther certain elements. In the local and regional dimension an increasing number of channels are opened in terms of economic and social considerations, which stabilise relationships creating a strong and reliable network. Regional/local cross-border cooperation has only been spreading recently. It is advis- able to adopt the experiences of already active cooperating partners regarding contracts, the institutional forms and methods of operation. Setting up organisations that cover too large areas, include a great number of participants and/or undertake considerable tasks is not advised, as the coordination of their operation is difficult and impeded by the differ- ences between the applicable regulations and conditions. We think it is necessary to compare the respective regional development ideas, includ- ing the presentation of regional, county and micro-regional concepts and programmes to the party on the other side of the border, and take the development trends in the contigu- ous territories in the neighbouring country into account during revisions and completions It is advisable to study the tenders called and programmes successfully completed by the European Union for cross-border relations, as they serve as good precedents in co- operation planning and the definition of its elaborate programme. The scope of cooperation must be opened as wide as possible in order to convert cross border relations from the “politicians’ euro-region” or annual meeting place to an affair of the predominant participants and institutions involved in regional development. Economic opening may be boosted by regional and local support programmes (e.g. promotion of joint ventures, training and education, employment, local infrastructure and programmes, participation in exhibitions and fairs etc.). Relationship between social areas is worth en- couraging, and the involvement of the regional/local media in all these is essential.

It is considered important to include the representatives of active cross border regional cooperation in joint interstate committees in order to voice the regional problems and in- tentions, and obtain the widest possible information concerning the relations between their respective countries.

Strategic trends in cooperation

Based on an analysis of Hungary’s spatial structure, in his study József Tóth (1996) distinguishes four strategic directions regarding the future of cross border cooperation, two or three of them overlapping at times, and discusses how the opportunities inherent in Hungary’s favourable central situation in the Carpathian Basin can be used. The author assumes – and we agree – that following accession to the European Union, nearly 80% of Hungary’s borders (1788 km) will connect to countries outside the European Union. Hungary will be the sole connection point to the European Union for the neigh- bouring four countries, probably not Member States of the European Union (the Ukraine, Romania, Croatia and Yugoslavia), while Slovakia will border two potential Member States (Poland and Hungary). Cross border towns may form a kind of a “golden horseshoe” of new development east of Komárom down to Szentgotthárd along the western rim. Within but a few years the border regions of Hungary will serve as the gates to the European Union. In addition to being information centres, they will also serve as connection and reloading areas for other economic areas, thus communication between the European economic and political inte- gration and the citizens of other countries that wish to join the European Union will flow through them. Thus they will be mediators of the expectations and requirements of the European Union as well as the political, social and cultural values embodied in the Euro- pean Union. Development in the towns forming the cross-border golden horseshoe may be enhanced to new dimensions. Preparation for this role (infrastructure, service provision functions, improvement in the relations between cross border towns and regional centres) must be started as soon as possible as in addition to raising awareness of the opportuni- ties inherent in synergy improvement in the hardware side must also be provided. Numerous Hungarian and foreign large companies with registered seats in Hungary have noticeably started to spread into neighbouring countries (Árva, L. – Diczházi, B. 1998). Re- gional multinational companies that have specialised for the very peculiar features of the Central and Eastern European region are clearly emerging. Bringing intra-regional relations closer and the provision of their smooth conditions are increasingly important for them. The reason why numerous multinational companies have been relocated in Hungary is that they intend to control their units set up all over Eastern and Central Europe or simply watch out for business opportunities in the neighbouring countries (e.g. progress in privatisation, the operation of the business environment, competitors, the institutional system etc.). As a result, the large centres in the border regions are much appreciated as they may serve as

the headquarters of control, observation and business organisation. Improving access to the capital and the large centres, as well as the centres of border regions, the modernisa-

tion of border crossing points are indispensable in order to mitigate the physical obstacles of business relations at least on the Hungarian side. The fact that nearly three million Hungarian native speakers of Hungarian nationality live

in the border regions of neighbouring countries is not a negligible factor either. For them

the maintenance of everyday relations with the mother country is unimaginable without the border regions. At the same time, they may act as mediators in business, social and com- munity co-operation, and may contribute to the overcoming of numerous difficulties (cul- tural, linguistic, institutional, organisational, mental etc.). The problem is that subsequently to Hungary’s accession to the European Union, the criteria of the Schengen Agreement must be enforced along the borders, which entails the restoration of visa requirements with several neighbouring countries. This may put foreign citizens of Hungarian nationality at a

disadvantage. A favourable solution to this problem may greatly contribute to the widening

of co-operation in the border regions.

Finally, the European Union considers Central Europe, the Danube Region and the Adria Region strategic regions and has elaborated coordinated development plans with the in- volvement of the countries situated in these regions (The Central European, the Danube 1999). Added up, political, economic, social and transnational regional development considerations encourage the most plausible and conscious rethinking and elaboration of

the system of cooperation in Hungary’s border regions and their participation as integral parts in the national strategy and its individual constituents. Among strategic relations, those along the western (Austrian–Slovenian–Hungarian) bor- ders operate in the appropriate organisational and institutional framework. By now it has become clear that in the western region there is no need to encourage the elaboration of

a homogeneous structure. As the Vienna-Bratislava region has it effects felt more in the

north-western regions of the country, urban co-operation between Vienna, Bratislava, Győr and Sopron unfolds gradually, which the Vienna-Budapest innovation axis organically con- nects onto. As accession to the European Union will alter conditions in this border region, we need to prepare the constituents of the cooperation network, its institutions and par- ticipants now, well ahead of time. In the western border region a great opportunity may open up for the organisation of a town region encompassing Szombathely, Zalaegerszeg, Graz and Maribor, and numerous micro-regions lying directly along the borders may also join this cooperation. In the north, the strategic connection point (Slovakian–Hungarian border region) con- tinues to be made up of two junctions. One of them may be the region of the rivers Dan- ube and Ipoly, where new relations may be established primarily via cooperation between border towns and micro-regions of nearly identical features. The other focal point centred on the Miskolc-Kosice region and includes relations that similarly encourage direct cross border actions within the framework of cooperation. In this dimension, attention must also

be paid to the criterion that in addition to large organisational systems, micro-regional and local contacts, or even alliances between particular towns intending to join should be established. Along this border section, but also in the eastern and partly in the southern border regions, urban circles of similar sizes and roles, which used to complement each other well, are found on both sides of the border. The organisation of these towns in a net- work structure primarily by the renewal of their infrastructure, could give a strong impetus to cross border cooperation. In the east the strategic connection point includes the Slovakian-Ukrainian-Romanian- Hungarian border regions, primarily based on town-to-town relations operating in the in- stitutional framework of the Carpathian Euroregion, which – as stressed above – has been struggling with numerous problems. The organisation of new minor, more transparent and operable forms of cooperation has already started with the network of direct relations between micro-regions and towns as its principal driving and organising force. Presumaly, the opening of the planned crossing-points will intensify the organisation of community-to- community relations in the northern zones of the Hungarian-Romanian border section, with the cities of the region taking the lead. The southern part of the Romanian-Hungarian border region also has large centres that can benefit from cooperation. Thus Szeged, Békéscsaba, Arad and Timisoara all have features suitable for network construction and accommodating a new kind of cooperation. This region is encircled by the Danube-Tisza-Körös-Maros Euroregion, which struggles with difficulties similar to those of the above-described multiregional cooperation, with the difference that due to strained internal relations, one of the founding provinces (Voivodina) is unstable, and thus in practice the operation of the institution is uneven. The significance of the southern border region lies in the development of relations with the Adriatic areas and the Balkans. The current situation in Serbia does not allow for the con- centration of significant resources in the Serbian-Hungarian region in the short term; how- ever, it is worth preparing for fast changes. In the Croatian border region, however, there are signs of improvement, although due to the fact that the areas in contact are peripheral, infrastructure systems (transport connections) may contribute more to the foundation of cooperation, which – in the future – is advised to be set in an institutional system.

* * *

Excellent possibilities are inherent in cross-border co-operation. They may offer new development sources on both sides of the border, and contribute to the rearrangement of Hungary’s political and economic positions within the Carpathian Basin. Cooperation should be deliberately organised in order to incorporate it in the various national strategies and act as guiding elements in regional policy. Meanwhile, joint development concepts should be made with the neighbouring border regions to provide a basis for joint pro- grammes in order to enforce the principles of partnership and equality not only during the elaboration of the main trends in relationships, but also during practical implementation.


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Ludmila Sfirloaga

President of the Chamber of Regions, Congress of Local and Regional Authorities in Europe

I would like to thank the Prime Minister, Mr Bajnai, and all the organisers for having invited the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe to this important event. I am pleased to represent the Congress here today. Minorities, transfrontier co-operation and territorial self government are of major concern to the Congress. We have always claimed that the principle of subsidiarity can contribute positively to solving the problem of protecting national minorities and that local and re- gional self-government is a means of protecting the many minorities present in Europe. The Congress has always fought for the recognition of the legitimacy of territories inhabited by minorities, for the adoption of specific provisions governing these territories and for the recognition of the right for local and regional authorities to join together with other authori- ties that share the same characteristics. But the Congress has always also encouraged transfrontier co operation as a means of protecting minority groups that are separated by borders. History has sometimes divided populations that share the same language and the same culture, but transfrontier co-oper- ation can attenuate these geo-political divisions by finding, beyond the borders: common solutions to common needs, by implementing administrative support for populations that have the same origin and culture and by creating common structures for them. All this is clearly acknowledged in the Council of Europe’s treaties and, above all, in those elaborated at the initiative of the Congress. (The same article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights prohibits discrimination, in particular on the grounds such as language or the fact of belonging to a national minority). The Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities implies and sup- ports international and transborder co-operation. It considers that the realisation of a toler- ant and prosperous Europe “does not depend solely on co-operation between States but also requires transfrontier co-operation between local and regional authorities” - of course without prejudice to the constitution and territorial integrity of each State. The same Con- vention underlines that the protection of national minorities (and of the rights and freedoms of persons belonging to these minorities) form an integral part of the international protec- tion of human rights. Minority protection as such falls, then, within the scope of interna- tional co-operation. The European Outline Convention on Transfrontier Cooperation between Territorial Communities or Authorities encourages and facilitates the conclusion of cross-border agreements between local and regional authorities. Such agreements may cover regional development, environmental protection, the improvement of public services and may in- clude the setting up of transfrontier associations or consortia of territorial authorities. This

Convention sets out a range of model agreements enabling both local and regional au- thorities, as well as States, to place transfrontier co-operation in the context best suited to their needs. Under the Convention, Signatory Parties also undertake to seek ways of eliminating obstacles to transfrontier co-operation and of granting, to authorities engaging in international co-operation, the facilities they would enjoy in a purely national context. The Convention’s Protocols aim to strengthen the Convention by expressly recognising, under certain conditions, the right of territorial communities to conclude transfrontier co- operation agreements, the validity in domestic law of the acts and decisions made in the framework of a transfrontier co-operation agreement, and the “legal personality” of any co-operation body set up under these agreements. The Convention can definitely help governments to protect their national minorities through transborder cooperation. Last and most important for the Congress, who was at the origin of the text, The Eu- ropean Charter for Regional or Minority Languages confirms the Council’s commitment to protecting and promoting Europe’s cultural heritage, in which the diversity and wealth of its languages play a fundamental role, and encourages transborder co-operation. The Contracting parties of the Charter have undertaken to apply multi-lateral agreements which bind the States in which the same language is used. States are also required to seek to conclude such agreements, in order to foster contacts between the users of the same language in the fields of culture, education, information, vocational training and permanent education. The signatory member states also undertook to facilitate and promote co-oper- ation across borders, in particular between regional or local authorities, in whose territory the same language is used. The initiative for drafting this Charter was taken by the Congress in 1984. The Charter was opened for signature in 1992 and entered into force in 1998 after five ratifications, at which point the implementing and monitoring system started to operate. As part of the ratification procedure, treaty parties select undertakings listed in the menu system which best fit the actual situation of the language group concerned. On the basis of the reports issued, the Committee of Experts and the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe drafted recommendations addressed to national governments. The most important Charter’s obligation is the provision of appropriate forms and means for the teaching and study of regional or minority languages at all appropriate stages. Since the beginning, the Congress felt that education was of paramount importance for the safeguard minority languages. But the Congress felt important to progress towards a European space where regional or minority language education is systematically provided in a coherent manner. For this reason, in 2006 the Congress decided to analyse the national reports (as well as the reports of the Committee of Experts) in order to formulate common goals and mini- mum standards for the teaching and learning of regional or minority languages (in terms of article 8 –Education- of the Charter). The menu system of the Charter contains undertak-

ings related to pre-school provisions, primary school, secondary education, vocational training, higher and adult education, teacher training and inspectorate. In order to support the implementation of the Charter, the Congress decided to provide a description of condi- tions and provisions required to establish minimum standards for the teaching of minority language. Hence, in 2007 the Congress adopted a specific Recommendation on Language educa- tion in regional or minority languages. Through the recommendation the Congress intro- duced detailed descriptions of the educational models for regional or minority languages, for making more concrete the implementation of the Charter and consolidate and develop regional or minority language teaching. It has taken quite some time to establish a legal framework capable of ensuring the pro- tection of minorities on our continent. Today, even if not all countries have signed and rati- fied them, the main treaties that protect minorities and support transfrontier co-operation are considered basic texts of the Council of Europe. The Congress, who was at the origin of the majority of the above mentioned Conven- tions, constantly tries to encourage their implementation. But additional efforts are still needed:

First of all, the Council of Europe’s legal instruments should be signed and ratified by all its member states. Secondly, it would be important to conclude binding bi-lateral inter-State agreements, between the countries concerned by minority issues, so as to put transborder co-operation on a stable basis and allow its development in the future. Thirdly, national Governments should, beyond Conventions, engage themselves in a more direct effort for the conclusion of agreements and authorise the creation of commis- sions, euro-regions and other structures of transborder co-operation. This will allow local and regional government to co-operate effectively beyond the borders. Finally, there should be negotiations, between the countries concerned, to abolish visa requirements that seriously hamper trans-border co operation – above all in areas where the same populations live on both sides of a border.







Minorities and trans-border co-operation were difficult issues at the beginning of the Council of Europe’s mandate. Everywhere in Europe, the protection of linguistic and cul- tural diversity and the recognition of minorities has been (and still is in certain member countries), problematic. They have often been considered as a threat to national unity; sometimes without any reason. Many countries were jealous of their sovereignty and na- tional integrity and feared that trans-border co-operation could lead to a situation where borders would be moved again. But slowly, the necessity of authorizing decentralised or- gans of local and regional government to co-operate across the borders became more and

more obvious. The purpose of uniting our countries more closely – as it is foreseen in the first article of the Council of Europe statute – became real. But let me say that to-day, in Europe, millions of people live in countries where their spe- cific ethnic or language group does not constitute the majority. In a Europe of 800 Million people, we are – all of us – minorities: there is not one single group that can be considered as the majority. The acceptance of diversity as an asset for European integration (and not as an obstacle to it) is essential for the Europe we want to build. It is clear that an open policy towards minorities and the implementation of trans-border co-operation initiatives are probably the best ways of fighting the “minority fear”.

Thank you for your attention.

Alan Phillips

President, Council of Europe Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the protection of National Minorities

Prime Minister, High Commissioner, Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all may I thank the Prime Minister’s office for inviting me here to make a presenta- tion today as the President of the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. I used to travel frequently Budapest and enjoy this form of transfrontier cooperation not least of all to compare and contrast your Parliament and your beautiful cultural heritage with that of London. I very much welcome this meeting as an opportunity for a transparent, thoughtful discus- sion on an ever important issue of transfrontier cooperation and ethno- cultural diversity. My approach is from a minority rights perspective using the legal norms of the Framework Convention. I will also argue that the Framework Convention and the rights protected with- in it benefits not only minorities but also all people within a multi-ethnic state and region. Article 1 of the Framework Convention stipulates that “the protection of national minorities and of the rights and freedoms of persons belong- ing to those minorities forms an integral part of the international protection of human rights, and as such falls within the scope of international co-operation.” This and other articles of the Framework Convention, including articles 2,5,6,15, and 17 relate to transfrontier cooperation indirectly. Article 15 for example covers effective partici- pation and issues related to autonomy at a sub-national level. However I will concentrate in this presentation on Article 18.2 on Transfrontier Cooperation and National minorities. In the Framework Convention States may be viewed as duty bearers and minorities as rights holders. These two key stakeholders need to work together in good faith and in a spirit of understanding and tolerance, where possible be supported by the Council of Eu- rope and other actors in doing so. It should go without saying that it is essential to build confidence and trust between a State and its minorities, while they and other actors also have the duty to respect the principles of good neighbourliness, friendly relations and co- operation between States. All should respect the rights of minorities, while minorities themselves have a duty to respect the human rights of others, including other minorities. The primary aim of the Framework Convention is to provide specific legal standards relating to the protection of national minorities. It was agreed that the national minorities had to be protected and respected as a contribution to peace and stability. The Framework Convention is based on legal principles that are to be implemented through national leg- islation and governmental policies, whereby individual rights may be exercised individually and in community with others. The Preamble to the Framework Convention observes that

“the upheavals of European History have shown that the protection of national minorities is essential to stability, democratic security and peace in this continent”. It continues by recording that “the realisation of a tolerant and prosperous Europe does not depend solely on co-op- eration between States but also requires transfrontier co-operation between local and regional authorities without prejudice to the constitution and territorial integrity of each State”. Let me say something on the important topic of good faith in implementing minority rights. Article 2 of The Framework Convention stipulates that the Convention shall be applied in good faith, in a spirit of understanding and tolerance and in conformity with the principles of good neighbourliness, friendly relations and cooperation between states. Furthermore Article 21 emphasizes the importance of fundamental principles of interna- tional law and in particular the sovereign equality, territorial integrity and political indepen- dence of States. When reflecting on transfrontier cooperation and ethno-cultural diversity it is important to consider Article 6, which stipulates that “Parties shall encourage a spirit of tolerance and intercultural dialogue and take effec- tive measures to promote mutual respect and understanding and cooperation among all persons living on their territory”. These principles are crucial for interpreting Articles 17 and 18 of the Framework Conven- tion, Articles that refer specifically to contacts across frontiers and transfrontier coopera- tion.

An instrument of International Law

39 States, including Hungary and all its neighbours, have ratified the Framework Con- vention, which is an instrument of international law and its implementation is monitored by the Council of Europe, whose Council of Ministers takes its advice from the Advisory Committee. The Advisory Committee began its work, when the FCNM came into force in 1998 and formed its first Opinion on how the Framework Convention was being implemented in States Parties in 2000. Since then the Advisory Committee has completed the first cycle of monitoring in all the 39 States and the second cycle of monitoring is largely completed. In the coming year the Advisory Committee will be monitoring the implementation of the Framework Convention in Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and the Ukraine. Consequently it would be improper for me to make any judgments now on the implementation of the Framework Convention in these countries.

Contacts across Frontiers

The FCNM in Articles 17.1 refers to “the rights of persons belonging to national minorities to establish and maintain free and peaceful contacts across frontiers with persons lawfully staying in other States, in particu- lar with those with whom they share an ethnic, cultural, linguistic or religious identity, or a common cultural heritage”. The new boarders of the European Union have been particularly problematic for national minorities and their families living either sides of boarders. Let me give a few examples. The Advisory Committee has encouraged Albania to strengthening contacts across boarders, especially to Greece, proposing an improvement of visa arrangements not just for minorities with a kin-state, but also for all persons belonging to national minorities, including the Roma. (Para 133). Similarly the Advisory Committee encouraged Estonia to continue to introduce initia- tives to facilitate cross-border contacts between Estonia and the Russian Federation and involve persons belonging to national minorities in relevant bilateral initiatives. Additionally in the Lithuanian opinion there was concern over the cost of visas for Be- lorussian families to visit during all souls day, while in the first Slovakian opinion in 2000 it was noted that historical cross boarder relations with the Ukraine were hampered by the pre-accession agreements on boarder control and the acquis of the European Union. However there were problems for national minorities in States outside the European Union, for example there were difficulties for the Romanian national minority students from the Ukraine studying in Romania. Similarly within the European Union there too have been issues. The Slovak authorities were invited by the Advisory Committee to ascertain that there are no undue obstacles complicating the recognition of diplomas for foreign teachers invited to work in Slovak primary schools with instruction in minority languages.

Bilateral and Multilateral Agreements

Article 18.1 encourages States Parties to adopt “bilateral and multilateral agreements with other States, in particular neighbouring States, to ensure the protection of persons belonging to the national minorities concerned”. It should go without saying that these agreements should uphold and enhance the stan- dards of the Framework Convention and international law. The Advisory Committee has welcomed a number of these specifically those of Romania, Slovakia and Hungary where there are agreements between themselves but also with a range of other States. The Advisory Committee also welcomed and paid particular attention to the “Belfast Agreement/ Good Friday Agreement of 1998” and the St. Andrew’s Agreement of 2007, which involved a set of actors including the United Kingdom and Irish government. Let me now comment specifically on Transfrontier Cooperation. Article 18.2 of the Framework Convention which stipulates that,

“Where relevant, States parties shall take measures to encourage transfrontier cooperation”. The phrase “where relevant” properly allows States scope for interpretation on what is relevant, but the use of the phrase “shall take measures” is particularly strong. In a number of States, non-governmental organisations and kin-states play an important role in providing cultural support for national minorities. These resources from abroad can include support for the publication of school text books and their free distribution to pupils, and financial support for cultural and artistic activities inter alia. On a number of occasions the State authorities have spoken to the Advisory Committee of fruitful relations with other states (e.g. Moldova of the support for national minorities from Bulgaria, the Russian Federation, Turkey and Ukraine inter alia). These countries co- operate in the organisation of language training sessions, cultural courses and teacher and student exchanges. They also supply school textbooks in the languages of the minorities concerned based on lists of needs drawn up by the Ministry of Education of Moldova. In Armenia the State does not implement any active educational policy in favour of na- tional minorities and provides little or no support for their educational initiatives. The rep- resentatives of national minorities pointed out that the authorities rely heavily, sometimes too heavily, on their actions and the support of kin-States. Indeed certain states evidently fail to make sufficient funds available for the realisation of the rights of national minorities. Of these, some are content for other states to fund these activities of national minorities. While welcoming these initiatives undertaken by mutual agreement and in good faith by kin States, the Advisory Committee has taken the view that the Government should itself demonstrate its own commitment to national minorities within its own frontiers. They should take further measures and not be over-reliant on civil society initiatives or transfron- tier cooperation through kin-state support from abroad. Concerns have been expressed by national minorities that some States allocate con- siderably more resources and attention to its national community abroad than to national minorities domestically. (e.g. Lithuania). This has been exacerbated by the major move- ment of European Union citizens since 10 new States joined the E.U in 2004. This contrasts with the Advisory Committee welcoming symmetrical arrangements ad- opted and implemented in good faith. It was noted in the Armenian Opinion that the effec- tive co-operation between Armenia and Ukraine enabled both countries to develop bilin- gual publications for the respective minority communities. Let me turn finally to the important topic of Transfrontier Cooperation of economic de- velopment a subject that the High Commissioner and my colleagues know I believe is a crucial but a largely neglected field. There are many anecdotal evidence but little in the way of systematic reports provided on this to the Advisory Committee either by States or by others. In 2008 the Advisory Committee published a Commentary on the effective participation of national minorities, where a considerable emphasis was placed on their effective par-

ticipation in economic and social life. The Commentary referred, inter alia, to depressed regions and national minorities in isolated boarder areas recording that trade and other economic activities across boarders can be mutually beneficial. In boarder areas it can be particularly important for the economic and social development of national minorities. The Commentary emphasised that cross boarder cooperation should not be limited by any un- due obstacles. There is evidence that national minorities can be a significant asset in pro- moting trade and economic cooperation between states not only due to their location, but due to their personal contacts and trust, their cross-cultural education and understanding, their multi-lingual strengths and diverse educational heritage. During the Advisory Committee’s monitoring visits to countries there were often short conversations on how minorities promoted transfrontier trade, but it was rarely document- ed. We heard how in Romania, Bulgaria and Albania national minorities had played a valu- able role in promoting trade with their kin state and that they had facilitated the flow of investments and the development of new enterprises for the benefit of all communities. Furthermore seasonal workers from Albania, often from minority communities, had played and important role in northern Greece harvesting crops, while also sending valuable remit- tances back to Albania. Since the peace agreements in Northern Ireland, trade and cultural exchanges have flourished. Last year I enjoyed attending a music festival in Rostrevor in County Down- a boarder area of Northern Ireland- that celebrated “minority” culture, while attracting tour- ists and income not only from Ireland but also from other parts of Europe and beyond. It had a dynamic agenda of traditional and contemporary folk music interspersed with a dialogue of peace and reconciliation between all communities. There are many other cases, as yet not systematically reviewed, where tourism, trade and remittance involving minority communities are building stability and greater prosperity for all , even in the difficult economic circumstance today. I have seen this personally in Croatia, Serbia, FYRo Macedonia, Moldova and Ukraine and in this Roma are often a cre- ative component, though their skills and contacts are often neglected by economic plan- ners. It is indicative of the fact that much more work is needed to demonstrate conclusively the ways in which national minorities can be a source of enrichment and economic stability for all communities.


This presentation has not explored in depth the situation of any national minority fully and has deliberately avoided major contemporary issues in this region, where the Advi- sory Committee will be monitoring the implementation of the Framework Convention soon. Nevertheless the Framework Convention is unambiguous that, if undertaken in good faith by all parties and while respecting the sovereign equality, territorial integrity and political independence of states, where relevant, States Parties to the Framework Convention shall

take measures to encourage transfrontier cooperation in principle and in practice, with the full and effective participation of national minorities in this process. Mr Chairman, The Council of Europe and its Advisory Committee supports States in meeting their legal obligations to promote transfrontier cooperation.

Vesna Crnić-Grotić*

1st Vice-Chair, Committee of Experts of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages

I would like to thank the organizers for including the Language Charter into the agenda

of this conference and for allowing me to present its legal and practical potential in the field of transfrontier co-operation. This treaty, signed in 1992, today has 24 states parties, Poland being the last state that ratified it only this year. Unfortunately, the acceptance of the Charter by member states of the Council of Europe is rather slow as if the states are not too willing to undertake its obligations.

I would like briefly to introduce the Charter. It has several specificities which make it dif- ferent from some other treaties with the similar object. The Charter has a cultural purpose

– to preserve regional or minority languages as a cultural wealth of Europe. However, as a

consequence of protection of languages the speakers necessarily also enjoy certain rights that can be qualified as human rights (e.g. education in one’s own language or the use of

a minority language in court proceedings). It is divided into two main parts. Part II of the Charter is listing the objectives and prin- ciples that states parties should pursue with respect to all regional or minority languages spoken on their territory and which comply with the definition given in its Article 1 – lan- guages traditionally used within a given territory of a state by its nationals and different from the official language(s) of that state. The Charter specifically excludes languages of the migrants or dialects of the official language of the state. In practice, there are some- times problems concerning a particular language – is it a dialect or an immigrant language or a minority language with a separate identity. It is up to the states parties to determine which languages are complying with this definition; however, full regard has to be taken of the wishes of the speakers of a particular language. In some cases confusion about the status of regional or minority languages occurred because some states parties misinterpreted the field of application of Part II of the Charter. According to the Charter’s Article 2 (1), Part II of the Charter applies “to all the regional or minority languages spoken within [the party’s] territory”, but some countries understood that to mean only languages with a co-official status on a defined part of their territory. However, the Committee of Experts interprets this provision to cover all languages that comply with the definition contained in Article 1 of the Charter and maintains that parties are obliged to take them into account in designing their “policies, legislation and practice” as provided for under Part II. Its Part III is based on the so-called menu system: parties are free to choose a certain number of obligations among those offered by articles 8 to 14 for any or all of the regional

* Professor Crnić-Grotić delivered her presentation under the title “The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and Transfrontier Co-operation”. The views expressed are only those of the author.

or minority languages spoken on their territory. These articles cover various fields of public life – from education to judicial and administrative authorities, from media to culture and social and economic life. The level of commitment is different in all provisions – various levels of stringency of undertakings allow states parties to choose the appropriate level adapted to a concrete situation of each language. However, not all states used this op- portunity but chose the same level of commitment for all languages. In their ratification instruments states parties have selected a variety of regional or minority languages to be covered by Part III different in size and status showing that all regional or minority lan- guages deserve some level of promotion and protection. Transfrontier co-operation is found already in Part II of the Charter among the “prin- ciples and objectives” to be followed by states parties. The Charter fosters the relations between groups speaking a regional or minority language (Article 7, paragraph 1.e and i) whether they are spoken in the same or different countries. The Charter recognizes that many languages are spoken in two or more countries usually as a minority language in one or more countries and an official language in another country, such as Hungarian in Croa- tia, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Serbia, and Ukraine. However, some languages are only spoken as regional or minority languages without ever acquiring an official status in any of the countries, such as Ruthenian spoken in most Central and East European countries, but not recognized in its “kin state” Ukraine as anything but a dialect of the Ukrainian. Contacts between groups speaking the same or similar language, since we know that minority languages tend to develop differently from their kin-language, influenced by the majority language in the country where they are spoken) are seen by the Charter as a tool for the preservation and enrichment of their language. In the words of the Charter’s Ex- planatory Report:

“It is important that states should recognise the legitimacy of such relations and not consider them suspect in terms of the loyalty which every state expects of its nationals or regard them as a threat to their territorial integrity. A language group will feel all the

more integrated in the state of which it is a part if it is recognised as such and if cultural contacts with its neighbouring communities are not hindered.”

It goes without saying, although the Charter is very specific about it, that these contacts should never be used contrary to the principles of the United Nations Charter. The fact that

a language is spoken in a certain part of another country must not be interpreted as giving

any territorial rights what so ever to the kin-state. This point will become moot, I hope, in the united Europe. However, the states are left free to work out the most suitable arrangements for bringing such transnational exchanges about. Part III of the Charter article expands and develops the idea set out in Article 7 and provides for more specific obligations in Article 14 whose paragraphs provide for different obligations. Its paragraph a) speaks of bilateral and mul- tilateral agreements between states in which the same language is used in identical or similar form whose purpose is to foster contacts between the users of the same language


in the States concerned in the fields of culture, education, information, vocational training and permanent education. Fields of co-operation are numerous and cover those envisaged by the Charter. In our monitoring experience we have established that states mostly co-operate in the fields of education or culture, but also media, both written and electronic. Teacher training, ex- changes of teaching materials or arrangements for the students concerned to attend ap- propriate institutions in a neighbouring state are very common especially for “smaller” minority languages with a less developed education infrastructure. By transfrontier co- operation they benefit from the majority position of their language in another country. Rec- ognition of diplomas obtained in their kin-state should be made easier since that is also one of the ways to fulfil the obligations from the Charter in some other fields of public life (e.g. medical staff fluent in a respective minority language may help fulfil obligations under Article 13 – economic and social life). There is, however, a latent danger in this kind of co- operation in the field of education that students might stay in the kin-state and not return to their original country. This is why minorities are often reluctant to promote this possibility. In the field of culture contacts are encouraged between, e.g. theatre companies or publish- ers in the same language, while common projects regarding written press or broadcasting may be very beneficial for all parties involved – the minority language group concerned receives newspapers or watches TV programmes in their language from the kin-state, while their own state saves considerable funds that it would otherwise have had to spend for the same purpose for a relatively small group. Some states will have such agreements concluded on a reciprocal basis. However, this should not be reduced to a simple transmit- ting of programmes from another country, as most people want to receive news from their own community. Common projects should take into account needs of all groups. There are examples of this kind of co-operation among Nordic countries concerning the Sámi language TV programmes. The other paragraph of Article 14, paragraph b) provides for a different kind of co-op- eration. The parties undertake to facilitate and/or promote co-operation across borders for the benefit of regional or minority languages, in particular between regional or local authorities in whose territory the same language is used in identical or similar form. This is particularly the case where one and the same regional language is spoken on either side of the border as is the case in many European countries. The idea behind this undertaking is, of course, an opportunity for these states to enhance their mutual understanding by con- necting through a common language. This opportunity has been used by some of the states parties to the Charter, although, not as many as one would hope to find. Looking for examples of good practice we may look into Scandinavian countries and their co-operation for the benefit of the Sámi lan- guages. Trans-national exchanges are common among the Sámi especially in the border region between Finland, Sweden and Norway where Sámi is spoken. The Sámi Parlia- ments of Finland, Sweden and Norway cooperate in several fields. They all have Sámi lan-


guage councils. National language councils, together with the Sámi in Russia, cooperate in


common Sámi Language Council. One important task for the various language councils


to develop common standards for the Sámi languages, e.g. harmonising the varieties

spoken in the four countries and harmonising the terminology used in various fields. The specific circumstances of development of these languages resulted in their very rich ter-

minology for their every-day activities, but also in an inadequate terminology for many new technical or social, in particular legal, terms. It is also true that new IT terminology has been

a challenge for many languages, regardless of their status. Sweden and Finland have a well developed model of co-operation in Tornedalen, be- tween the border municipalities of Torneå in Finland and Haparanda in Sweden. Bilateral co-operation is carried out under the Treaty on the Administration of the border river Torne and the language used as the bridge between them is Meankieli spoken in Sweden, a lan- guage close to Finnish. Denmark and Germany are another good example of a long-term co-operation based on the 1955 Bonn Declarations for the benefit of the German and Danish speaking minority on both sides of the border. In 1997 the border region Sønderjyilland/Schleswig was estab- lished between the Danish county Sønderjyilland and the German town of Flensburg and the counties Schleswig-Flensburg and Nordfriesland. The activities of this county include trans-border educational and cultural projects while the German-speaking minority is rep- resented directly in the county council. When Denmark undertook administrative reforms in 2007, merging existing municipalities into larger units, special care was taken to preserve the rights of the German speaking minority in South Jutland. Examples such as these show that languages can be promoted and protected better when the relevant states co-operate in good neighbourly spirit, but that is not the only benefit. An even bigger and more important benefit is building of good relations between countries as the basis of peace and stability for Europe.

Thank you.


Gerhard Stahl

Secretary General, Committee of the Regions of the European Union

Ladies and Gentlemen,

First, I would like to thank Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai for organising this interesting and important conference. I regret that I could not participate this morning, as I heard that the debate was very interesting. Unfortunately I had to be in Stockholm at a meeting of the Swedish presidency, but I’m very pleased to at least have a chance to be with you this afternoon. Allow me to start by addressing some of the questions related to minority issues you discussed this morning. After that I would like to concentrate on the topic which you have foreseen for this afternoon, which is the EGTC, the European Grouping for Territorial Co- operation, as a new legal instrument. As far as minorities in the European Union are concerned, it is important to understand that difficulties of the past can become opportunities for the future. In the past, the issue of minorities went hand in hand with fears of separation in some countries; minorities feared that governments would try to force them to assimilate. In a European Union, however, the situation is very different, because we are all European citi- zens. As a result, it is far less important for people to feel that they belong to a particular country within the EU than it was in the highly conflictual past of European nation states. Regions can take advantage of this changed environment, using their ethnic and cultural minorities as a means to encourage greater understanding between citizens and contribut- ing more effectively to the development of a more integrated Europe. There are examples of minorities in many member states, e.g. the Basque question in Spain, the Scottish question in the United Kingdom, the German-speaking Italians in the Tyrol region. I thought it might be of interest to present you with one case which is an excellent ex- ample of best practice. It is also related to the Baltic Sea cooperation, which has become a priority of the Swedish EU presidency. I refer to the cooperation between the German and Danish border regions. One hundred and fifty years ago, the German-Danish border region was the ‘Kosovo of the north’. There were two wars, tantamount to civil wars, in which a large number of people living in this region were involved, and the repercussions of which led to hatred and distrust between some Danes and Germans for generations. Denmark lost Schleswig as a consequence of the wars, against Prussia and the Austrians. This led to the creation of a minority population with the traditional trust and integration difficulties. Even after the Second World War and years of political friendship between the two countries, cross-border contacts between the Danes and the Germans have been relatively minor. I myself had the chance to work for three years in Schleswig-Holstein


during the time of the first Interreg programme. With European Union assistance and this new Interreg policy, day-to-day contacts between the two regions either side of the border became closer and closer. It helped that laws guaranteed the specific rights of minorities. The Danish minority in the regional Parliament of Schleswig-Holstein, for example, has a guaranteed right to one deputy representing that community, and at one point the ruling majority in the region had to depend on the support of that Danish member. The minority guarantees allowed for an over-proportional influence in decision-making. The political guarantees helped the economic development generated by European integration, and in turn this economic development came in parallel to cooperation in areas such as culture and education. To give you a simple and practical example: one of the leading businessmen in Denmark decided to support a Danish school in Schleswig-Holstein. He offered financial support to the school in order to provide a high quality and interesting education, as a result of which even Germans who do not have a Danish background like to send their children to this school. So even a minority language can become attractive in a region where there is economic development. Normally, a minority language runs the risk of being crowded out by the majority tongue, but in a border region which is economically successful, a minority language can remain attractive and can be seen an asset for everybody. I gave you the example of this happy ending to a long and sometimes painful history to show that two things have to come together: an appropriate national policy which gives guaranteed rights to a minority and economic development which brings the periphery back to the centre. This is what the European Union is all about. The European Union al- lows border regions that have been neglected by our nation states to get a second chance. As a result of the European Union, border regions are moving closer to the centre because infrastructure is improving; European economic and monetary union for most member states means that cross-border controls are a thing of the past, and border regions are winning back their economic strength and their importance. It is becoming more frequent for people to work on one side of the border and live on the other. But there are still impor- tant questions that need to be addressed: for example, it is still hard to offer health care, public transport and emergency services across borders because most of our social leg- islation, most of our rules, are national or regional, depending on the institutional structure of member states. Around 10 per cent of the EU population could be regarded as a minority in some form or other. There are historical minorities, like those who live along contested borders, but there are more recent minorities as well. Visit any modern European city, whether it’s Malmö, Brussels, Frankfurt or Birmingham, and you will be struck by the sheer diversity on offer:

there are people from all over the world. In some cities, this leads to difficulties with inte- gration - minorities live in certain quarters and are often excluded and marginalized. Both types of minority have to be addressed. We have to develop a policy that allows everyone to contribute, without discrimination.


Now, I would like to come to the topic which you have foreseen for this afternoon, the new legal instrument called EGTC: European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation. This is an instrument where the institution which I represent, the Committee of the Regions, was heavily involved – indeed, without the combined effort of the European Parliament and the Committee of the Regions it would never have seen the light of day. The Committee of the Regions can take its fair share of the credit: several years prior to the creation of the EGTC, a CoR expert group had called for a new legal instrument to be developed that would provide answers to the problems facing cross border and interregional cooperation. The Commission took up this demand and finally presented a legal text. Then, following the support of the EP for the proposal, it was down to the Council to react. It was the Austrian EU Presidency which took the lead on this issue, and the Austrian CoR members, them- selves from Austrian regions with a guaranteed right to participate in the internal decision– making process, used their influence to insist that this become a prioirity for the Austrian presidency. The negotiations led by Austria were ultimately successful, and member states agreed to the EGTC. So, we have now this new legal instrument. The regulations state that the CoR is responsible for the EGTC registry, and we have al- ready registered a number of new cross-border and interregional cooperation agreements under this legal instrument. We hope that this will continue and that we can use this instru- ment to further develop cooperation in this way. I would like to say a few words about the potential which this new EGTC legal instru- ment offers. It allows for the creation of organisations with their own budgets, and staff, designed specifically to assist with cross-border and interregional cooperation. EGTCs can be used to give greater legal force to traditional cross border cooperation, but they also of- fer the possibility to create organisations consisting of public sector respresentatives and other bodies with a public service remit. EGTCs allow not only regional and local authorities but also central governments and bodies such as associations and Chambers of Commerce, to take part. Participants are obliged to sign an agreement, decide on internal rules, the decision-making process and management. Each EGTC must involve at least two EU member states, and they can also extend beyond the EU’s external borders. As for the areas covered by EGTCs, they are as many and diverse as the EGTCs them- selves. Looking at the first eight or nine EGTCs to be created, they cover cooperation in areas as different as public transport, university research and emergency services. We can already see with the first EGTCs that the wide experience of existing cross-border coop- eration can now be put on an even more solid footing. EGTCs can also be used for institutions covering interregional and macro-regional coop- eration, such as the Baltic Sea Strategy. Over the years more than 70 associations and or- ganisations have been created to promote cooperation within this specific area: the Baltic Chamber of Commerce, Baltic Universities, Baltic cities, Baltic trade unions, Baltic cultural organisations. For the people living in that region, the issue is no longer whether they are


Danish, German, Polish or Swedish but rather that they all share a common Baltic heritage, an additional identity. This is an example which is not limited to this specific part of the

European Union. The development of macro-regions where economic interests and new identities are created based on geographical proximity and regardless of national frontiers,

is spreading to different parts of the Union. The Mediterranean region is already following

the model and a Danube region is also being discussed. The Committee of the Regions continues to give its support to the implementation of this new instrument in different areas. We have an expert group trying to bring together the experience of the EGTCs already in place and we are developing a platform that will allows interested parties to share information and advice, creating a pool of knowledge which can hopefully be exploited by everybody. We are also promoting one of the important objec-

tives of this instrument: to contribute to a more balanced development of the European Union. If there is one word which could be used to define the EU it is cohesion, which in the European context has three dimensions: economic, social and territorial. This may sound

technical but in fact it is a highly political approach: the triple goal of cohesion is in effect

a promise on the part of the European Union to work towards a balanced development

that supports the weakest and helps everyone to advance. In the border regions and in the treatment of minorities this promise is clearly being kept. The development of peripheral regions has happened very quickly. I think that this promise has to be kept in the future

as well. In the Committee of the Regions, the majority of our members are very commit- ted to the cohesion objective of the European Union. That means guaranteeing that those who are currently weak will be given the support to become strong, and EGTCs can be an integral part of this support. The new EGTC regulation will continue to be assessed. The Committee of the Regions

will prepare a report in 2010 on its experiences. This will allow the European Commission

to then see whether additional modifications are needed or whether the instrument is work-

ing well.

Thank you very much for your attention.


Erika Törzsök*

President, Public Foundation for European Comparative Minority Research

“Exactly 360 years ago the Peace of Westphalia made minority rights a subject of in- ternational concern and debate. Ever since the establishment of the nation-state system, the situation of minority communities in one State has tended to engage the interest of

another, often a neighbouring State. With the ever-growing globalization of our world over recent decades, States are becoming increasingly multinational and ethno-cultural and political borders seldom overlap.” (Knut Vollebaek, OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, 2008) From this fact it follows that the social and economic processes that shape these regions

in the course of European integration cause us here in Central and Eastern Europe to face

difficult and unexpected challenges. Now the question arises whether the integration processes starting after 1990 can and really will establish a seamless Europe in the wake of the fall of state socialism. Can 1990

be seen as an attempt by Europe’s three historic regions (Western, Central, and East- ern Europe) to integrate? Will the separation of state and national borders in Central and Eastern Europe dissolve under European frameworks or will new nationalism and political hysteria gain ground? Or we might perhaps just do the French Jean Monnet justice and ad- mit he was right when just before his death he lamented that the creation of the European Union ought to have been started with the culture rather than the economy. It would make

a stronger tie as he put it.

In our view, experiences indicate that the following conditions are necessary but not suf- ficient for successful integration:

– if things develop at a pace where cumulative changes bring with themselves structural

change and a new culture for the benefit of the old and the new members alike (the inte- gration of the new member states into the EU frameworks acts against dividedness giving more room over to innovativeness and improving the competitiveness of Europe);

– if the new structures that develop inherently carry the conditions to surpass their own limitations, which has always been at the very core of European development (improving the chances of Europe in a world of globalisation);

– if the borders drawn by Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt that divide Europe become

open not only in the physical sense of the word but also become transcendent in the minds of the people who live here.

* Mrs. Törzsök delivered her presentation under the title “Here and Something Different. New forms of integration in the European Union”.


Factors hindering integration

– The growth and development of Central Eastern Europe for many centuries was de-

fined by the dual influence of Western and Eastern Europe

– The changes in the inside borders of Europe and the multiple reshuffling and reassess-

ment of the region during the 20th century had made people in the region mutually suspi- cious towards each other.

– The imbalances and livelihood and subsistence concerns of CEE societies

– The segregation of society from the state and the late segregation of ideology and


– The attempts to reform 20th century society (right- and left-wing dictatorships) had

deepened and intensified the differences between the three European regions. Western Europe became a set of welfare states; East Central Europe developed into state socialist societies, and Eastern Europe saw the rise of empirical dictators) The lack of access to information concerning the grand economic and social processes among members of CEE societies, illusions and disappointment following the 1990 change of regime.

The real situation The real situation can be described as “the crisis of transition” (Kornai). Why? Because after 1989-90 in the wake of the fall of state socialism, the rate of development in the specific regions varied to a great extent. The selective market protection of the western world enabled Western Europe to handle free competition, but the same policies caused dramatic economic downturn in CEE when applied: 50% fall in agriculture, 25-30% drop in industry; integration into or disintegration from the world’s economic bloodstream. The CEE societies experienced heavy economic decline despite prominent expectations of imminent welfare. “The gap between the [regions] of Europe has become wider than ever before in history:

in 1973 per capita income in the region was still 48% of the western level, but by 1990 it dropped to 38% and to 26% by the end of the century.” (Iván T. Berend)

The impacts of the 2008-2009 financial and economic world crisis Started under new conditions, the process of economic and social development in the countries of the region, and the revitalisation of the regions that were ready to open up and turn towards each other were now suddenly halted. The deteriorating economic indexes and increasing unemployment in CEE provides fresh impetus to ever-present latent nation- alism (e.g. linguistic nationalism) in the region.

Crisis – a potential opportunity The global financial and economic crisis will certainly bring changes in our regions as well. The centre/periphery setup may be reshuffled and depressed regions may be revitalised.


New types of cooperation may develop to satisfy real demands. The means may include:

Innovation and development within and in the interests of given communities; manage- ment of the effectiveness of own resources, avoidance of one-sided dependence. The development of new, rural development policies: improving the ability of rural areas to manage problems independently. It is expected that the lack of funds will upvalue economic cooperation and the opportu- nities to use alternative economic models.


The abolition of physical borders just does not suffice; mental barriers must also be done away with, provincial, introverted approaches and traditional economic management must be replaced by knowledge-based, modern, ecological-thinking complex economic management and development. Improving the absorption capacity of the region in order to utilise EU funds more effectively. There is a need to pursue government activities that ensure the operation of multination- al companies under controlled conditions in the interest of both sides thus also ensuring calculability, transparency, and perspective planning. It is important to acknowledge that nation state reactions and protectionism are clearly not the solution. It must be seen that in recent times in the harmonisation activities in the EU have (also) intensified.

Paradigm change in Hungarian nation politics Given the new historical situation (from 2004-2007), we developed a new concept in relation to the EU expansion in the region. It was now clear that in order to mitigate the disadvantages stemming from minority status we must generate new types of coopera- tion. The feudal-Bolshevik paternalist /motherland vs. minorities/ practice can no longer be upheld as it has been the very impediment to the development of civilian self-esteem and civil organization. In 2006 we introduced a new element in national politics: development policies.

We are offering a new chance for dialogue: Here and something different! The very essence of this new concept is that minority communities and regional develop- ment ought to be linked.

The specifics:

– development policies and regional cooperation is not ethnicity-based, and the devel-

opments may improve the life opportunities of all people in the region;

in other words, it is not the regions that need to be ethnicised /we cannot recreate a


Swiss canton system/, but the ethnic groups need to be regionalised;

– in order to promote regional development, cooperation between regions and ethnici- ties must be facilitated, communication and co-ordination must be improved.

The aim of the paradigm change in Hungarian nation politics

– Strengthening the cohesion between nations that are ready and willing to open up,

promoting regional thinking, rationalisation of parallelisms engendered with the abolition of the borders.

– Drawing up new logistic maps which enable us to do away with the redundancies

stemming from the developments of the previous decade that always followed a predeter- mined path. It is unsustainable to have airports and tertiary education institutions 20/40 km from each other while fire stations or ambulances may be as far as 70-80 km to reach. The resources available for the changes to be put into practice include European re- gional cooperation funds. The European regional cooperation funds available for disposal in the breakdown of border stretches:

Along the Slovakian Hungarian border € 176 million Along the Ukrainian Hungarian border € 68.64 million Along the Romanian Hungarian border € 230 million Along the Serbian Hungarian border € 50.1 million Along the Croatian Hungarian border € 52.4 million Along the Slovenian Hungarian border € 29.2 million Along the Austrian Hungarian border € 82.3 million

Minority communities and development policies The first steps in the implementation of the new concept:

– Involvement of community actors

– Responding to the problem of lack of information from the year 2007 during which a

number of forums were held on the joint institutions to be established in order to use EU funds in the areas inhabited by Hungarians in neighbouring countries for the purpose of promoting the flow of information and imparting knowledge, also on the opportunities of participation and on the operation of such joint institutions.

– We have been running an information day event series to share the intellectual capital

that was eradicated by the vicissitudes of the twentieth century through the elimination and

expulsion of various ethnicities, Jews, Germans, and through population exchanges also affecting Hungarians.

– By exploring and presenting potential resources, the local societies are involved in the development processes.

– We try to synchronise the development concepts with neighbouring countries in order to utilise resources as effectively as possible.


The emergence of development policies as a subject matter in international minority documents certainly helps the realisation of the opportunities. As a new element in the documents treating minority issues, the emergence of regional cooperation and development policies also help dispel the traditional mistrust and suspi- cion felt towards each other. Recommendations of the OSCE Minority High Commissioner made in June 2008 on national minorities in inter-state relations, and according to the Bolzano/Bozen Recom- mendations:

“States should co-operate across international frontiers within the framework of friendly bilateral and multilateral relations and on a territorial rather than an ethnic basis. Transfrontier co-operation between local and regional authorities and minority self-governments can contribute to tolerance and prosperity, strengthen inter-State relations and encourage dialogue on minority issues.”

EGTC – a new opportunity The first steps in the implementation of the new concept: generating European regional cooperation. EGTC is EC legislation from 2008/2009. All forms of regional cooperation – cross border, transnational, interregional cooperation – can be realised within the EGTC framework:

Territorial cooperation initiatives were not effectively implementable given the lack of regu- latory legislation, and the different regulatory legislations by member states. The Commit- tee of the Regions initiated the introduction of a new instrument, which was established by 1082/2006/EC.

Benefits of the EGTC

– Independent legal entity

– The first legal instrument at Community level

– It affects a number of member states in a way that as a result their internal relation are not regulated by international law, but by EU law

– It does not aim to replace the instruments used before; it offers a new alternative.

– The wider circle of potential members includes the autonomous bodies of many mem- ber states it has its own budget, own organisation, and its own organising capacity.

– It ensures the equal and democratic representation of members.

– Realises objectives beyond member states (min. 2 member states), grouping may in-

volve 2 member states and 1 non-EU country.

More effective drawdown of resources, more organised cooperation, equal representa-


tion of interests, EGTCs may apply for funds independently. It does not aim to replace the instruments used before; it offers a new alternative.

Practical benefits:

– Lobbying in the EU – it acts as a European actor in regional and cohesion policy making.

– It may take multiple organisational forms depending on the desired objectives.

– It provides the framework for implementation of long-term, joint strategic developments.

Possible models:

Territorial cooperation programmes (TRC programmes).

Co-funded projects (relating to regional cooperation under the framework of the Struc- tural Fund).

Other EU supported cooperation (relating to territorial cooperation).

– Cooperation realised from support other than EU.

Registered EGTC: IsterGranum EGTC under registration: Banat-Triplex Confinium Planned EGTC: Gömör/Gemer, Nyíregyháza-Szatmár, Szigetköz-Zitny Ostrov, Ung-Tisza-Túr

It is a means of development politics: the Regional Interactive Geo- graphical Information System containing the most important data and indicators required for planning and possible developments. It promotes strategic thinking which does not stop at the borders but builds on the shared traditions and values of the regions, which have been strictly divided along frontiers until now, in the hope of creating a blossoming culture of cooperation.


Péter Udvardi

Managing Director, Ister-Granum European Grouping for Territorial Cooperation

Ladies and gentlemen! Thank you very much for the opportunity and also for the invitation.

I will try to give you a short history of the Ister-Graum EGTC, then to say a few words

about the region, tell you how cooperation began, describe the area, the organisation, some of the projects and grant proposals; then I would also like to talk about future plans in the hope of keeping your interest alive. This tiny region lies on both sides of the River Danube and is home to about two hun- dred thousand people in an area of app. 2000 km 2 . Two-thirds of the area and of perhaps its inhabitants belong to Hungary and one-third to the northern member state, Slovakia, just north of the Danube. The region is centred around the city of Esztergom and the city of Párkány on the two sides of the river. If we were to compare the features of the two regions, it would suffice to say that the side north of the River Danube is more rural in its features having smaller and less developed industry, whereas the other side of the river in Hungary is characterised by stronger economy and greater potentials for development,

which is largely due to the Dorog and Esztergom industrial areas. I can also provide you with examples. While there is little industry in Párkány on the Slovakian side, it is still home to the second largest cargo train station of the former Czechoslovakia; and such suitable logistic capacities, roads and transport facilities for export and import trade are lacked by the industrial companies on the Hungarian side.

I must not forget to mention the most important thing connecting the two banks of

the river in the centre of the region. Built in 1895, the Mária Valéria bridge is still a very memorable piece of architecture today. Probably many remember it as the last bridge to be reconstructed after WWII. It was blown up by the retreating German army in 1944 and was not rebuilt for another 56 years quite until, pursuant to an agreement between the Hit was fully restored in 2001 to re-establish direct links between the two regions. Prior to this, there had been a single passenger ferry and a small vehicles ferry in operation that contrib- uted little to building and developing relations. Once the bridge was finished, cross-border business ten-folded and the number of cars and vehicles crossing the border soared to forty times its previous figure. Now a few words about the name: Ister-Granum. Ister is Danube and Granum is the River Garam in Latin. This was the name chosen at the founding meeting back when the Euroregion was first founded and the EGCT also adopted the name. Now, a few words about the EGCT; as mentioned before by the Secretary General and the chairwoman in their speeches, the EGTC is an acronym standing for European Group-


ing for Territorial Cooperation. It has been stated already that 5th July 2006 was a historical date on which this common regulatory framework, this new European act first entered into effect and made it possible for groups to form whose aims were consistent with the objec- tives defined in the regulation. On 1st August 2007, the Hungarian national bill came into force followed by the Slovakian national regulation entering into effect on 5 May 2008.

I have a few points to make on the external antecedents that had led to the foundation

of the Ister-Granum Euroregion. When we look back on the rekindling of relationships in

the beginning of the 1990s even on the Slovakian-Hungarian border, there were 11 Euro-

regional initiatives launched along this border stretch alone. But in reality there had never been one common project, but there was always one Slovakian and one Hungarian part to

it each time. It was just not possible to cooperate as one organisation with a single struc-

ture and financing and to operate as a single unit. In other words, these Euroregions were operating ad-hoc mainly with the involvement of the local governments and perhaps a few NGOs on either sides of the border. There was no regulation, until the acceptance of the regulatory framework, but even when there was one, the conditions in the particular states were always mismatched. In the end, Euroregions gained importance and, with that, I am convinced that the institutions seeking cooperation on both sides of the border were given an excellent means to join hands and collaborate. I must also mention that from the angle of community financing it is also very important that EGTCs have now been launched. And now let me talk to you about some of the milestones we reached within the Ister- Granum region. On 8th December 1999, cooperation began at regional level still before the bridge was rebuilt. It was followed by the signing of a declaration of intent and a deed of foundation in the autumn of 2000. In 2001, the Mária-Valéria Bridge was finished and ceremonially handed over to the wide public. Two years afterwards, the Euro-regional col- laboration began with the cooperation of 102 communities and the signature of 100 com- munities. Still another two years later the development strategy of the region was complete and presented in the European Parliament in Brussels by the makers and the representa- tives of the Euroregion. Not quite three years later, we succeeded in establishing the EGCT as a legal framework in the area and the Euroregion was now functioning as a geographi- cal entity from this point afterwards whereas the organisation and administrative work remained within the scope of competence of the EGTC. Let me now go back to the EGTC for another brief interval. At present there are nine such European groupings for territorial cooperation already registered in the Union. They are all entities with a legal person status. It is important to note that they may establish further organisations, which are entitled to operate in the given field of operation. They may even establish non-profit enterprises, which can apply for grant proposals much easier and implement specific projects. Now going back to the Ister-Granum EGTC. It was founded on 6th May as the second EGTC of the EU, but it may well have been the first registered EGTC, I think. Of the found-


ing members, 47 Hungarian and 39 Slovakian communities are now cooperating in a part- nership. Unfortunately, the registration process took a considerably long time. Since this legal arrangement was also the first of its kind in Hungary, six long months had had to pass before the Metropolitan Court of Budapest was able to have it registered. On the Slovakian side of things, it is also a registration process, conducted by the Slovakian building and regional development ministry, which is required to have the accession of the Slovakian members approved. The structure underlining the operation of the grouping for cooperation are made up of the following levels: the operative level, the decision-making level and the advisory level. I would rather focus on the decision-making level now. The general assembly elects the members of the senate, the director, and the presidents, who will also operate and control the special committees. The director is in connection with the operative level. Development agency: at this stage we have development agencies operating on the Esztergom and the Párkány sides; the operative administration is performed in this triad structure. The institu- tions of EGTC are, of course, future institutions yet to be developed of which I will talk a few more words later. And I would also mention the solidarity fund, which I think is a real rarity in Europe and enjoyed considerable interest wherever we talked about it. The city of Esztergom allocated 1% of the collected local business tax to support settle- ments in the region in a manner to enable them to promote various minor development projects. Unfortunately, given the economic crisis, we were forced to a halt on the path we had already been treading, but we will continue where we left off if all goes well in the future. I believe that even the smallest bit of support can make a big difference in smaller communities. And we must not forget that the region is characteristically spotted by com- munities with a population of less than 500. I would now like to say a few words about the regional development council. This will also be a task for the future; we must develop a regional development council that com- prises equally six representatives from the local government, the entrepreneurial and the civil spheres. n the following I will present three selected projects that were submitted in response to the latest call for proposals last year. Two of these envisage development concepts in the field of tourism whereas the third one envisions an energy management project to be implemented in the region. The primary aim of the “Borderless Destination” proposal is to exploit the opportunities and possibilities that lie within the region and also to develop the presently still absent but necessary infrastructure and organisational backdrop. This translates to the placement of info kiosks, billboards, publications, and the development of a tourism portal. With this, we would like to establish the first institution that is ultimately and fundamentally created under the auspices of the EGTC. The next proposal I will look at is seeking to expand and develop the deficient bicycle road network in the region. It has set itself the non-exclusive aim of constructing a 12-km bicycle track and also to develop the cycle paths interconnecting the member communi-


ties of the EGTC some way or another. Also, it has proposed to connect Selmecbánya and Budapest via a longer cycle road that requires more concerted efforts. The third proposal, as I mentioned, is seeking to deal with energy management. The primary objective of the proposal is to create some sort of a tourism destination and man- agement board. The project envisages the development of a common energy manage- ment agency with two offices on either side of the border, one in Máriahalom and one in Köbölkút. This agency would be responsible for resolving or helping to resolve one of the greatest challenges facing local government institutions in our times: the scarcity and fast diminishing energy resources. In the future, of course, they may then, building on the experiences gained, provide assistance to the general public, private individuals and even commercial companies. This is the third such proposal. I would still like to mention one more project that is already under way and is being implemented in cooperation with a Paris-based state-owned institution and six other part- ners; the project also bears the EGTC acronym but with a slightly different meaning. The project would most of all like to learn of the experiences amassed by twin-cities and also to share our experiences with others. In other words, here we are really talking about the development of the Párkány and Esztergom-related conurbation, the mapping up of and finding solutions for their problems. This is the main objective of this programme. As regards future common institutions, I must also mention the Ister-Granum Entrepre- neurial Logistic zone, with particular attention to the significant differences in terms of the opportunities lying within the industry and the road network. We would like to set up the already mentioned tourism destination management board along with the energy man- agement agency; also there will be a need for a common healthcare system as there are major deficiencies in this regard in the region. The same way, the lack of integrated public transport is still a major problem today. And also, although there is radio and television on both the Esztergom and the Párkány sides of the river, the EGTC would still like to create a similar bilingual common broadcasting platform. This is all I wanted to briefly share with you today. As for the future, there are still a lot of things ahead of the Ister-Granum EGTC to do. This will probably require further funds. Unfortunately, in recent times we have been witnessing diminishing internal resources; i.e. the resources locally available are considerably scarce. We must seek ways to find national and EU resources. We trust that we can set an example for others. Should you have any questions, I will be happy to reply.

Thank you for your attention!


Susanne Reichrath*

State Secretary, Government of Saarland

Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen,

First let me thank you for inviting me to come here and introduce the Greater Region SaarLorLux to you. This region is a good example of transfrontier territorial cooperation which exists since many years and shows all the advantages and the potential of a cross border cooperation. The Greater Region SaarLorLux is a transnational area composed of five transfrontier territorial regions: the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, two German states, the French region Lorraine, and one part of Belgium, the region of Wallonie. This area of cooperation includes four European states and the three official languages, German, French, and Luxembour- gish. The transnational cooperation has a very long tradition; since 1960 a network of politi- cal, economic and social cooperation has been established and institutionalised. With its 11 million inhabitants living in an area of 65 thousand km², the Greater Region SaarLorLux is one of the largest border areas in Europe. One characteristic of this region is its population – there are 170 thousand commuters. This means that 170 thousand people tackle the problems that come with commuting in a transfrontier region every day. The region is number 1 on the cross-border labour market in Europe. Most of the cross-border commuters come into Luxembourg and into Saarland every day; there are 100 thousand commuters entering Luxembourg daily. 43 per cent of the jobs in Luxembourg are held by foreigners and second parties. The SaarLorLux Region is a model for European regions, and it has a lot of interregional and cross-border experience. In a way, it is also a European “laboratory”. The small town of Schengen, which you might have come across in connection with the Schengen Treaty, is also located in the SaarLorLux Region. I would like to say a few things about the cooperative structures we heard about in dif- ferent speeches this morning. In order to have effective cooperation, you have to be politi- cally determined. We have two political bodies, one of which consists of the government committees in the respective countries: Germany, France, Luxembourg, and Belgium. The second is the interregional structure. The Regional Committee is composed of the politi- cal heads of all five regions, and these political heads are meeting in a political summit this year, the summit of the Greater Region. The summit takes place every 18 months. Thanks to the summit we have an operational executive level with 11 standing teams or workgroups and several operational agencies. Moreover, business and social partners give advice and work together with this political committee.

* Ms. Reichrath delivered her presentation under the title European cross-border cooperation in the Greater Region SaarLorLux


Scientific advisory council (University of the Greater Region)

Economic and social commitee (Greater Region, advisory)

I would also like to mention the legislative: the so-called Interregional Parliamentary

Council. It is a kind of conference of the Members of Parliament of the five partner regions.

Some other elements need to be mentioned also; there is a university charter, and there
Some other elements need to be mentioned also; there is a university charter, and there
are school partnerships. I will come back to this topic later.
Executive bodies
Further bodies
Regional commitee
and social partners
Political decision
making level
• EuRegio
Sumit of the Greater
Region SaarLorLux
Interregional economic
and social commitee
• Eurodistrikt
Saarbrücken -
Operational executive level
• Moselle-Est
Joint German-French-
of Handicrafts
(in the making)
• Cross-border local
Standing teams
Operational agencies
goverment commitee
• Chambers of Industry
and Commerce
joint bodies
(Foreign Ministries)
Job market
• Union board
observation agency
University charter
School partnerships
Großregion e.V.
parliamentary council

Once more, the political heads of all five regions of the Greater Region take part in the summit. A supplement structure is currently being established; all the people who are in

charge of political decisions in their regions or their countries come together in this summit. I mentioned that the region is number one on the cross-border labour market, so we have a lot of transnational mobility and agility. I think this is a unique European feature. And we have the aim to integrate the job market; for this a task force composed of cross-border commuters has been organized. This task force has the aim to integrate the job markets, and it does so through analysis, consultation and solution suggestions for regular cross- border commuters. This task force works together with the summit of the region. All of these people have to tackle the problem to have some knowledge of three languages, German, French, and Luxembourgish; mainly in Luxembourg most people speak all three languages.

I have already said that this region has a long tradition of cooperation, which started

in 1960. But despite this long experience, cooperation needs permanent engine power, permanent fuel, and this permanent fuel needs permanent aims and visions. So, in 2003, the summit decided it would be good to have visions for the future, to have a big aim, and under the chairmanship of the elder European statesman, Jacques Santer, the “Vision 2020 for Europe” was elaborated. This vision presented three areas of future development:

identity and way of life in this region, the competences in the region, and a model that this region could be a model for cross-border regions. Altogether, eight priorities were defined. The first ones were culture, education and vocational training, universities and research


Summmit of the Greater Region
Summmit of the Greater Region







Luxembourg R h i n e l a n d e - Palatinate Governing body Task

Governing body

R h i n e l a n d e - Palatinate Governing body Task Force

Task Force “regular cross-border commuter” Saarland



Member of staff 1

Member of staff 2

Member of staff 3

Member of staff 1 Member of staff 2 Member of staff 3 Interregional job market observation


job market








advice centers




Social security







trade unions



trade unions

of labour





sectors, traffic and transport, the economy and labour market, social networks, the envi- ronment, geographical development and institutional needs. This vision has been accept- ed by the European Commission as a project of reference for cross-border cooperation in the research project blueprint for regional foresight transvision. In it, you can find several proposals, one of them dealing with the geographic development by creating networks, a management of transborder agglomerations and transborder rural networks. Two obvious factors for better integration of the cross-border labour market by the politi- cal regional summits were to use and further implement intercultural experience.


We are a region where there isn’t really a minority problem; there are great opportuni-

We are a region where there isn’t really a minority problem; there are great opportuni- ties in connection with intercultural experi- ences. We mainly stress language, espe- cially the importance of understanding and being able to use the language of the neigh- bour. In school in my country, Saarland, pupils are taught the language of the neigh- bour, French, from primary level on. It is the language also spoken in Luxembourg and Wallonie. We organize a teacher exchange between the primary schools of Luxem- bourg, France, and Saarland. We also have bilingual German-French schools at primary and secondary level; there are bilingual classes in regular schools, and for two years now there has been a new German-Luxembourgish comprehensive school in Schengen, which was founded as a result of an international treaty between Saarland and Luxembourg. The school is organized and financed by both countries, and pupils can get all the degrees of both countries there. On top of that, they learn German, French and Luxembourgish – and some other foreign languages too of course. We founded the school two years ago, and its success has surpassed all our expectations. We thought there would be three or four new classes every year, but so far we have had to organize six or seven classes instead. This shows that families and people in general are greatly interested in this kind of education. We also stress recognition of vocational diplomas. We have not yet solved this problem for good, but we think the European qualification framework will help, and because of the large number of commuters, all the different systems in our region are now well-known, so that we will probably be able to improve recognition of diplomas in the near future. We also put special emphasis on interregional studies and degrees. There is a network of institutions of higher education. In some cases, studies have to be carried out in different countries or different regions; for instance, there’s a specific transborder study in physics, where the students go to a different university in a different country every year; not only do they study physics to get a diploma, but at the same time they learn the different lan- guages, and at the end of their studies, they get a diploma of all the three countries they have studied in. I would like to also mention EURES, EURES-guidance; EURES means European Em- ployment Services in a redrawn frame and the interregional professional associations and chambers. Let me just give you a few examples of recent issues. We have a long tradition of co- operation but also lots of projects at executive level. Beside the strategic planning, there are actually nearly 100 bilateral and 50 multilateral projects in this area. For several years


we have been organizing cross-border emergency care, as Mr Stahl mentioned earlier this afternoon, and cross-border fire and hazard management. We also have the common subvention management “INTERREG”, and we intend to prepare an EGTC for this common subsidy management, as was mentioned this afternoon. And we have common public relations as well, of course.

There are also proposals concerning transport; one of the speakers mentioned that the capitals are often also the main centres, but the proposals concerning transport shows that we also want to develop the transport system near the borders, not only in the capitals. Some proposals concern higher education and research: the first one, the virtual university

of the Greater Region, is being realized; the project was started one year ago, and the last

three points were aims mentioned or visions that are in preparation now. One of the eight cooperation priorities I mentioned was culture. And with culture, you can use synergy effects and develop further cultural competence. As an example of best practice, we institutionalised an Association of Cultural Space of the Greater Region in April 2008 to consolidate the positive effects of cultural cross-border cooperation. The challenge of this association is to develop a common strategy for cultural politics, to stimu- late, develop and support international cultural projects and professional networks, and to stimulate joint activities between the fields of cultural education training and tourists. In this context, I would like to mention the SaarLorLux orchestra and SaarLorLux choir; we also organize common exhibitions; there are, for example, exhibitions in three different loca- tions, and if you want to see all of an exhibition, you move to the different locations in the other countries and see the whole. In addition, the artistic potential of the Greater Region helps to develop this, and this is just one example of cultural cooperation here. The as- sociation has different partners, and is financed by the different regions; we have 12 insti- tutional partners in this association and one of the first results was PLURIO.NET. PLURIO.

NET is the cultural portal of the Greater Region and I think it is the first cultural portal in the EU. There are 3,500 to 4,000 events a year in the Greater Region, and you can find all of them in the portal. It is updated daily, so its users have access to all the latest information, cultural news and job advertisements. You can also get tickets for cross-border events on the net. In this cross-border network, we have six regional administrators in the govern- mental cultural administrations and one coordinating structure, an agency in Luxembourg. This means that we share responsibility for the content, and there is a well-functioning partnership of these eight cultural administrations, which finance all these activities to- gether. Thus, funding and work is shared, but management of the portal is decentralized. Something that also helped in recent times is that the territorial cohesion through INTER- REG was focused on transborder cooperation, and I mentioned earlier that we also have

a network of the deputies of the parliaments. These deputies of the parliaments come

together for special meetings in the Greater Region, but they are also representatives in the Committee of the Regions, and the representatives, from Germany, from France, from Belgium, and Luxembourg are all together in the transborder entity.


To sum up, our cross-border region is rich in experience, but we still have visions for the future. We have a lot of European competence, but despite the success in cooperation we have had so far, we look forward and there are two EGTCs under preparation.

And if you want to get further information about our region and the activities there, you can find it on the following websites:

Thank you very much for your attention!


Gábor Kaba*

Mayor, Jimbolia/Zsombolya

I can confidently say that I am glad to be living in a city unique in terms of its history and culture located in the western part of Romania, which was once known as the Pearl of the Banat. The first historical mention of Zsombolya goes back to 1332. It had been known by various names such as Chumbul, Chombol, Csomboly, and Zsomboly until the 1766 settle- ment. With the German settling – an act largely attributed to Maria Theresa – the settlement took on the name Hatzfeld then in 1924 the name Jimbolia. This was the historic act that determined the fate of the settlement for good exerting a major impact on the place’s fu- ture economy and the thinking and attitude of the inhabitants. Zsombolya today is a real multi-ethnic and multicultural city with a population of app. 12,000. Romanians only gained majority status in the population in 1977. What did not change over the years though is the balance of ethnic diversity: peaceful cohabitation among the multitude of ethnicities. A Zsombolya dweller today is fluent in three languages and probably has understand- ing of the fourth one. The Romanians at present account for 76% of the population with Hungarians coming second with only 14% , the Roma are third with 7% and the German inhabitants account for a mere 2%. There are also Serbs and other ethnic groups with an even smaller repre- sentation. The mosaic of different religious dispositions, ethnic backgrounds and customary laws that governs Zsombolya is an intellectual enrichment to a population that coexists in per- fect harmony and mutual respect.

The Germans – Past and present

The German past and tradition is still a major benefit to the city despite the fact that after 1990 more than 3000 Germans emigrated and left the town. The local municipality maintains close ties with the Swabians of Germany whose uniting organisation provides constant support to Zsombolya’s cultural, education and sport life and closely cooperates with the Zsombolya German Democratic Forum. The two organisations each year cel- ebrate the Swabian festival known as the Kerweicht (fair) on the day of St. Wendelin. As a symbol of ethno-cultural diversity, the Zsombolya mayor’s office had busts of three poets in the centre of the town erected with help from Hungary and from emigrant Swabains: Mihai Eminescu, Peter Jung and Sándor Petőfi. Then one year later, directly op-

* Mr Kaba delivered his presentation under the title “Ethno-cultural Diversity in Jimbolia/Zsombolya”.


posite the three poets, they set up the busts of three famous composers: George Enescu, Emmerich Bartzer and Béla Bartók. It is important to note here that more than 50% of comments in the guestbook of the town’s website are entered by Germans, which is a clear testimony of the live contact be- tween the Swabians that had chosen to emigrate and the people that remained. It is also important to note that perhaps the most active cultural organisation is the Romanian-German Petre Stoica cultural foundation that was the initiator behind the birth of the Zsombolya Sever Bocu press museum, which is not only unique in Romania but also in Central and Eastern Europe.

The Roma

The Roma population accounts for 7% of Zsombolya’s inhabitants. I am proud to say that the mayor’s office has already implemented a PHARE project that had set itself a dual objective: it was a programme designed to ease the integration of the Roma into the life of the community and as a result 35 Roma people participated in a vocational train- ing programme aimed at dissipating skills in tailoring and building and 15 young Roma learned computer skills, which had opened up new perspective for them. As a result of the programme, the Zsombolya Roma formed an association and the mayor’s office was only happy to make a venue available for them to set up their headquarters in. The objective of another project called “Together we will succeed” was intended to cement partnership between the mayor’s office and the Roma community. Thanks to the project, 40 Roma households were connected to the public gas and water mains utility.

The Hungarians

The Hungarian community represents app. 14% of the entire population and is an ac- tive participant in the town’s community life. Enjoying support from the local municipality and the Zsombolya RMDSZ, the Hungarian associations organise social and cultural activi- ties and events which always welcome Romanian, German, and Roma participants. The Élet (Life) Association tends to focus on the particular problems of Hungarian women while the Csekonics Association represents the interests of agriculturalists. In order for local Hungarians to understand their roots better and also for Romanians and Germans to have a better insight into Hungarian history, we have been organising trips to Ópusztaszer for two years now, which have so far seen the participation of more than 2000 people. Everyone stands with admiration before the monumental panoramic painting, the “Conquest of the Hungarians”, one of the main attractions of the Ópusztaszer National Historical Memorial Park. The Banat Ripensis regional development association was set up in 2001 encompass- ing and uniting 11 localities in Romania. The association has developed close ties with a


similar, Hungarian-based organisation, the Csanád Micro-Regional Development Munici- pal Association.

I must stress here that one of the aims defined in the constitution of the Banat Rip-

ensis association is to organise multicultural and multi-ethnic activities for the people in

the micro-region with the participation of the local municipalities and similar Romanian or cross border non-profit organisations. The Zsombolya Mayor’s Office plays a major role in maintaining the ethnic diversity by organising a number of different activities and events with the aim of dissipating knowl- edge of the peoples of the three countries and learning to respect each other’s customs and cultures. Such efforts include

1. International creative workshops: ceramics, painting, sculpting, wooden toy making, multimedia

2. “Délibáb” Hungarian-Romanian Folk Dance Summer Camp

3. Agriculturalists’ Convention

4. Trips to Ópusztaszer

5. Visiting museums in Szeged

6. Visiting museums in Kikinda

7. The Zsombolya Town Fest

8. The “Jimbo Blues” – International Blues Festival

9. The International Slaughtermen Contest on St. Ignatius Day

10. “O, Tannenbaum” – Christmas traditions and folk customs.

I must note here that these cultural events have by now become tourist targets and

are now an integral part of our lives; one of them was held for the thirteenth time this year.

These cultural events started off as cross-border cooperation initiatives but today they play an important role in preserving the ethno-cultural diversity of the three countries (Hungary, Romania, and Serbia) just as much as they are pivotal in the maintenance of cooperation and building relations; these endeavours, I am happy to add, are now also making a tan- gible impact on our economic life.

Zsombolya’s economy

I will now treat the subject of Zsombolya’s economy solely from the angle of ethno-

cultural diversity: owing to the German traditions we nurture and thanks to the friends of the town, the largest investments today come in from German companies: Halm, Herzog, Faul- haber, Kabelsystem Hatzfeld and the largest of them Vogt Romania with 1000 employees.

The fact that most Zsombolyans speak three languages has only positive outcomes not only in terms of economic gains but also from a socio-cultural angle.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

I hope I have succeeded in outlining a picture of a developing town where the incidental blend of different ethnic groups, the fact that they have been coexisting for centuries in peace plays a pivotal role. We cannot draw a clear ethnic border in Zsombolya, what is more, not even in the Banat since “homogeneity” is intense but this does not mean that the ethnic background

of any individual living here would be difficult to discern. This is where the ethnic diversity of the Banat stems from, which – within the framework of the EGTC – is now finding itself a new “motherland” in a particular way. We can safely state that we are never or very rarely faced with stigmatisation based on ethnic background.

I am convinced that the possible forms of cooperation that have so far been mentioned

here under the framework of the EGTC will gain ground and open up new opportunities in this multi-ethnic border region for the benefit of the people who can learn new forms of

cross border cooperation and the already existing activities and cooperation initiatives can rise to new heights under a smoother legal environment. It was one year ago when we, the local governments of three different European coun- tries, started the establishment of the EGTC:

– one Schengen country: Hungary, with two micro-regions – with its centre in

“Homokhát” Mórahalom and “Makó and its region”,

– one European Union but not yet Schengen country: Romania’s local governments,

– and one country just before accession: the local governments of Voivodina on Serbia, not yet a member state. App. 200,000 people live in the communities that will one day comprise the EGTC.

In the beginning of the summer, the mayors of the concerned communities met up in Móra- halom and came to an agreement:

– with regards the name of the EGTC: the Banat Triplex Confinium (the Serbian-Roma- nian-Hungarian triplex border corner stone is called Triplex Confinium),

– with regards the headquarters of the EGTC: the mayor’s office of Mórahalom will secure the venue for the headquarters to set up,

– the wording of the treaty to be drawn up by the group has been finalised,

– and the constitution was finalised.

The wording is still under revision, consultation is still being conducted in order to en- sure that the treaty and the constitution satisfy the legislation of all three countries. We are now just before the convention of the general meeting. We hope that by the end of the year we will have gained the consent of the Romanian Ministry of Development, approved the resolutions of 39 Romanian municipal bodies, and the Banat Triplex Confinium will be the first EGTC with Romanian municipalities participat- ing and we hope that by the end of the year the Confinium will have been registered as a legal entity.


László Gazda*

Chairman, Regional Development Council of the Northern Great Plain

Dear Mr. President, Ladies and Gentleman, Being the chairman of the Regional Devel-

opment Council of Northern Great Plain, I would like to present the cooperation initiatives of the past 10 years within the Hungarian and Romanian border region. When we talk about trans-frontier cooperation and regional cooperation, the thoughts about the Bible of a great Hungarian writer, the Kassa-born Sándor Márai come to mind.

It is written in the Bible that “God created the world in seven days, and God saw every

thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.”. According to Márai, God cannot

have said that. These may be the words of a craftsman who, being satisfied with what he created, “may sit back in admiration and say it was very good”. God knows that nothing

is ever good enough.

Based on the experience I have amassed over the past 30-35 years in public adminis- tration and regional development, I can safely say that trans-frontier cooperation, especial-

ly between communities, are backed up and underpinned by huge human efforts. At the same time, we have seen very little development in trans-frontier cooperation particularly

in terms of its effectiveness in recent decades. I think the coming generations will still have

a lot to do to ensure that border regions will also witness major developments. In order for us to understand what it means to be a border region, we must acquaint

ourselves with the economic indices of the region.

acquaint ourselves with the economic indices of the region. We lie in a particular geographic position

We lie in a particular geographic position whereby we border three states - Slovakia, one Schengen EU-state, Romania, a new member state outside Schengen, and Ukraine, a state outside the EU. The area of the Northern Great Plain region accounts for 19.1% (17.729 km2) of the

* Mr Gazda delivered his presentation under the title “Cooperation initiatives in the Hungarian-Romanian and the Hungarian-Ukrainian border regions”.


area of Hungary and 15% (1,514,000 inhabitants) of the country’s total population. Unem- ployment rate in the region was 10.8% in 2007. GDP per capita in the region is 63.1% of the Hungarian average and 42% of the average of the EU25. There are 119 settlements ly- ing in the border region. We have a 207.4 km shared border stretch with the EU, and 136.6 km border line with countries outside the EU. For many decades after WWII, the border line served as a separating phenomenon along the border in these regions. Our border areas are located on the very periphery of the region: there are numerous disadvantaged regions in the Northern Great Plain region struck by outbound migration, depopulation, acute unemployment, and infrastructural de- ficiencies. Given the lack of larger infrastructural developments, these regions fall far from infra- structural centres, their commercial and trade relations have contracted. The traffic routes that are cut-off at the border lines often testify of human tragedies. Of course the region also have parts in exceptionally good positions; these mainly include regions that have succeeded in generating high cross-border traffic in the past 10-20 years. The following map demonstrates the most disadvantaged micro-regions in dark blue, where unemploy- ment may often be as high as 25-30-40 percent. These regions are numerous and typically located in the border regions. In Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg county, for example, 6 of the 11 micro-regions are most disadvantaged.

example, 6 of the 11 micro-regions are most disadvantaged. What are the characteristics of trans-frontier co-operation?

What are the characteristics of trans-frontier co-operation? One thing we can certainly say about it is that it is driven from bottom up. Active role is normally played by com- munities and local governments in nurturing or initiating trans-frontier cooperation. It is disappointing that cross-border cooperation and rural development play no role in regional operative programmes, therefore personal contacts are increasingly important. However, these personal contacts do not suffice to maintain long-term cooperation since with the


fluctuation of personnel depending on the incumbent political forces, these relationships need to be re-established time after time, building – in an optimal case – on the achieve- ments already made. Cooperation is usually focused on cultural, twin city, sport or education programmes. However, the economic relations which could underpin the recreation or establishment of the natural economic force-field are still missing from cooperation efforts. Cooperation is hindered by macro-regional limitations stemming from the fact that the institutional and legal frameworks of spatial planning and regional development in Slova- kia, Ukraine, and Romania are different.

In my view, the greatest problem in Hungary is the lack of decentralisation. The regional

development councils are limited to preparing the regional operative programmes and ac-

tion plans, and have no decision-making rights concerning the evaluation of tenders. De- velopment is also hindered by the fact that the regions in Hungary do not have their own financial instruments and hence are unable to supplement European or national funding with their own regional resources.

A number of Western European examples indicates that the ability of a region or prov-

ince to make progress is subject to the availability of own revenues and freely disposable funds as well as to a sufficient depth of decentralisation.

It is important to promote initiatives aiming to support the developments made by our

European partnership relations. Our region is a member of a number of networks and Euro-

regions as summed up in the following table:

Name of Euro-region or network

Year of foundation

The Carpathian Euro-region 1993 Danube-Körös-Maros-Tisza 1997 Inter-region 2000 Bihar-Bihor Euro-region 2002
The Carpathian Euro-region
Bihar-Bihor Euro-region
NEEBOR Network of East Border Regions
Association of Cities and Villages Cultural Region
Ung-Tisza-Túr-Sajó European Regional Cooperation Group

There are two initiatives in the table I would specifically like to talk about: the Carpathi- an Euro-Region and the NEEBOR network. The Carpathian Euro-Region was established in 1993, that is 16 years ago. This is the cooperation of 15.4 million people, a number of regions and counties of four countries. However, the Euro-Region has so far failed to work out a common project, such as the development of the macro-regional infrastructure that would link the cooperating member regions; given the lack of sufficient resources, this kind


of cooperation has so far fell through. In my view, there are new forms of cooperation to outplace the establishment of Euro- Regions such as the EGTC and the NEEBOR network. The Northern Great Plain region is a founding member of the NEEBOR network unit-

ing all the regions along the eastern border of the European Union and aims to become

a bridge between EU and its eastern neighbours. The network sports 63 regions from 12

countries ranging from Cyprus to Finland. One of its main aims is to encourage activity on both sides of the border and to promote multi-purpose cooperation. The NEEBOR project was launched last year with the union of a few member regions co- financed by the European Union’s INTERREG IVC. Since according to surveys conducted in the region, successful SME development and innovation in these regions is based on trans- frontier cooperation with non-EU neighbouring countries and access to financial resources and information, the overall aim of the NEEBOR project is also to exchange and make use of good practices in the above three fields in order to make the SME sector more competitive

and innovative, while improving the efficiency of regional policies concerning SMEs. Established by the Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg county municipality and the town of Nyír- egyháza with serious funding from the Foreign Ministry and the government budget, the EuroClip-EuroKapocs Public Foundation is, I believe, a very good initiative. The public

foundation has been operating successfully from the very start; they financed 30 projects

in 2008 alone. It aims to develop border region cooperation and to strengthen good neigh-

bourly partnership with Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus. In environmental protection, transport and education and in the small segments of the economy such as incubation, we have successful projects and results to present. The aim of cross-border cooperation is to mitigate the segregating effect of national borders, develop cross-frontier infrastructure and cooperation and to strengthen the relationships between communities lying close to the border. Without wishing to set up a ranking here, I would like to present the programmes and projects that were launched or implemented in the past decade:

In Mátészalka, an Incubator house and a training centre have been built; the Regional European Training Academy has started operations; an electronic labour market database has been set up; exhibitions, fairs, businessmen meetings have been organised (e.g. the Bihar-Bihor Expo); the cooperation between the College of Nyíregyháza and the Rákóczi Ferenc II Sub-Carpathian Hungarian Teacher Training College of Beregszász in the field of education is exemplary; and there have also been flood monitoring systems established on the River Tisza. There are also various cultural, literary, minority, and gastronomy events, programmes and initiatives in the region that bring people together, bring neighbouring cultures closer to each other by sharing knowledge about languages and traditions. I believe that these initiatives provide a good basis for further cooperation.


Presentation of minority cultures (examples)

Gala Show of the Ukrainian Minority Self-Government together with the Nyíregyháza Szabolcs Folk Dance Group

Ukrainian Gastronomy and Art Week programme event

“Hungarian-Ukrainian Culture Days” programme series, Nyíregyháza

“Taras Sevchenko Days” Literary Evenings in Nyíregyháza.

Romanian Days (The Minorities living with us 4), Debrecen, (22-29 September 2009)

Exhibitions, international gastronomy and cultural festivals in the region

The 12th International Fish Soup Making Competition, Túristvándi (19-20 August 2009)

The Eighth International Walnut Festival Milota (29-30 August 2009)

International Walnut Festival Milota (29-30 August 2009) The 17th International Folklore Festival of European

The 17th International Folklore Festival of European Minorities, Jászberény (6 August 2009)

of European Minorities, Jászberény (6 August 2009) Border Region World Music Festival , Panyola (24-25 July
of European Minorities, Jászberény (6 August 2009) Border Region World Music Festival , Panyola (24-25 July

Border Region World Music Festival , Panyola (24-25 July 2009)

of European Minorities, Jászberény (6 August 2009) Border Region World Music Festival , Panyola (24-25 July


What resources do we have available to us? The following financial resources and funds are available to the region also in the 2007-2013 period:

Hungary-Romania Transfrontier Cooperation Programme EUR 224,474,935 Hungary-Romania-Slovakia-Ukraine ENPI Cooperation
Hungary-Romania Transfrontier Cooperation Programme
EUR 224,474,935
Hungary-Romania-Slovakia-Ukraine ENPI Cooperation Programme
EUR 68,638,283
South-Eastern European Transnational Cooperation Programme
EUR 206,691,645
Central European Transnational Cooperation Programme
EUR 298,295,837
INTERREG IVC Interregional Cooperation Operative Programme
EUR 302,000,000
EGT and Norwegian Financial Mechanism
HUF 542,699,488

Out of all programmes, I would like to highlight the outcomes of the Hungary-Romania Trans-Frontier Cooperation Programme 2007-2013. In the very first tender invitation, the Common Coordination Committee approved as many as 90 bids, and successful applicants received a total of EUR 13 million ERFA fund- ing. As part of the second call, 120 projects made it to the second round and applied for a total community funding of EUR 185.5 million. We believe that by building on the favourable geo-strategic position of the region, the research base and the human resources available to us, coupled with our strong sides such as renewable energy, manufacturing enterprises, and thermal waters, and also by exploiting the great potentials behind border region cooperation, the Northern Great Plain region can and will become one of the dynamically developing regions in the near future.



Minorities in a Seamless Europe*

On 15 September 2009, the Prime Minister’s Office organised an international confer- ence on “Minorities in a Seamless Europe, the Role of Transfrontier Cooperation in Main- taining Ethno-cultural Diversity”. The conference was held in line with the Bolzano Rec- ommendations made by the OSCE High Commissioner for Minorities in 2008, according to which “States should co-operate across international frontiers within the framework of friendly bilateral and multilateral relations and on a territorial rather than an ethnic basis. Transfrontier co-operation between local and regional authorities and minority self-gov- ernments can contribute to tolerance and prosperity, strengthen inter-State relations and encourage dialogue on minority issues.”

The conference was opened by Ferenc Gémesi, State Secretary responsible for Mi- nority and National Policy of the Prime Minister’s Office, who was happy to share the message sent by Gordon Bajnai. The Prime Minister first expressed his joy over Hungary being the host to the conference. He went on to say that Hungary lay in a region where neighbourhood relations had been burdened by minority issues for long centuries. How- ever, in the European Union these problems may be turned into advantages. Cross border cooperation presents a real chance for the people co-existing in the region to resolve their problems, added the Prime Minister. The opening presentation of the conference was held by Knut Vollebaek, High Com- missioner on Minorities for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). In his introduction, he recalled the events twenty-years ago in which Hungary had also played a major role. He reminisced that two decades ago Europe had still been divided by an iron curtain. By now the borders have vanished between the vast majority of Western European and Eastern European states. As a result, Europe has, metaphorically speaking become “seamless”. The change has, of course, generated new problems. They include human and drug trafficking, international crime. However, there are now unparalleled op- portunities for individual countries to cooperate. In recent years, the opportunity for cross border cooperation has been given increasing attention. The Council of Europe laid down the foundations for this in its resolution of 1980. This all-important document helped many communities across Europe, and it did even more so as it contained a model contract of cross border cooperation. The creators made their aims very clear and specific: to support the sharing of knowledge about the languages and cultures of the partner countries, to create opportunities to gain personal experiences, to aspire to achieve bilingual education as early as possible in the education system. In 2006 the regulation on European Grouping

* Translation. This article appeared in the 2009/10 issue of Európai Tükör (European Mirror).


for Territorial Cooperation (EGTC) was conceived giving further momentum to cross border cooperation. It authorised local and regional authorities to take the initiative in promoting cooperation. This has made it easier for local communities to submit tender applications for structural funds, which can, in many ways, improve their lives. Vollebaek emphasised that all EU documents relating to cross border cooperation were based on the principle that support was to be extended regionally as opposed to ethni-

cally. It all boils down to one ultimate aim, namely that the entire population in border areas ought to enjoy the advantages and benefits of Community support. This is important even more so since cooperation between the ethnicities living in border areas raises doubts in many people concerning the real motivations of such endeavours. It is fact though that ethnically targeted benefits may entail certain risks: privileged and under-privileged com- munities may simultaneously develop in neighbouring countries. This may certainly involve security risks. And it would certainly not serve our purpose if the areas in question became

a powder keg under any pretext as it has happened already so many times in history.

Cross border cooperation must inherently go hand in hand with economic success. In this regard the Ister-Granum EGTC cooperation between Esztergom and Sturovo (Párkány) is exemplary as pointed out by Mr. Vollebaek. He highlighted the importance of commuters going to work from the Slovakian side over to the Hungarian part, which is troubled by the

scarcity of labour force. At the same time, Mr Vollebaek also pointed out that one of the ob- jectives of cooperation was the maintenance of cultural diversity. Success largely depends on whether all strata of population can and will be involved in cooperation. However, treating the question of cross border cooperation purely as a minority issue will present problems. It cannot be stressed enough that the involvement of the majority

is an essential precondition to the success of cooperation. Now this is very much a matter

of bilingualism. For cross border cooperation in an ideal case is bilingual. It is best if the majority and the minority groups understand each other’s languages. Mr. Knut Vollebaek highlighted the significance of bilateral relations between the coun- tries concerned with regards to cross border cooperation. If malignant and felonious de- bates dominate minority issues between neighbouring countries, they may even suffocate cross border relations before they can fully mature. For this reason, the politicians of neigh- bouring countries must synchronise their activities and settle their disputes in a decent manner. If they do so, their acts will necessarily be governed by the principles defined in in- ternational human rights documents. It would be desirable if using multilateral mechanisms established specifically for this very purpose they would find suitable solutions. Bilateral contracts are pivotal instruments in the hands of governments as pointed out by Mr. Volle- baek. These agreements provide a good foundation to build appropriate and fruitful inter- state relations on. These may help establish good neighbourly relations. These contracts may include provisions relating to the protection of ethnic minorities. Issued by OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities in 2008, the Bolzano Recommendations encourage the application and use of such contracts. These legal instruments can dispel the suspicion


that treating minority issues was equal to intervention in internal affairs of other countries. However, the bilateral contracts must be based on the international rules governing mi- nority rights. The contracts cannot give preference to the interest of any minority group over the other. Bilateral contracts cannot replace integrational internal policies and cannot supersede international provisions. Finally: bilateral contracts cannot replace multilateral mechanisms which are markedly characterised by impartiality and independence. In the history of Europe, national minorities living in border areas have suffered often and a lot, stated Mr Knut Vollebaek. In recent times however, a decisive turn is shaping the fate of border regions. The developments in European integration and minority rights and the new political climate help stabilise these regions. We more and more so find that areas that once were considered peripheral regions are now showing signs of surprising devel- opment. In addition to such growth, it is more and more evident that cross border coopera- tion helps preserve minority identities and prevent interstate suspicion and embroilment. Yet, as the Hungarian proverb goes, we cannot afford to wait for the roast pigeon to fly into our mouths. In other words, we cannot just sit back believing that cross border cooperation will just grow by itself. There are quite a lot of things for political decision-makers to do. They are responsible to support bottom-up initiatives to create a healthy bilateral climate and solid legal frames for the cooperating parties. Only under these circumstances can we expect minorities to become the bridge between neighbouring countries and states and no longer be a source of conflicts.

In his speech Francesco Palermo, senior legal adviser to the OSCE High Commis- sioner on National Minorities, most importantly pinpointed the fact that cross-border coop- eration and the protection of minorities must not be confused. Border region cooperation is carried out between marginalised regions and the aim really is to help these regions rise from their peripheral states. These areas may, as a result of the new type of cooperation, become centres even. The processes which may promote this process cannot and ought not to be controlled from the capital. Without appropriate local autonomy, all endeavours of cross border cooperation may easily fail. Minority issues arise in a much wider context. Their treatment requires what is known as a softer approach. This is supported by the posi- tive experiences of German-Polish-Czech cross border cooperation. It seems that these three countries understand that it is not the symbols that count: they are very careful in their treatment of national symbols. This is where the importance of independence from central governments so clearly transpires.

University professor, János Rechnitzer, scientific consultant of HAS Regional Re- search Centre delivered a speech on the possibilities of and restrictions on cross border cooperation. The professor of the University of Győr established that since 1990 there have been a great number of regional developments in our region that had previously been unimaginable. They include for example an exceptionally dynamically developing region


in the Vienna-Bratislava-Budapest triangle that has since become a significant and major component of European car industry. The importance and relevance of cross border cooperation in the life of Hungary is best illustrated by figures. Hungary borders seven countries along a total border stretch of 2,246 kilometres. This indicates that given the small overall area of the country, cross border cooperation is extremely important for Hungary. 31.3 percent of the area of the country qualifies as a border region giving home to 26 percent of the entire population (2.6 million people). 43 percent of the country’s communities are located in this region which is indicative of an exceptionally high number of micro-villages. One more important figure: 46 of the 150 micro-regions qualify as being a border region. The various stretches of the 2,246 border line show a very diverse picture. There is successful cooperation along the Austrian-Slovenian border stretch. The same cannot, however, be said of the longest stretch along the Hungarian-Slovakian border. The west- ern segment, known as the Vienna-Bratislava-Győr triangle, is hailed as a successful in- novation area in the Danube region. Nonetheless, the situation even here is not entirely impeccable. The Bős-Szigetköz problem comes up from time to time mainly for political reasons, albeit the final settlement of the issue could greatly facilitate Hungarian-Slovakian relations. As far as the eastern Slovakian border is concerned, we find marginal areas on both sides of the border. Accordingly, cooperation in the region is weak. Future prospects are even more discouraging. Both sides of the Hungarian-Ukrainian border stretch are known as crisis areas with extremely weak network of relations. The Romanian border region also shows a diverse picture. While it is typically peripheral, a number of large cen- tres on both sides of the border are taking up action with increasing vigour. In the north eastern region there is more agitated activity which also manifests itself in ever more di- verse economic relations while community-community and regional cooperation projects are becoming gradually more intense. In the south-eastern border region (in Békés and Csongrád counties), there are a number of large centres that can become competitors in the future (Szeged, Békéscsaba, Temesvár, Arad), but economic relations are slow to form. It is evident that there is a clear and well-defined desire for community-to-community and region-to-region relations to be established; however, the number of border-crossing points, the border traffic thereon, and their inappropriate geographical distribution do not promote multilateral cooperation. Established in 1998, the Duna-Tisza-Körös-Maros Regional Cooperation affecting nearly 6 million people over a total area of 77,500 km2 over three countries (Hungary, Romania, and Yugoslavia) is considered a starting multiregional cooperation. The aim is to intensify cross border relations in areas such as the economy, transport and telecom- munications, the environment, tourism, science, culture, and NGOs. A decision has been adopted to set up a uniform development concept and to create a permanent secretariat and a mutual fund. The Serbian border region is considered an area that is gradually picking up dynamism.


It is located on the periphery of the Great Hungarian Plain. The main centre of Szeged and

medium-sized town Baja exercise a strong impact on the border region, and there are also

a number of small towns here that are active in their functions and the renewal of ties.

Relationships in the private sphere are strong with spectacular sales figures generated by private travel, at the same time, the activities of the economic organisations growing out during the Yugoslav wars are considerably intensive and there have also been loads of experiences amassed to operate the “grey economy” of cross border cooperation. The ac- cessibility of the border region is perhaps the most favourable here out of all eastern border regions. In the event of Serbia being consolidated and Vojvodina being granted autonomy, the economic and cooperation activities in the border region are likely to intensify and a great number of activities may be legalised. The Croatian border region: This is the southern periphery of Transdanubia which is essentially connected to the other side to a centreless periphery with no bridging across the natural geographical border (River Drava). The ongoing Croatian-Serbian political ten- sion (Baranya triangle) outright excluded certain border stretches from developing rela- tionships, but in other areas there is heavy and brisk shopping tourism (Barcs, Csurgó, Nagykanizsa, Zalaegerszeg). The institutional forms of cross border cooperation are slow to take shape. The various initiatives to establish cooperation have not yet won the sup- port of the other party (e.g. as is the case with the Gjurgjevac dam on the Croatian side and the Danube-Drava National Park on the Hungarian side). There have been major plans to boost transport and traffic links at an intergovernmental level (Rijeka-Zagreb-Budapest expressway development). Hungary is, in a way, a gateway country with a long border stretch. On the other side of the border we find a number of (former Hungarian) large cities that has produced rapid growth in recent years. This indicates that there is intensive competition forming between Hungary and her neighbours. Competition must be seen as an incentive. It is an incentive that promotes cross border cooperation. If, for example, we look at the border region between Romania and Hungary, we find dynamic urban development on both sides. Looking at the map though, we must raise the question whether it is really necessary to build a large-capacity airport in Hungary – given the fact that both countries are members of the EU. The answer will be that Temesvár would be a more reasonable choice. Professor Rechnitzer also pointed out that the role of spontaneity in intensifying cross bor- der activities after Schengen may be paramount. We are witnesses to the free movement of individuals who are willing to open up enterprises, take up employment, or even move to live on the other side of the border. The professor presented us with an eye-opening example: the fact that trade in Győr did not crush under the weight of the present crisis is primarily owed to the fact that given the stability of the recently introduced euro in Slovakia, Slovakian citizens came across the border en mass as commodities were cheaper to buy here than at home. These cases, which often do not receive any media attention, may, at times, be better indicators of the opportunities of cooperation than large-scale plans with huge repercussions in the media.


President of the Chamber of Regions of the Congress of Local and Regional Authori- ties of Europe (CLRAE), Ludmila Sfirloaga highlighted that the protection of minorities requires cross border cooperation. She considered the bilateral agreements between spe- cific EU countries important because, as she put it, there are numerous minority-related treaties and conventions that have not been signed by all countries. This is why too many questions may be put before the EU Commission since in a good few countries minority questions are considered internal affairs and some will immediately suspect irredentist motivations in the background. Successful cross border cooperation can play a pivotal role in dispelling such suspicions.

When talking about the activities of the institution he is heading, the Chairman of the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minori- ties (FCNM), Alan Phillips, explained that the framework convention envisages measures whose implementation rests with national governments. He also indicated that the com- mittee he is leading will soon be examining the situation in Hungary, Slovakia, Ukraine and Romania therefore he was now not in a position to talk about these countries. He, nonethe- less, mentioned that states had a tendency to support minorities living in other countries while neglect the cause of minorities in their own countries. He added that they performed lots of monitoring work and they often found that in any given country governments were happy to admit that minorities played an important role in international relations, yet there was little sign of this in practice. Alan Phillips emphasised Roma-related problems which he – as he put it – has had very bad experiences with.

Vesna Crnić-Grotić, Vice President of the Committee of Experts on the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages (ECRLM) said that the Charta was born in 1992, was finalised in 1998, but many states have so far failed to ratify it. Poland was the latest state to ratify it as number fourteen. The main purpose of the Charta is to protect minority languages through which the speakers themselves also get protection. Accord- ingly, everyone is allowed to speak their own language no matter where they may be. At the same time, the actual definition of language seems a problematic task. It is still unclear what the languages spoken by migrants or certain dialects should be construed as. In Montenegro, for example, Montenegrin is the official language, but this could also be Serbian, Croatian, and even Albanian. At the same time, it is also common knowledge that Montenegrin itself is a Serbian language. In Slovenia, however, Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian are all considered dialects. The same is true for Slovenian in Croatia. The Charta allows each member state to nominate the languages they consider to be spoken in their territories. This, however, the Charta is not content with. The places where the concerned languages are spoken within a country must also be identified. All this can only be achieved along very specific obligations. Making “wonderful” laws just does not suffice, the real situ- ation about, for example, the teaching of specific languages must also be demonstrated.


Nevertheless, it is difficult to find and present really good examples and practices. Apart from the Scandinavian states, there is hardly a place where the problem of minority lan- guages was suitably resolved.

Recalling the past, the Secretary General of the Committee of the Regions, Gerhard Stahl, reminded everyone that previously the most important aim used to be to assimilate minorities. By now, however, under the frameworks of the European Union, disadvan- tages have been turned into advantages. Changes in the German-Danish relations were brought up as an example. As he put it, one hundred and fifty years ago the German- Danish border region was the ‘Kosovo of the north’. Even after the Second World War there were problems. Yet with the accession of Denmark to the European Communities in 1973, fundamental changes were to come. The Danes were given rights in Schleswig-Holstein that may be exemplary to others. This has had its effects regarding the economy. We are actually talking about one of the success stories of the EU. The conclusion is that proper minority policies go hand in hand with economic growth. Gerhard Stahl pointed out that the opening of borders in the European Union entails huge economic and infrastructural potentials. Today 10 percent of the population of the EU belongs to one of the ethnic minorities. In addition to historical minorities, large European cities also have migrant minorities today. It follows therefore that we need laws that pro- mote their integration. The Lisbon Treaty contains many guarantees that are crucial for mi- nority groups. However, born in 2006, the new legal instrument, the European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC), which is a typical European Union legal act, marks a pivotal milestone of progress. This new legal instrument encourages the birth of new groupings that function as legal entities in cross border cooperation. EGTCs can in numerous areas promote cooperation from public administration through tertiary education and transport to healthcare (e.g. emergency) services. The greatest obstacle preventing the operations of EGTCs from becoming more effec- tive is posed by national legislation. However, owing to cross border cooperation, people living in border regions may develop a new sense of identity. The example of Schleswig- Holstein demonstrates that macro-regions are fundamentally determinant in shaping this sense of identity. This is, of course, evident in other areas as well. For example, in the Mediterranean region. Italian-French and Spanish-French regions join hands and represent their shared interests in Brussels as one. As is known, the number of peripheral regions in the newly acceded countries is high. In many of them, however, we are witnessing dynamic growth and development. This also contributes to faster economic development in newly acceded countries than in the old ones. Mr. Stahl emphasised that albeit technical innovation has become extremely important today, there is nothing more important than social innovation. This is what EGTCs happen to encourage best. With EGTC incentives, new structure and new social opportunities can present themselves. Owing to stable partnerships, a number of peripheral regions today


can become successful in the future. The General Secretary also noted that the Commit- tee of Regions will compile a report on the operations of EGTCs and expressed hope that results would already be tangible then.

President of the Public Foundation for European Comparative Minority Research, Erika Törzsök started her presentation with a historical retrospect. In reference to János Kornai, she established that in the wake of the fall of state socialism, the development of the con- cerned regions showed great differences. The selective market protection of the western world enabled Western Europe to handle free competition, but the same policies caused dramatic economic downturn in East Central Europe. The societies in the region experi- enced heavy economic decline despite high expectations of an imminent welfare state. Referring to Iván T. Berend, she added that “The gap between the [regions] of Europe has become wider than ever before in history: in 1973 per capita income in the region was still 48% of the western level, but by 1990 it dropped to 38% and to 26% by the end of the century.” The current world financial and economic crisis affects our region where it really hurts. It halts the process of economic and social development that were now under way under the altered conditions, leaving a hotbed for nationalist sentiments that have always been present around here. (Such as linguistic nationalism.) However, the crisis may have positive impacts as well. The centre/periphery makeup may be reshuffled and depressed regions may be revitalised. New types of cooperation may develop and there are opportunities to create common, new rural development poli-

cies, and to increase the abilities and chances of rural areas to tackle their problems inde- pendently. Lack of funding may upvalue the role of economic cooperation. The crisis has shown us that protectionism is not the solution and hence harmonisation endeavours in the EU have intensified. According to the President, there had already been a change in paradigm in Hungarian national politics before the crisis. With our accession to the EU in 2004, a new historical situation evolved. This has encouraged the development of a new concept according to which the disadvantages stemming from minority status must be dispelled by generating new types of cooperation. Accordingly, development policies have been an integral part of national polices since 2006. The development policies are based on the following basic principle: it is not the regions that need be ethnicised, but the ethnic groups need be re- gionalised. The reasonableness of this principle is best underpinned by the fact that 16 of Hungary’s 19 counties have borders with the country’s neighbours. Accordingly, the aims

of the paradigm change in national policies include: the strengthening of cohesion between

nations that are ready and willing to open up, promoting regional thinking, and the rationali- sation of parallelisms engendered with the abolition of the borders. Data seem to indicate that this is the first time in Europe when we have European regional cooperation resources available in such volume that gives rise to optimism with regards to the chances of making

a major shift away from the conditions of the past.


1. Slovakian-Hungarian border € 176 million.

2. Ukrainian-Hungarian border € 68.64 million.

3. Romanian Hungarian border € 230 million.

4. Serbian Hungarian border € 50.1 million.

5. Croatian Hungarian border € 52.4 million.

6. Slovenian-Hungarian border € 29.2 million.

7. Austrian-Hungarian border € 82.3 million.

Erika Törzsök underlined that regional cooperation and development policies have also emerged as new components in international minority documents treating the subject of minorities. The Bolzano recommendations of OSCE High Commissioner on National Mi- norities made in June 2008 sum up the essence in a tangible manner: “States should co-operate across international frontiers within the framework of friendly bilateral and mul- tilateral relations and on a territorial rather than an ethnic basis. Transfrontier co-operation between local and regional authorities and minority self-governments can contribute to tol- erance and prosperity, strengthen inter-State relations and encourage dialogue on minority issues.” The 2006 regulation on European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC) was seen as a new opportunity by the President. Some of the benefits: From 2008-2009 territorial cooperation may take all possible forms under the frameworks of the EGTC: cross border, trans-national and inter-regional cooperation. The EGTC is a legal entity; the first legal instrument at Community level affecting a number of member states in a way that, as a re- sult, their internal relations are not regulated by international law, but by EU law; the wider circle of potential members includes the autonomous bodies of many member states; it en- sures equal and democratic representation for all members. Practical benefits: The EGTC may lobby in the EU; act as a European actor in regional and cohesion policy making; may take multiple organisational forms; may provide the framework for the implementation of long-term, joint strategic developments. Possible EGTC models: regional cooperation programmes, co-funded projects, other EU-supported cooperation, and cooperation implemented using non-EU support. At present there is one operating EGTC in Hungary: Ister-Granum. Planned EGTCs: Banat- Triplex Confinium – in the Hungarian-Romanian-Serbian triad border region. Gömör/Ge- mer - Nógrád-Borsod county and neighbouring Slovakian regions. The region of Sziget- köz-Zitny Ostrov – Győr-Mosonmagyaróvár-Bős-Dunaszerdahely. Ung-Tisza-Túr – the Hungarian-Slovakian-Ukrainian triad border region.

Péter Udvardi, manager of Ister-Granum (Danube-Garam) EGTC, briefly described the organisation whose seat is located in Esztergom-Párkány (Sturovo). He said that there are about 200 thousand people living over an area of app. 2000 square kilometres. The Slova- kian part is more rural while the Hungarian side is more industrialised. The most important


physical link between the two regions is the Maria Valeria Bridge built in 2001. Preambles: In 2000 Esztergom and the Nyergesújfalu Micro-Regional Regional Devel- opment Partnership, the Párkány Southern Region and Tokod and Tokodaltáró entered into a cooperation agreement. The cooperation was later joined by many dozens of other communities and has been operating as an official and institutionalised Euroregion since 17 November 2003. Its organisational structure was finalised in 2004. The Hungarian com- munities are united by the Ister-Granum Local Government Partnership, while the Slova- kian communities are part of the Southern Region Local Government Partnership. The two partnerships are linked via a cooperation agreement. In September 2005, the region presented its development strategy in the European Parliament and implementation was begun in 2006. The sum of grants won for the devel- opment of the Euroregion totals nearly three million Euros. The communities cooperate mainly in the areas of culture, transport development (the construction of two bridges across the River Ipoly) and healthcare. The micro-region would like to implement investments in a total value of EUR 30 million in the 2007-2013 EU budget period. The fourteen projects include the construction of a regional wine route and the establishment of a regional tourist information system and the integration of healthcare and disaster prevention. The Ister-Granum Euroregion Development Agency Pbc. was first set up in the building of the city hall. When the local government purchased the former Synagogue, the institu- tion moved over there. In January 2008, the centre of the region moved into the old royal county house. 2009. On 14th May 2009, the general meeting convened in Párkány voted for the dis- solution of the region because the Euroregion status was being replaced by the EGTC (European Grouping for Territorial Cooperation) of the same name (being the second such organisation in Europe), which would allow for much closer cooperation, and now under the new legal status, the partnership could maintain institutions. The governing body of the region is the General Assembly. Its members include the mayors of the communities each having equal voting rights independent of the size of the settlement they represent. The work of the General Assembly is prepared by the special commissions and the proposals of the presidency which the General Assembly passes the final decision on. The body convenes on the first Wednesday of every second month in Esztergom. There are eight technical committees set up to promote the development plan of the Euroregion. The members include experts, with a thorough understanding of the country, who are in one way or another connected to the Euroregion either by descent or their ca- reer and hence have direct knowledge of the region and are keen to participate in working out future visions. The committee presidents include four Slovakian and four Hungarian mayors who reg- ularly report to the General Assembly on the work of the committee. The members of the


special commissions are not members of the body yet they may often participate in the General Assembly as invited guests with proposals on a particular subject. The greatest progress since the region was called to life has been achieved in the field of healthcare. The main regional hospital is the Esztergom Vaszary Kolos Hospital. Since the nearest hospital on the Slovakian side is in Érsekújvár, the Esztergom hospital employs quite a lot of Slovakian nurses and also receives patients from Slovakian communities. In 2004, the region established its own wine order, the Vinum Ister-Granum Regionis Wine Knight Order. In 2007, the Párkány local television and the Esztergom Television lay down the foundations for a regional television channel. The Ister-Granum EGTC at present is expecting to win EU support for two tourism and one energy efficiency grant proposals it has recently submitted.

Susanne Reichrath, State Secretary of the government of Saarland talked about the SaarLorLux Region. This is a real Greater Region in Europe encompassing the German Saarland, and the Rhineland-Palatinate, the French Lorraine, Luxemburg, and Wallonia of Belgium. There are 11 million people living across 64 thousand square kilometres in this Greater Region comprising areas from four countries. The birth of the Euroregion goes back to 1969 thanks to a German-French initiative. Cross border cooperation here started exactly four decades ago between developed regions. Today the outcomes of develop- ment are tangible and spectacular. Each day 170 thousand people cross the border on their way to work. Cross border labour market of this magnitude is unique in the whole of Europe. Given the intensive relations and the maintenance of close contacts, it is taken for granted that people speak three languages: German, French and Luxembourgish. Accord- ingly, minority issues are hardly known. Since elementary schools are bilingual, teacher exchanges are everyday things. Graduates from higher education are given a diploma of three countries when they graduate. In 2003 the regional development plan for the entire area was drawn up for a period up to 2020. The plan places emphasis on subject matters such as European identity and lifestyle, and the idea that the region wishes to become a model for other European regions. All this requires a suitable institutional structure. In the Interregional Parliamentary Council for example, the MPs from all the relevant jurisdictions are invited. The leaders of the five regions meet every five years at a summit meeting. Here they decide on the most diverse cross border developments that help make the areas of the four countries ever more integrated.

László Hovanyecz


Prime Minister’s Office, Budapest 2010

Prime Minister’s Office, Budapest 2010