Review of the EGTC Regulation: Interview with Alberto Núñez Feijoo

Publicated on: April 29, 2010

Review of the EGTC Regulation: Interview with Alberto Núñez Feijoo, rapporteur for the CoR opinion

31.03.2010 - Galicia has numerous ties with northern Portugal and a strong tradition of cross-border cooperation, which were further boosted by the creation of a European Grouping for Territorial Cooperation (EGTC) in late 2008. So it comes as no surprise that Alberto Núńez Feijoo, President of the Autonomous Community of Galicia (EPP), has been appointed rapporteur for the own-initiative opinion on EGTC - New prospects for reviewing the Regulation.

The EGTC is a legal instrument that facilitates and promotes cross-border, trans-national and inter-regional cooperation, and also enables the regional and local authorities of different Member States to provide joint services.

In 2008, Galicia set up an EGTC with northern Portugal. How will you bring your local experience to bear on the opinion?

Links between Galicia and Northern Portugal have been enriched through the Working Community we have been running since 1991, under the Council of Europe Framework Convention of 1980. But these two regions also share a common heritage, even though they belong to two of the longest-standing nation-states in Europe which have often ignored each other for lengthy periods. Relations between Galicia and Northern Portugal are now more than just those of neighbours across a common border. Modern-day Portuguese-Galician cooperation rests on a social and cultural foundation, which has been strengthened by European integration in the political and economic sphere. Our experience can show other regions of the EU that Europe's contemporary history of fragmentation and confrontation underlies Europe's decline compared to other global players. If we want Europe to be restored to its relative place in the world, then in addition to adapting its institutions, we must reinforce its base: and for that, there is nothing better than renewed mutual support between its regions.

What are the main proposals contained in the opinion you will be presenting?

We felt we should use an empirical method of analysis, subject to criticism and comparison. A significant majority of European political actors agree that it is vital to bring the EU closer to its citizens, to make the way the Union works more democratic and give greater visibility to the progress achieved by European integration within local communities: so, we must equip ourselves with the tools to achieve these goals. The EGTC certainly looks like the ideal structure for doing this – but the fact is that since 2007 only very few EGTCs have been set up. Something is missing.

As we see it, Europe possesses a solid State-based institutional structure – a complex but robust framework. But the connections binding the whole edifice together need to be strengthened, so that its inhabitants – Europe's citizens – can use the common areas to their advantage, where they can meet naturally to cooperate, exploit economies of scale and feel part of a great historic venture that underpins our peace, prosperity and well-being. Putting sub-national cooperation onto an official footing is crucial if Europeans are to see themselves as such in their day-to-day life. By sharing grassroots public services, social amenities and tangible common projects the structure as a whole will also gain in robustness and effectiveness. In brief, the Union has to be more of a civic community and less of an international conference.

How do you expect that this opinion will affect your region in the future?

The opinion will have a clearly European focus. Galicia is emblematic of Europe. We are a border community, straddling two ancient nations that built up opposing empires. We have our own language, which is closely related to both Spanish and Portuguese, two of the most widely-spoken languages across the world and which are expanding, thanks to the demographic impetus of Latin America and Africa. In turn, many of Europe's vital pathways converge in Galicia. The Santiago pilgrim route – the Jakobsweg that for Goethe, was the first step towards building Europe – is there to remind us in this Holy Year that the pilgrimage to Santiago from Scandinavia, Poland, Germany, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Italy and Portugal was the most genuine pan-European popular movement, and that this is the right moment to relive that experience.

If we succeed in improving the EGTC as an institution so that it becomes the natural instrument for official cooperation between Europe's communities, then we will also succeed in planting the seeds for real, smaller-scale European unions to flourish. I am convinced that our example, alongside that of Franco-German reconciliation, can spur Europe to embark on a genuine shared undertaking. This is something we need more than ever, as the newly-emerging countries loom large over us in all areas of international life. Ultimately, Europe's progress is our progress.