Grasshopper no 3, Summer '94
In the 1960's, Western European states were already thinking up so-called "Euro-regions". Since then, the results of these endeavours have been favourable, although they have not proved to be a miracle cure against all ills. Last year, Poland ratified the Madrid Convention on cross-border co-operation. The development of such co-operation is the responsibility of local authorities and territorial executives, exercising the competencies granted them by their relevant state as the Convention clearly stipulates.
On the topic of cross-border co-operation between Poland and its closest neighbours, Barbara Olszewska spoke with the head of the Department for Cross-Border Co-operation in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bogdan Wrzochalski:
In Poland there are currently two inter-regional structures which use the name "Euro-regions". In addition, there is an association of local communities in Upper Silesia and Northern Moravia which will soon be transformed into the Silesia-Moravian Euro-region. Will this possibly bring about an overcoming of the prejudice which results from past history, as well as eliminate economic divisions, or will they perhaps become a dangerous bridge for the political unification of Europe?
Before I try to answer the question, let me present my personal thoughts on the matter. I had the opportunity to speak with our partners, our neighbours, about Euro-region affairs. In generally presenting our political philosophy about cross-border and inter-regional co-operation, I said that it is rather difficult to imagine the concept of a Euro-region, both theoretically and practically, without the idea of a law-abiding state and democracy. From this follows the conclusion that this kind of concept could come about only after 1989. This, of course, holds true as much for Poland as for our neighbours. But the idea of Euro-regions is not specific to communist states, since various Western European philosophers have shown the role and the function of Euro-region co-operation, towards a united Europe. On our part, it was a largely spontaneous idea, because it was about local administration. That spontaneity, however, had to be approved by the central authorities. The kind of policies local authorities adopt with regard to their foreign partners is not a trivial matter. Take for example the Carpathian Euro-region, which was just such an inter-regional association of several partners, including not only Poland, but also Slovakia, Ukraine, and Hungary. This is a very typical example, which became a source of extremely tumultuous political discussion revealing that the question of Euro-regions is one of the cleavages separating the Left from the Right. This is something of a misunderstanding, though, because a partisan, whether of the Left or the Right, can take national values into consideration and at the same time see the wisdom of the European idea, of practical advantages, and of another European Order.
The Carpathian Region is not the only one; others also exist. Who created those?
Administrative and local authorities created them. For example, the "Pro Europa Viadrina" Region was set up by Polish local communities and the relevant German administrative units. There is also a "Nisa" region, which includes not only the bordering German partner, but also the Czech one. Of course, one can ask how this co-operation manifests itself on a practical level. My answer is still not so enthusiastic, considering the possibilities. This is quite a complex problem.
Cross-border, that is to say Euro-region, co-operation brings about many contradictions. What kinds of differences exist between co-operation within the realm of Euro-regions, and co-operation in general amongst states?
The basis of the idea of Euro-regions is the premise that territorially-defined links are created. Usually, certain principles of co-operation are defined, which are the result of particular interests of the relevant Euro-regions. And in this respect, local authorities, who best know what they themselves most need, can best orient themselves. In fact, up to now, this has not been done because local needs have not been taken into consideration.
There are Euro-regions at the western border of Poland as well as at the southern border. What about the eastern border?
Poland has signed a few international contracts with republics of the former Soviet Union. Otherwise, one can talk of not insignificant levels of Euro-region co-operation. There is the concept of the "Bug" Euro-region which deals with co-operation between Polish voivodeships and the bordering regions in Belarus and Ukraine. Admittedly, however, this co-operation is not as spectacular as that along the Polish-Slovak border or the Polish-German. In this respect, there remains much to do.
If there are so many advantages related with this kind of co-operation, why, then, is it evolving so slowly?
I think that the expectations of the partners are varied, which is understandable. Furthermore, with respect to co-operation along the southern border, there are some problems of nationalities with our neighbouring states, and these states, of course, have reason to deal somewhat carefully with the situation, and not to want to pursue some forms of co-operation too hastily. We have to respect and understand this. Thankfully, we do not have these kinds of problems, except sporadically. For example, in the voivodeship of Przemyśl (south-eastern Poland) one can speak of the Ukrainian minority. But Polish Euro-region authorities are not frightened by such problems and thus hindrance to co-operation is avoided.
Of course, when discussing Euro-region co-operation, one must always remember the great possibilities of Esperanto contacts and Euro-region co-operation via Esperanto. These possibilities are especially remarkable, and they ought to be more widely used. We therefore gladly will deal with the question in our letterboxes, if our listeners send us their experiences, proposals, and suggestions related to this. Because through our broadcasts and amongst others, by transmission of good ideas of Esperanto co-operation in Europe, we want to contribute to the 35th anniversary of our broadcasts, which will take place on 4 April 1994. On the topic of regional co-operation, many have co-operated in this manner such as Finns and Russians in Carelia, Finns and Estonians, Finns and Swedes, Swedes and Danes, Germans and the Dutch, Dutch, Belgians and the French; probably Italians and Spaniards, though we do not have information about this; Italians and the French, and there certainly exist others, aside from that famous Alpine-Adriatic co-operation. We hope that soon we will be able to treat the topic of already-existing co-operation, as well as future prospects, in an interesting manner. So, do not hesitate! Describe and send your experiences to:
POLISH RADIO, Esperanto-Redakcio,
P.O. Box 46
PL-00-950 Warsaw, Poland, fax: +48-22/444-123
(27.1.94, reprint from: "Esperanto
el Pollando" n-ro 6/94
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