The EU is going to finance the implementation of regional projects in the border areas of Eastern Partnership countries.
These figures were presented at a conference on territorial cooperation, which took place on November 14 in Zhytomyr.
The conference revealed that most of the problems are common across all border areas and therefore need common solutions. “There are a lot of regional issues that could and should be handled through trans-border cooperation,” says Oleksiy Sekarev, programme director of the Eastern Partnership Territorial Cooperation Support Programme (EaPTC). “In addition to fighting the effects of the Chornobyl accident, these common challenges also include river pollution, management of common conservation areas, common management of mining, educational projects, employment issues, cultural exchange, etc.,” he adds.
This EU-funded initiative is special thanks to its double vector: it aims at boosting living conditions of citizens as well as at promoting cooperation between countries on the local level. According to Sekarev, the EU’s aim is to bring the neighbouring countries together and to make them think about cooperation instead of confrontation. Taking into account local practices and current experience of trans-border cooperation, the region is ready for this and needs the support that the EU offers.
Oleksandr Melnyk, the deputy head of the regional policy department of Ukraine’s Regional Development Ministry, argues that the EaPTC creates “a platform for solving regional problems, where the central role is to be played by the region and its habitants themselves.” Tetyana Derevyankina, the programme’s communication expert, shares this opinion. She says that the programme is unique precisely because it boosts the direct participation of the community in the project’s activities. The local nature of the initiatives allows the program to focus attention on issues that are important for the local communities but are neglected by the central authorities.
Projects initiated by civil society contribute to the establishment of a dialogue with the local self-governing bodies. “The kick-off and running of the projects by the NGOs plays a very important role in the development of civil society,” emphasises Lyubov Palyvoda, the programme expert. Participants “feel a responsibility for the success of common projects and are more ready to control the activity of the self-governing bodies,” she says.
Two factors are crucial for getting a grant to run the project: direct benefit to citizens and clear trans-border effects (i.e. the project must be useful on both sides of the border). As a result, such initiatives will not only improve living conditions and contribute to the economic development of the border areas, but will also strengthen the bilateral relations between countries.
Territorial cooperation programmes open the possibility for the Eastern Partnership countries to define and solve common problems in the border areas. By so doing, they ensure sustainable economic and social development on the local level. The Eastern Partnership Territorial Cooperation Support Programme (EaPTC) encompasses four regional trans-border programmes: Azerbaijan – Georgia, Armenia – Georgia, Belarus – Ukraine, and Moldova – Ukraine. The EaPTC aims at enhancing the potential of local and regional state bodies and civil society organisations and gives them new possibilities for financing the implementation of common economically and socially important projects.