The European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC): New Spaces and Contracts for European Integration?
The European Union is becoming one undivided continent, where territories are faced with borderless economic, social and environmental challenges while still being governed through traditional institutional boundaries. Integration raises the question of cohesion among different territories, and territorial cohesion is a new objective for the Union according to the Lisbon Treaty.
Cooperation between territories, beyond frontiers and across different institutional layers, is becoming crucial to provide multi-level governance to new functional regions. The European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC), a new legal and governance tool established by Regulation 1082/2006, was conceived as a substantial upgrade for this multi-level governance and “beyond-the-border” cooperation. Three years after its adoption, a number of EGTCs have been set up, and new ones are in the pipeline. Despite their early stage, these new ventures are generating interesting dynamics, revamping inter-institutional cross-border partnerships and establishing a new cooperation geography. However, promoting best practice partnerships would require a broader European policy.
This article considers possible institutional incentives such as the “contractualisation” of the cooperation between the European Commission and the EGTCs. These Groupings truly are new governance “contracts” of multilevel cross-border cooperation, which can become creative engines for local development and deeper European integration. This provides food for thought for the EU policy and budgetary package after 2013.