November 17, 2017

Cross-Border Functional Regions: Perspectives from Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scandinavia

The panel for the afternoon’s discussion

The Centre for Cross Border Studies, the Sweden-Norway INTERREG Programme and the SEUPB organised a visit by a delegation of close to 30 local and regional politicians from the Norway-Sweden border region. As part of the programme the Swedish and Norwegian representatives took part in a policy seminar and discussion in Armagh’s Market Place Theatre on Thursday the 16th of November on the future of cross-border cooperation (post-2020/post-Brexit). The event brought together international and local experts on cross-border cooperation, as well as a range of policy-makers and local government representatives from both jurisdictions on the island of Ireland to discuss and exchange views on the issues facing their border regions.

The seminar was officially opened with words of welcome and an exchange of gifts from the Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon, Alderman Gareth Wilson and the visiting delegation. Deputy Director of the Centre for Cross Border Studies, Dr Anthony Soares, in his role as moderator for the day’s discussions introduced the first speaker of the packed agenda. Professor Eduardo Medeiros, from the University of Lisbon, set out in his presentation how a functional territory could be understood, giving examples throughout Europe and beyond, and the challenges and opportunities to seeing cross-border regions as functional territories.

The rest of the morning session was dedicated to expanding on Professor Medeiros’s overview with further presentations from Martin Guillermo Ramirez, General Secretary of the Association of European Border Regions (AEBR), Garry Martin, Head of Finance and Director of Emergency Services & Information Systems, Donegal County Council, and Professor Bjørnar Sæther, of the Eastern Norway Research Institute. Among the topics discussed in these presentations were: the role of the INTERREG programmes in supporting cross-border cooperation and maintaining relationships in border regions and between regions across the EU; the importance of people-to-people cross-border projects and of a bottom-up approach to European cohesion with investment from the top; the support of governments in creating a more cohesive city region in the North West of the island of Ireland and the use of EU funding to overcome perceptions of the North West’s peripherality; and the need to consider the “soft functionality” of border regions in terms of their spatially-related cross-border human activities. A lively question and answer session concluded the morning’s seminar.

The afternoon began with an exchange of gifts between the visiting delegation and the Chairs of the East Border Region (EBR), the Irish Central Border Area Network (ICBAN), and a political representative from the North West region, as well as the Centre for Cross Border Studies and SEUPB, joint hosts of the study trip. CCBS Deputy Director, Anthony Soares, opened the afternoon’s session dedicated to “Cross border cooperation between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland – past, present and future”. The SEUPB’s Chief Executive, Gina McIntyre, began the session with a presentation gave on how the EU’s INTERREG A and PEACE programmes had been used in the border regions, giving examples of how past and current projects have developed cross-border cooperation between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and outlining future possibilities. The issue of cross-border cooperation’s use of EU funding continued in the presentations by Pamela Arthurs, Chief Executive of EBR, and Shane Campbell, Chief Executive of ICBAN. The last presentation of the afternoon was by CCBS Director Ruth Taillon who gave a brief background of the Northern Ireland/Ireland border before explaining the challenges which the border regions could now be facing in the upcoming months and post-Brexit. A lengthy and intense discussion then took place between the panel of the afternoon’s speaker’s and the packed audience. The successful event was concluded by moderator Anthony Soares.     




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