Jeunes Européens-Lille International Seminar 2016: Cross-Border Cooperation

Lille- Ferriswheel   “Lille Ferris Wheel” by Maëlick licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0


Jeunes Européens- Lille works to create conferences and events which bring together all members and volunteers of the organization with the goal of working together to foster awareness of what it means to be a citizen of the European Union. This year’s seminar theme will focus on cross-border cooperation.

Taking place from March 10th- 13th, the seminar will bring together close to a hundred young europeans from different countries (such as France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain) in order to discuss the importance of cross-border cooperation. The seminar’s program will give it’s participants the tools to organize similar projects in their local environments in the hopes of raising awareness on the importance of working closely with others to merge communication and activism across european borders.

Sign up now and come join us! Click here to register. 


10591046145_6ce0608cc4_zNordiska radets session by News Oresund licensed under CC BY 2.0

In the 1990’s, the European Union created a program focused on cooperation between nations within Europe, funded by the European Regional Development Fund. The program known as Interreg works to foster productive cross-border communication as well as bring citizens of the EU together through projects and conferences with the goal of developing and exchanging productive trans-frontal practices.

Within the first few years, the program quickly expanded and has now created five phases of projects during its time. The phases promote the integration of policies on various local and national levels, but are all directed towards cross-border cooperation. These different phases have come to be known as Interreg I through V. Each phase contains three sectors: cross-border cooperation, transnational cooperation, and interregional cooperation, meant to target all important aspects of collaboration in Euope. The fifth and most recent phase, which began in 2014 and is planned to extend into 2020, will include close to 100 different projects spanning all 28 EU Member States as well as neighboring countries. 

The organization strives to decrease the amount of tension created by physical borders which keep local regions and nations from working together as efficiently as possible. The program is geared towards improving communication and practices in regions who, due to their geographic locations, are economically reliant on the presence of the border. Over time the goals of the program have shifted slightly to advocate for easier movement of goods, services, and people across borders, through smaller Interreg projects geared towards cross-border cooperation within that specific area. These smaller scale projects have become even more efficient between bordering non-EU member regions.

As part of this years International seminar on cross-border cooperation we plan to look at what Interreg has done to foster interregional, transnational, and cross-border bonds. We’ll discuss why the program is unknown to the majority of european citizens, and how these practices can be actively spread beyond one country’s borders, throughout all of Europe.

To get more information on what Interreg is doing now, visit their website at http://www.interregeurope.eu/about-us/ .

Guest speakers

Philippe Cayla is President and founder of the organization Européens Sans Frontières (Europeans without borders). He started Européens Sans Frontières in 2011, focusing mainly on positively advocating for a more inclusive european identity and citizenship. He was able to recruit a number of different people both from political, economic, and journalistic backgrounds to join in his initiative.

Cayla has spent his career in government administration as well as working with several audiovisual news outlets over the past thirty years. Cayla worked as Director of International Development at France Television from 2000-2003. In 2003 he was appointed president of Euronews, an audiovisual media outlet source based in Lyon, France, that focuses on multilingual reporting of current events in Europe.

Doris Pack is a German politician originally from Schiffweiler, Germany. She has worked in several government run organizations fostering cooperation between Nations, starting out originally in the field of education working as a primary teacher for nine years before working for the Saarland Ministry of Education.

Pack is President of Women for the European People’s Party, a former member of the European Parliament for Germany, chair of the European Parliament Committee on Culture and Education, and chair of the Franco-German foundation for cultural cooperation. She has also worked as a member of the Western European Union and is on the advisory board for A Soul for Europe, an organization which works to bring people and organizations together through the promotion of european culture.

Bernard Reitel is a professor of geography at University of Artois in Arras, France, situated in the region of Nord-Pas de Calais. His research focuses mainly on geo-politics, urban geography, and the geographic history of cities, looking more closely at the functionality of borders and how cities bordering other countries coexist alongside their neighbors. His more recent research has been pinpointing how a city’s geographic arrangement affects cooperation and communication within its own city as well as with neighboring cities across borders.

Reitel has worked on a number of research projects analyzing cross-border functionality and cooperation: In the past he worked as part of Identités des territoires frontaliers en France, and research project geared towards researching identity within cross-border agglomerations. Cross-border polycentric metropolitan regions- Metroborder a project meant to observe how the economic and political dynamic of cross-border metropolitan cities affects integration and productivity.  And more recently from 2010 to 2012 he was part of Cross-border metropolitan governance in Europe: a network analysis approach which focused on studying the productivity of the four regions Basel, Lille, Luxembourg, and Vienna-Bratislava via their social networks.

Jean Peyrony works mostly in public administration within France and is the current general director of Mission Opérationnelle Transfrontalière (MOT). He formerly worked for the European Commission in the department of regional and urban policy and as the director of development for MOT before becoming general director. Peyrony was an Interreg IV member between 2007-2013 working to strengthen cooperation methods between the 27 member states of the EU at the time as well as neighboring countries.

MOT was created in 1997 by the french government in order to advocate for and help project logistics between cross-bordering territories. The organization works with smaller programs at local, regional, and national levels to facilitate easier communication and offer guidance before and during the actualization of these projects. Through their efforts, MOT hopes to improve cross-border cooperation as well as local communication between citizens.

Gilles Pargneaux is a french politician from Harcigny in the northern Picardy region of France. He is a member of the European Parliament and a party leader for the ‘Parti Socialiste’ federation of Lille. Since 2014 Pargneaux has served as vice-chair for the Committee on the Environment, Public Health, and Food Safety, a council of the European Parliament.

Pargneaux is a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean, an organization which brings together all countries along the mediterranean to work together in the hopes of fostering better cooperation on political, social, environmental, and economic grounds. He is also involved in and is a strong advocate for cooperative affairs and better communication between the EU and Morocco. He also serves as President for the European Parliament’s ‘Friends of Morocco’ organization.



Examples of cooperation

Cross-border cooperation: As seen in the media

” ‘Cross-border cooperation plays a key role in avoiding the creation of new dividing lines,’ “ states Johannes Hahn commissioner for European neighborhood policy when commenting on the EU’s new spending budget for cross-border projects.

The EU will budget close to $1bn for new cross-border sustainability and cooperation projects, stated Public Finance International . The funding will be primarily directed at social and economic support programs for both internal borders within the EU and external bordering countries. The goal of these programs is to “work to reduce differences in living standards and address common challenges along external borders, working in 27 countries including Georgia, Ukraine, Jordan, Israel and Palestine as well as EU member states located along borders.”

The EU budget will be used for a number of different projects ranging from cultural to environmental programs. Projects such as the Romanian-Ukraine “Clean River project” are being selected in order to preserve the ecological integrity of bordering countries and to “[enhance] cooperation in the prevention of man-made disasters.”

Another Cross-Frontier group which represents both Spanish and Gibraltar employers is working on the promotion of stronger cross-border economic cooperation between the two countries. With the strong belief that cross-border cooperation will only flourish when “shielded from politics”, the group plans to create a new organization called the European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation, known as EGTC. The EGTC, if and when set up will be able to use funds and other resources already established by the EU for cross-border cooperation ventures.

As the Gibraltar Chronicle  describes, “The aim of an EGTC is to facilitate cross-border, transnational or interregional cooperation in the EU, allowing regional and local authorities and other public undertakings from different member countries to set up groupings with a legal personality to deliver joint services.” The organization commented positively on the enhancements in infrastructure between the two countries, but negatively viewed any sparse advancements in the human resources sector. At the center of the issue is how people work with each other and how communication is handled on either side of the border. Once put in place the EGTC would have access to the proper materials to address and resolve these problems as well as create more programs to promote collaboration on both sides.

Lille, France

Lille-Main Square Lille, France by Tobias Van Der Elst 

A little history 


Photo by Sarah Stierch

Lille, France has been chosen as home to our annual 2016 international seminar due to it’s location situated right on the border of France and Belgium in the french region of Nord Pas-de-Calais. Lille holds about 220 000 inhabitants and is the central city and main hub of Lille Métropole, which is considered the fifth largest urban metropolis in France.

The city of Lille was historically under Flemish, Burgundian, Spanish and French control but ultimately became french territory in 1667 when the “Sun King” Louis XIV led his troops into the region and took control from the Spanish. At the beginning of the 1970s Lille Métropole extended its lines to welcome in cities and suburban areas such as Roubaix, Villeneuve d’Ascq and Tourcoing, creating a larger and more integrated city and ultimately putting them on the map as one of France’s largest metropolises.

Lille- City Streets 2                          Photo by gia_s
Lille-Opera House “Lille Opera House and Chamber of Commerce Tower” by Daxis

The city which up until this point had relied primarily on its coal mining and textile manufacturing industries switched gears and opened itself up to the service industry, which still accounts for the majority of employment today. The town first introduced their highly efficient transit system known as VAL in the early 1980’s, making movement around the city run fast and smooth. In 1993 Lille was connected to Paris by the implementation of a high speed TVG line making the trip from one city to the other even more accessible than before. This helped opened Lille up to it’s now flourishing tourism industry.

Lille-Graffiti Photo by Andy Blackledge

In 2004 Lille earned the title of “City of Art and History” for its overwhelming rich european history as well as it’s incredibly large cultural relevance in France.  Since then, tourism has boomed in Lille, and more and more people come each year to check out the historical monuments as well as the flemish “old town” and the wonderful fine arts museums the city has to offer. Lille also has a growing student population and night life thanks to the University of Lille and many other institution in the area.

Lille-Old Town  “Vieux Lille” by Maëlick

Why we chose Lille

Due to it’s location on the French-Belgian border, all participants will have the opportunity to debate the importance of cross-border cooperation while being actively engaged in a cosmopolitan city that deals with the subject directly. Lille gives us the perfect backdrop for looking at cross-border cooperation close up, then helping us understand the concept in broader terms across Europe.

We will focus primarily on the Interreg France-Wallonie-Vlaanderen program, which works to foster cooperation and good practices between the bordering regions of Nord Pas-de-Calais, Picardy, and Champagne-Ardenne in France, and Flanders and Wallonia in Belgium.  During the seminar we will discuss the importance of Interreg’s programs as well as have the chance to talk with professionals who work in cross-border cooperation about their projects and experiences in the field.

Lille-People by fountain                       “Braderie de Lille”  by gamy
Lille-Architecture“Architecture du Nord” by jujuly25

All photos licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

What is Cross-Border Cooperation?

The movement now coined cross-border cooperation was first established in the 1950’s in the regions of western Europe between countries such as France, Germany, and Belgium. The goal was for authorities from different countries to come together on local and regional levels to foster productive working alliances which could then translate into productive relationships with neighboring countries. To achieve cross-border cooperation, countries must work with an international mindset at both the local and regional level to further develop their own country’s communication practices before expanding to partner with each other.

Cross-border cooperation works to reinforce strong communication and understanding between countries with the goal of working together to improve economic, social, environmental, and political  development. Since the 1990’s the European Union has worked to create programs across Europe (Interreg) focused on breaking down barriers between countries and fostering good relationships and work ethics between citizens of bordering countries.

To build the foundation for cross-border cooperation an important part of the process is research within bordering countries. Research is conducted on the historical, social, economic, environmental, and political background of a country, to better understand the country’s past as well as how the country functions in today’s world. It is important to understand how a country has worked together in the past in order to understand the potential that countries have to being partners moving forward. Research based work is a very important step in assessing how to foster better communication practices within the EU.

Cross-border cooperation stems from the desire for countries physically co-existing next to each other to learn how to productively work together. The notion of being physically divided by a border can create tension between countries, lessening the desire to interact and work together. Through learning about our neighbors, not only do we learn about the social barriers that borders create in today’s world, but we learn how the political, cultural, linguistic, and natural differences of bordering countries can be used to enrich understanding as well as better our communication abilities between borders.

Cross-border cooperation has the potential to introduce inclusive partnerships between nations within Europe with the goal of strengthening each other.


Current events in cross-border cooperation

Collaboration in the Environment 

France and Germany have recently come together to focus on energy management through shared methods of sustainable energy use, affordable energy policies, and innovative technology to minimize Europe’s energy consumption.

Read full article…

 Collaboration in the Arts

After a long debate over what should be done with two historically esteemed paintings, France and the Netherlands have finally come together. While the fate of the two Rembrandt masterpieces hung in the air with the potential to be sold outside of Europe all together, both presidents of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and of the Louvre in Paris found a solution which in the end, brought their two countries together in what has been coined a new era of cooperation between nations.

Read full article…


More articles and videos coming soon…!