The speakers and attendees highlight the leadership of local agents in the integration of the territory, and claim a leading role. They also call for an administrative framework that facilitates cross-border cooperation.
Last Wednesday, March 9, the seminar "Is the Eurodistrict possible today?" The objective of this meeting, organized by the Delegation in the Empordà of the Catalonia Europe Foundation and the University of Girona, was to reflect and discuss the necessity or validity of this failed project, almost ten years after the beginning of its drafting. The speakers and attendees highlighted the leadership of the municipalities in the integration of the territory, and claimed a leading role. They also called for an administrative framework that facilitates cross-border cooperation.
The event, held at the Museum-Exile Memorial in La Jonquera, began with the words of welcome from the mayor of the municipality, Sonia Martinez, who reflected on the need to move forward to achieve a space free of the border effect. Martinez said that the establishment of an organization such as the Eurodistricte could make this possible. The delegate of the Foundation, Joan Armangué, thanked the mayor and those present for their attendance, and introduced the speakers.
Mita Castañer, professor of geography at the University of Girona, began the presentation, affirming that ten years ago in Ceret the journey that should culminate with the establishment of the Eurodistrict began. This, in his opinion, showed the need to advance in the governance of a space with common processes. Castañer, however, pointed to the lack of leadership of the actors, when it comes to recovering the project. He said that the big cities of space, such as Perpignan, Figueres and Girona, should assume a more active role in the whole process, rethinking the territory. On the other hand, he recommended reinforcing the relations between the east and west ends of the territory - from the mountain to the sea -, advancing in the strategies of competitiveness and cooperation of the agents of the territory. Local actors should lead this recovery process of the cross-border cooperation body.
For his part, Josep Puigbert, director of the House of the Generalitat in Perpignan, said that progress has been made in border integration. Puigbert acknowledged, however, to continue reinforcing it. The project, he said, has often stumbled along, being too linked to personalities. The administrative context and the difficulty of infrastructures are other factors that hinder progress. Given these challenges, the director of the Casa de la Generalitat demanded a strategic vision in the management of the territory, which takes into account the social agents. Social agents are mobilized, and higher institutions must be involved in achieving a cross-border administrative framework.
During the debate after the interventions, attendees said that local agents have worked to integrate the territory, although a structure such as the Eurodistrict has not been approved. This has been, above all, the case of the mayors of the small municipalities. Despite the difficulties, the Consistories have been able to promote shared strategies and projects.
On the other hand, many of the attendees agreed that we must work on areas such as culture, territorial and landscape management, language or economic development. And it is that, as Josep Anguera, delegate of the rector of the UdG for cross-border relations, concluded: "The Eurodistrict is not essential, but very necessary".