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Natural Region


There are many descriptions of the organisation and development of the EU. You can read about the Commission, the Council of Ministers, the EU-parliament and the development since the Rome treaty in 1957. Until now people have not been very interested in the regional policy of the EU, although it has gained greater importance lately.

European Regional Policy
Almost everywhere in the on border areas of Europe they try to overcome the obstacles that national borders always have created. The goal is to create an integrated business life and an integrated labour market with out removing the differences in culture and standards. These efforts created conflicts of interest between the regions on the one side and the national governments on the other. In the Sound region it is the regionally elected politicians in eastern Denmark and Scania, which are behind the attempts to create cooperation and new development possibilities across the Danish-Swedish border in the Sound.
Interreg regioner
Interreg regioner

The Beginning of the European Cooperation, 1948
The fight for an increased regional independence actually started immediately after the Second World War, when the governments started to realize that cooperation was the best way to avoid new wars in Europe. If you could weave together the economies of the European countries, nobody would choose war as a solution to conflicts.
The new development was started with the formation of the Organisation for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC) in 1948. The next year the European Council was founded, a superior authority for European cooperation.
In 1951 the Coal and Steel Union was founded, which later (1957) developed into the European Community (The EU of our time). The Nordic Council and EFTA was also founded in the 1950´s. All these cooperation organisations had the same goal: A future peaceful co-existence through economical, political and cultural cooperation.
The cooperation have in fact been so successful that the national states´ authority within their own borders have been exposed to pressure from regional authorities and border areas, which want en increased independence. When you talk of the future of Europe the concept ”the Regions of Europe, must be seen in this perspective.

The Birth of the European Regional Policy, 1957
The OEEC, as well as the European Council, The Nordic Council and EFTA were so-called inter-state cooperative organs, where unanimity was demanded in the decisions. It was another matter when it came to the Coal and Steel Union, the later EU. Here the cooperation to a great extent was marked by federal ideas, which originally had been inspired by France, West Germany, Italy and the Benelux-countries. Here was a vision of the future European United States, which appears of the Rome-treaty, which has been the foundation stone in the cooperation since 1957.
Exactly because of the extensive union ideas in the Rome-treaty the six countries could not get more European states to join the cooperation. However, in 1957 they made the European Council to form a Municipal Congress, where popularly elected, regional and local, politicians could meet to discuss common problems and solutions for the economic development of the regions. The strategy of the six EU countries was simply to get ”a Trojan Horse” into the countries outside the EU, through the mobilising of ”sub-national” authorities.
In the Municipal Congress a region could discover that a neighbouring region, which lay on the other side of a national border and perhaps had the same goals and wishes for this development, did not gain a hearing for their plans or sufficient financial support form its national government. In other words: The Municipal Congress was the mutual birthplace of the European regional policy.

The Sound Council Is Formed, 1963
The forming of the Sound Council in 1963, a forerunner of the Sound Committee must be seen in the light of this. Here sat 30 regional politicians form the Copenhagen area and Scania and discussed among other things the design and placing of the a fixed Sound connection and other planning questions.
It was probably due to the Sound council that they in the 60´s and 70´s stuck to the idea of a Sound connection between Malmø and Copenhagen as a part of the Danish development plans for a ”Ørestad” in Amager and of a new large airport in Saltholm.
If the question had become a Danish and Swedish government matter, it had probably resulted in a connection between Helsingborg-Elsinore, which would have shortened the distance between Stockholm and Copenhagen and had been much cheaper to build because of the short distance in the north Sound.
The Vision of 1963
The Vision of 1963
Fixed Connection
Fixed Connection

The Convention of the European Council of Regional Independence
In 1966 the Municipal Congress presented a proposal for at treaty, which contained common rules and norms for the right to a regional independence in the areas of infrastructure, the localization of housing and business, welfare policy and more. The problems in the border regions were used as an argument to force the national states to delegate parts of its decision right to the regional level. The parliamentary assembly of the European Council, which consists of politicians, which also sit in their respective national parliaments, did not pass the proposal, but agreed to start an inspection of the special problems of the border regions.

The European Border Regions Organize Themselves
The inspections of the European Council did not lead to any new initiatives. In 1971 ten European border regions therefore formed their own organization (AEBR). It consisted of the French/German border regions around the Rhine and the Dutch/German Euregio-region between Enschede (NL) and Gronau (D). The Organization had from the beginning observation status in the Municipal Congress. Later the organization played an important part when the content of the Interreg-programme of the EU´s border regional cooperation was to be worked out in 1990.

.The EU: The Number of Members Increases
The EU: The Number of Members Increases
The Oil crises and economic stagnation of the 1970´s had consequences for the beginnings of the regional consciousness. The industrial society was in crisis and that hit hard in Copenhagen and Scania. Denmark had just joined the EU (with Great Britain and Ireland in 1973). This should have implied that the Folketing (Danish parliament) accepted an increased regional cooperation across the borders of the country, but that did not happen at all. Incidentally Sweden had chosen to stay outside the EU and lead an independent economic policy more or less unaffected by the EU.

The Nordic Convention of Cooperation 1977
The Nordic Council passed a convention in 1977, which opened up the possibilities of a regional cooperation agreement in the North. It also contained an agreement of a common Nordic labour market, a Nordic passport union and cultural and educational cooperation. But the convention on the whole just upheld the already existing practice between the Nordic countries. Real regional independence and cooperation across the Sound was not in the political programme in the 1970´s.
That it looked almost the same in the rest of Europe is evident from the European Council´s work for a regional self-government. The Municipal Congress had taken the initiative in 1966 and in 1971 some European border regions had organized themselves. But the European Council did not sanction a convention until 1980, which called on all members of the European Council to accept the right to regional self-government and transfrontier regional cooperation. However, the convention did not contain any obligations to transfer sovereignty from a national to a regional level. The convention was followed up in 1985 by a charter on the basic rights of regional autonomy. The charter was passed after pressure from the European border regional organisation (AEBR) and has the same status of the charter on human rights. The treaty contains fiancial support for transfrontier cooperation between the European regions. This was, by the way, the decision, which was the basis of the EU´s Interreg-programme from 1990.

A Breakthrough for the European Regional Policy 1983-1984
1983-84 marked in many ways a breakthrough for the integrations efforts of the EU. The European industrial giants organized themselves on the initiative of the managing director of the Volvo Group. P.G. Gyllenhammar. A lobby organisation was formed (European Round Table of Industrialists” (ERT), whose goal it was to establish a real European home market and thus improve the conditions of the industry to compete against Japan and the US. The means were, apart from a harmonisation of laws and rules, extensive investments in the European road and railway system, including fixed connections across the Sound and the Femern Belt. This revived the border regional cooperation in all of Europe and fueled the ideas of the regional development of the Sound and the argumentation for a fixed connection.
In January France took over, with the then President Francois Mitterand, the chairmanship of the EU. With the West German Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl the Rome-treaty’s idea of a European home market was re-introduced. The proposal was presented at the European Council´s meeting in Fontainebleau in June 1984.
This European market without any border related obstacles was soon to be called ”The Single Market”. At this time the EU-commission introduced its new growth-philosophy, ”The European Spatial Development Perspective” (ESDP), where the regions themselves have to generate their economic growth based on their own conditions. The regions themselves must head their own development plan and the structure fund support from the EU was done additional, i.e. the EU-support was not accessible until you had reached a 50% co-financing from the regional parties. This was to ensure that the structure fund means had to be used for activities and projects that had a full regional backing.

The EU-Parliament Becomes a Platform for the Border Regions, 1989
The EU Parliament became a battlefield for the border regions´ political projects from 1989. With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the prospects that many Eastern European countries now could apply for membership the EU had a new, large task. It was about countries where you could see latent conflicts, which was suppressed by the earlier Communist central government. The European Council now helped to protect the opportunities of democracy in Eastern Europe. Efficient border regions in the EU became demonstration models and good examples. Eastern European communities could be persuaded that their cultural identity and possible solidarity with communities on the other side of a national border not necessarily had to lead to a new national state risking violent conflicts and civil war.

The Interreg-Programme Is Established 1990
The Organisation for border regions (AEBR) argued successfully for the European Parliament to distribute 21 millions ECU (now EURO) form the structure fund to so-called ”Article 10”-projects, pilot projects in selected border regions. These ”Article 10” –projects were the forerunners of the first Interreg-Programme (1990-93).
The acceptance of the national states of the regions´ great importance to the European integrations process was mirrored in the Maastricht-Treaty in 1992. Now a Region Committee was established, which obtained status as a hearing instance for certain bills from the EU-Commission.
The Sound region did not figure in the ”Article 10”-projects and in the Iterreg I (1990-93). The discussions in different European assemblies about the regions´ key role i the integrations process of Europe, contributed to the understanding of Swedish and Danish MPs´ strong interest in the Sound region 1990. This engagement led to the big decision on the Sound Bridge, the Metro in Copenhagen, the City Tunnel in Malmø, and the beginning of the decision-making process for the connection across the Femern Belt.

The Sound Region Gets Its Own EU-Programme
In 1993 the Sound Committee was formed to replace the Sound Council. One of the first tasks of the new committee was to formulate the concrete content of a EU-programme for the region, attached to the structure funds (Interreg III A). The region had an advance promise of such a programme for the period 1994-99, including 13 millions ECU. The activity areas in the Interreg II-programme was: Education of regional experts in Sound integration, the development of industry and tourism, education cooperation, environment and sustainable development, infra structure, culture and media cooperation.
Totally 59 Interreg II A programmes started in the European border regions. The present Interreg III A-programme for the Sound region for the period 2000-2006 contains: The removal of administrative obstacles, a socially functioning region and the marketing of the whole region.
The Interreg-programmes have contributed to an explosively increasing number of cooperative organs in the Sound area, which cover many aspects of soicety life: The Øresund University, The Øresund Network, Medicon Valley Academy, The Øresund Science Region, IT Øresund, the H-H-Samarbetet, Info Business Øresund, Øresund Development, Øresund Environment, Øresundstid, Pilelandet and so on. The distribution of tasks between the many Sound organisations is no well defined and some organisations will probably not survive. That was the case with Infotek Øresund, which were the attempt of the libraries to gather all card indexes in one portal. There is still a lack of initiatives to form Sound based organs in important areas like tourism and regional planning-

Help From the Danish and Swedish Government
Good intentions, the will to cooperate and the Interreg Programmes does not automatically integrate the Sound area. If the Sound Area is to become realized, the people on both side of the Sound experience toe region as a whole, when it comes to studies, work and cultural life.
There are many obstacles to such a realization. Lack of information, rigid bureaucracy or differences in culture and mentality may be the reasons for such obstacles. There are also practical problems. Persons, who commute across the Sound to work of study, have to relate to tax systems, health care, the children´s schools, rules concerning company cars, workplace at home and so on. First of all this is a task for the governments to make it practically possible

The Barrier-Report 1999
The Danish and Swedish governments prepared a report in 1999, The Sound – ”a Region Becomes Reality”. The report had the following conception of the integration cooperation: ”The Sound region has unique possibilities to develop into a transfrontier, regional power centre in Northern Europe, with an international force of attraction of company establishments and investments. The development in the Sound region may, if it is handled right by all the participants, be of great value to the region and for all of Denmark and Sweden”.... ”The governments in Sweden and Denmark share the region´s enthusiasm and optimism of the future and are ready to contribute to the realizing of the vision.”
The report points to a number of proposals to speed up the Sound integration. These are initiatives in the labour market, the social area, tax politics, infra structure, business life, the building sector, environment issues, the education area and the cultural life.
Almost none of the proposals have led to practical political action. It is only the information sector; with for instance ”Øresund Direkt” and the information on Danish-Swedish tax condition, which have been developed. This is why there is dissatisfaction in the regional authorities of the Sound region, who turn against the governments´ lack of will to take on the responsibility to develop the cooperation across the Sound.
This regional dissatisfaction is not uncommon in the Europe of today. The regions´ fight for regional independence is still going on – as it has since the beginning of the 1950´s
The Barrier Report
The Barrier Report

©  Øresundstid 2009