In first stages of the project preparation process project promoters and stakeholders need to define initial project design which will lead both of them through further steps developing the successful project.

Analysis and project development tools like SWOT, LFA, risk analysis are used for the quality improvement, to budgeting and cost and benefits calculation which will give internal and external understanding of the project to be decided upon community benefits and costs being a key criteria for the sustainable growing communities.

Project process tools, Oikos, 2012

Project process tools, Oikos, 2012

Based on external evaluation of projects (OECD DAC criteria or any other may be used) project promoters need to apply strategic and technical changes to the project draft in order to achieve better regional benefits, use gender and other social group’s opportunities and better fit community relevance. Only at this stage projects are ready enough to be further developed in terms of implementation, monitoring and evaluation processes for the final implementation of the project developed.

Project promoters are responsible to achieve motivation and participation in project design stage and not to lose motivation generated later in implementation stage. Project promoters need to understand that transparency is a key to quality and efficiency of the project even if the process of project preparation may take longer. Project promoters need to apply methodological tools to project design to understand relevance and feasibility of the projects and will need to work hard to develop sustainable projects.

Based on all these basic project management rules any project may be applied to requirements of any tender dossier that will force project partners to following specific requirements of each financial fund available. Delivering the proposal for the project by the dead line may be a key milestone for the administrative processing of the project but the quality issues are a key for community and are a key for the sustainable growth.

 

Year 2012 is basically last year of calls for projects that will be announced along several cross-border regions around Europe. Some countries are in this process for a long time while others are newcomers. Interestingly enough, we haven’t learned a lot, at least in the Balkan.

Lack of policy and long term view

City Rab, Croatia

City Rab, Croatia

The key to cross-border cooperation in the Balkan is having a long-term view of European regions working together for minimizing negative impact rising from the key fact of being a border region with less population, smaller concentration of infrastructure, less economic activity, lower competiveness and to decrease the border effect of the newly established borders in newer states (the Baltics, the Balkans, Czech – Slovak border) where the new borders may cut into previously unique region or well-connected regions and push them into periphery.

In addition to these more economic factors we need to add political factors which may be of question and rise from geopolitical issues, sometimes covering foreign policy, and may question true objectives of cooperation. Additionally, there are technical factors, such as territorial proximity of infrastructure and need for synchronization in order to truly achieve efficiency by bringing possibilities for connectivity to services users as well as meeting the economic feasibility of the projects. Cross-border cooperation offers local communities connection and open economic and social opportunities.

As Barriers to Cross-border Infrastructure development by PPIAF and ADB puts it, the major barriers to effective cross-border infrastructure planning which policy makers need to address are: political, economic and financial, technical and spatial, social and environmental, institutional and coordination ones. Having in mind these 5 factors cross-border cooperation and projects need time and long-term planning in order to get over these obstacles. Managing Authorities and Implementing Bodies forgot to understand all of the 5 factors mentioned.  As a result, the key criteria for selection of projects are timing, financial value and legal/management processing of the implementation. If the cross-border cooperation was introduced for the project preparation purposes for later implementation through the mainstream policies, this idea is long lost. The cross-border cooperation serves short-term projects being able to cope with small limited problems and opportunities of project promoters in the border area.

In fact, cross-border cooperation should be a unique tool for bordering regions to understand and to plan future actions specially offered to cross-border regions in order to overcome weaknesses rising from the border factors. The key to better cross-border cooperation is clear understanding that cross-border mechanisms are an addition to other financial and political mechanisms being implemented in central territories, not a replacement of national mechanisms. Then the cross-border cooperation will be able to focus on long-term planning and preparation of interventions serving long-term needs of border areas and promoting the national and regional decision-makers to go along with it.

People to people actions are not same as project preparation or policy preparation intervention.

No, there is nothing wrong with people to people actions in cross-border cooperation; these actions add positive value to border areas by

City of Rab, Croatia

City of Rab, Croatia

developing services and utilities with locally efficient and growing potential for local communities to socially connect and to open economic and social opportunities. Moreover, they are a great quality of the cross-border cooperation which should be addressed even more and promoted to highest possible levels.

However, these actions are only a part of cross-border cooperation. They form a platform which may connect to regional ones in order to support cross-border cooperation for long-term planning and decision making.

The system will do more if we start understanding the two-fold nature of border areas: they need local actions to build on short-term opportunities and they need long-term project preparation projects in order to overcome lack of capital, both human and economic, on the long run.

This clearly means that all large investment projects should be financed from the mainstream national and European programs while leaving space in cross-border cooperation to build local development factors and long-term plans.

Community value added.

Cross-border projects are added to operations being implemented from central and local revenues and budgets. They represent the new value that will be developed with cooperation both from hard or soft intervention. It is not transfer of knowledge that counts, but the joint knowledge generation where all partners are using their creative nature to build value. The cross-border area offers totally new space for rethinking and redesigning of products and creating a value and the whole area needs to be understood as a playground for strategies development. Let it be in museums cooperation, labor market issues, education trends, business promotion, rural or village communication projects or any other.

Thus projects developed by partners may not be just added together in order to look like cross-border cooperation; they need a basic idea to come from clear and sincere open minds of understanding opportunities differently and being able to gain knowledge from the cross-border differently. That is a community added value which gives partners a paid opportunity to leave their old strategies and way of doing things out and rethink new joint strategies for the whole cross-border area again.

This is how local school will understand that territory for bus transfer of kids may be used on both sides of what was known as border before the project was approved. This is how regions will understand that planning together for future business development, joint market action, joint infrastructure might help to avoid cross-border weaknesses rising from territorial proximity and lack of capital. This is how a local cultural association will understand that value is added if they bring new target groups to the festival and grow understanding of cultural values for a larger territory rather than just covering the costs. And local fishermen association will understand that just buying a new fish stock is not a value added but only a very clear costs replacement without any other essential value gained for cross-border area.

This is how regional tourist organization will understand that understanding the needs of one and the other partner to be financed from the cross-border cooperation is a wrong way of doing. And that a clear message to Implementing Bodies of cross-border cooperation is that they should finance concepts that will bring better access to markets and will offer local and regional communities connection and open economic and social opportunities.

Applications are a way to disaster.

Several calls for project proposals use the same approach to collecting the information on projects proposed. Most of them are oriented towards actions rather than impacts of actions financed and that is a clear way to disaster, pushing applicants to understand the processes rather than opportunities of the action. Understanding the impact is way heavier issue than understanding actions but this is a clear mistake of all national interventions in the Balkans, not only cross-border cooperation. Willingness to control is so overwhelming that willingness to pay for impact is pushed back to the lowest level of project preparation.

Among others, some applicants are asked to understand if the assistance is going to impact trade between participating countries and if answered yes the application is rejected. Of course the assistance is going to impact trade between participating countries, we certainly do hope so.

Some applicants are also asked to understand if the assistance will give advantage to selected companies in the market or not. Well, we certainly hope it will give at least some advantage to companies from border regions to help them grow stronger and employ more people.

On the other hand, applicants are not so seriously asked to understand impacts of their interventions on the target groups and their needs. In addition, understanding of innovation, sustainability, equal opportunities and similar are left out if you really don’t understand the issue.

Again, mistake is in the big picture. Not all applications focus on investments and not all applicants are thinking of buying something new. And above all not all applicants are asking for the same funds but they range from small ones for local actions to big money for large operations. This is how applications will be able to follow different lines of projects and their objectives and support people to people actions and strategic actions of cross-border cooperation on the other hand.