Ian O Donnabháin; Julian Röpcke , pp. 114. TKS/Fysisk planering, 2007.
An Analysis of Interreg Projects across Europe
A critical examination on the role of networks and the implementation of EU concepts
The intention of this thesis project was to get a deeper insight into the effect the European Union can have in the regions of Europe, in particular through the workings of the Interreg program. From study the theoretical concepts, we wished to discover how these concepts were practically implemented through different projects and partnerships. Due to the informal nature of the European Union spatial planning, we also wished to understand the importance that networks play in the projects and the effect they have on the activities of the project partnerships. We decided that the best way to study this subject was through a comparison of two contrasting projects in different parts of Europe but that deal with similar concepts.
The theoretical perspective we took to approaching the subject matter, was to include much of the theory and ideas on the workings of networks and the potential results they can bring. In particularly we focused upon networks in the context of the transfer of knowledge, and their importance for creating the environment for such transfer to occur, and the many elements that can support or hinder .Furthermore we looked at much of the theory behind the concepts that the EU promotes, such as Sustainability, the different models that can be followed, as well the suggested conflict between Cohesion and Competitiveness.
For the comparison we chose two contrasting projects;
- BalticMaster Interreg IIIB based in Karlskrona, Sweden, involving 40 partners
- EARD Interreg IIIC based in Brandenburg, Germany, involving 10 partners
Both projects were established under the intention of Sustainable Development in their respective regions. One based on protecting the Baltic Sea from oil spillages, and the second aimed at sustainable development of regions around airports. The comparisons in terms of networks were quite striking; one the one hand, BalticMaster was largely based on pre-existing networks between the different regions of the Baltic Sea and had an emphasis on partner interaction. On the other hand, EARD was a brand new project partnership with no history of collaboration between the regions and interaction of the partners was rare. In terms of EU concepts, there were similarities as both projects took a bottom up approach to the broad concepts and connected this concepts to their work and aims in different ways to make them relevant. Interestingly, those project participants that were interviewed shared a lack of understanding of some the concepts before undertaking the project, some by their own admission, even though it was the main theme of their project.
Conclusions that could be drawn from the work included the interaction of concepts and networks, and how each can affect each other. EU concepts can form new partnerships and networks because common goals can be shared in new partnership under the broad concepts. Furthermore, strong networks can assist the concrete implementation of these broad concepts and assist in the understanding of these concepts across the project partnership. In conclusion, we can see that there are many advantages to the flexibility of the EU broad concepts and how Interreg allows them to be interpreted, but there are also many problems in trying to insure that what is funded by Interreg is faithful to the intent of those broad concepts. The challenge is how to strike a balance between the necessary flexibility and insuring the outcomes are in line with the intent.