In the Baltic Sea Region (BSR) cross-border cooperation is implemented by different actors– local and region authorities, national governments, non governmental organisations etc. One of the most common instruments implementing this cooperation are cross-border regions or, as they are often called Euroregions. Euroregions are usually defined as public institutions established by local and regional authorities and coordinating / implementing the wide range of cross-border cooperation activities in certain border region.
Euroregions should be important partners in spatial development within the BSR because they:
- represent the interests of local (municipal-level) and regional (county-level) authorities,
- in most cases work in disadvantaged areas where there are significant socioeconomic differences across national borders, and therefore challenges to territorial integration,
- perform the everyday, grass root cross-border operations.
However, the role of the Euroregions in development and integration processes is not sufficient because the institutional capacity, especially strategic planning, of the Euroregions is often inadequate due to a lack of knowledge or experience, and because national authorities and international institutions often overlook Euroregions because of the problem of institutional capability, or simply because of a lack of communication. The Nordic Council of Ministers has had a pilot project in cross-border cooperation in the BSR in 2002-2004 (for more information click here). According to experience gained in the project: the level of competence varies considerably from Euroregion to Euroregion; there often is considerable knowledge and experience in one Euroregion on an issue which is problematic in another; providing a forum of communication for the Euroregions ignites a process of sharing experiences which penetrates the East-West divide in both directions; national authorities are increasingly interested in including Euroregions into planning processes. There is, therefore, a need for a wide network of Euroregions within the BSR, which enables the full use of existing knowledge and experience among the Euroregions, and connects them with national authorities and international institutions in order to enhance spatial development and territorial integration.