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Interview with Roberta Calcina

  • Project Manager - SEE Programme Joint Technical Secretariat – Budapest - Italy
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Roberta Calcina

1. What are the pro and cons of having such a wide and varied territory under one territorial cooperation programme? What is the value added of transnational cooperation?

I would rather turn the words "pros and cons" into "challenges". In this context, the heterogeneity of the Programme area is definitely one of the biggest. Being so wide and diverse - from the projects' perspective - the setting up of a partnership that is able to have an impact on a large part of the SEE being at the same time of a manageable size is of utmost importance but also rather difficult to achieve. Concerning the "added value" of transnational cooperation, we have to highlight that the SEE is the only instrument available for developing joint cooperation at this scale with and between regional actors of the western Balkans and the two 2007 EU member states.

2. In particular, because of such a wide cooperation area, what is the role the Priority dedicated to the improvement of accessibility? What are the main challenges?

Accessibility is a topic which specifically takes advantage of the inclusion of all countries of the Southeast Europe region and of transnational approach of cooperation. The gap in the conditions of infrastructure in the area, for all modes of transport and particularly for railways, is the first challenge the programme had to face: how to improve accessibility and mobility in the current situation?

First, it is to be considered that plans for investments, in line with the Trans-European Transport Network and the Regional Core Transport Network, "cross" a major number of countries of the SEE Programme; additionally the SEE Programme does have neither the objective, nor the resources for financing investments in infrastructures.

The SEE Programme has a strong role instead in the coordination among the 16 countries of the area, with priority in the integration and interoperability of the existing network and services, taken into account the fragmentation of the programme area. Cooperation among the countries is highly needed to define a common approach for regional social or economic dynamics, the impact on the environment, the creation of wealth and jobs, the improvement of internal mobility.

The fragmentation represents the main challenge also from other perspectives: many different organisational systems, with different decision makers, procedures, legislation, which needs a higher effort for harmonisation. This affects the continuity of the transport services in the SEE region. If it could be questioned if it not is mainly a sum of bilateral relations solved by mean of cross border negotiations, I would say that instead a transnational approach allows the consideration of broader goals in the interest of the whole area.

All this considered, the Programme strongly supports the improvement the functioning of the existing integrated modal network and services, with efforts in the optimisation of procedures and connection with the existing transport offer to offer a first and fast response to the urgent need of higher mobility of people and goods and the continuity of travels. In parallel to this, the Programme supports the coordination among the countries of the Programme area for the preparation and coordination on investments for infrastructure. Of course, taking into account the environmental impact as well.

3. How does the secretariat perceive the SEETAC project, and what could be its legacy?

SEETAC has paved the way for a stronger coordination among highest decision makers in the field of transport involving almost all Ministries of Transport and other relevant institutions of the SEE region, including all Western Balkan countries. Having involved them for this scope is already an outstanding achievement and a milestone in the sustainable cooperation in the SEE Programme area in the fields of transport continuity and infrastructure development. In line with the White Paper 2011 (COM (2011) 144), coordination is the first step for ensuring continuity of travels, and this applies specifically in the approach of the project SEETAC in the SEE region.

Its most striking result, however, from the point of view of the Programme, is having established a strong dialogue between the countries linked under the project SEETAC, the EU Commission - DG MOVE and the highest financial institution, and to constantly coordinating with the ongoing policies and strategies (including the Danube strategy and other macro regional strategies under development in the area) for the definition of common goals and commitments in the region in relation to the transport projects. Under this perspectives and multilateral approach, SEETAC ensures a strong impact in the SEE Programme area, which does not exhaust after the end of the project implementation, but instead represents a milestone in shaping the future accessibility of the SEE region.

4. How do you see the development of territorial cooperation especially in the light of the new macro regional strategy for the Danube River? What will be the role of the SEE and how do you think this will affect the next programming period 2013-2020?

As technical body we will implement what the Partner States will decide. Off-the- record the situation appears still a bit unclear in practical terms. There are different macro-regional strategies at a different stage of development but it is not yet clear what will be the actual linkages to the territorial cooperation for the next programming period. Probably, the scenario will be clearer in the second half of the year. Concerning the current period, although a wide and deep discussion has been developed within the Monitoring Committee of the programme, what still matters - as a cornerstone - is the Operational Programme. This is the document all the applicants should always consider as the real basis for understanding the SEE strategy.

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