If I say Interreg, what do you think of? It is an instrument created by the European Union to stimulate cooperation between its member states. It strengthens economic, social end territorial cohesion. It supports job creation, competitiveness, economic growth, sustainable development and improves the quality of life.
And you are completely right with everything you are saying! Really! You’re just forgetting a little thing.
I bet you can name (not all, but almost all) the countries that are part of the European Union and you can definitely say that Switzerland is not part of the EU. You’re also right about that. Doesn’t mean that Switzerland, as well as other neighbor states, isn’t able to join this program.
So yes! From the very first moment people were starting to talk about Interreg, Cohesion Policy and cross-border cooperation, the northwestern part of Switzerland was part of this.
You are surprised? Let me give you a little introduction.
Even though Switzerland is not a part of the European Union, due to his central location in the heart of Europe, it can definitely be said that Switzerland belongs to Europe. Not only geographically, but also politically, economically, culturally and socially. With its bilateral approach towards the EU, Switzerland has strong connections to Europe, its most important trading partner. So, you can say Switzerland is very involved in the European Union, but it will never be taking a leading position. As I said, it’s closely related to the EU.
Back to Interreg. I guess now you know why this program is so interesting for Switzerland. The main purpose for its participation is economic development and the possible exchange of information concerning border matters and sharing knowledge of these programs. For example, in border regions a lot of the workforces arrive from the neighboring countries, like France, Germany and Italy.
Therefore, it is very important to make the border-cooperation as fluent as possible.
Even though Switzerland is participating in the program, they do not to get financial support from the European Regional Development Fund as they are not members of the EU. Nevertheless, Swiss partners do have the opportunity to get co-financing via the New Region Policy (NRP).
NRP is a financial aid paid by the federal government and the cantons. And that’s were Regio Basiliensis aka IKRB joins the story.
Regio Basiliensis is an association that develops the Upper Rhine area into a cohesive European border region. The inter-cantonal coordination office (IKRB) is an adjunct to the association and coordinates the program Interreg Upper Rhine for Northwestern Switzerland.
I’m here now to observe the whole situation and see how cooperation in and with Switzerland is being handled.
And here we are! 30 years later and so many successful Interreg projects later. This program has given many opportunities to engage and make the Upper Rhine region a European border region that is tackling common challenges together and is constantly looking for new and different angles to improve.