EU Life Long Learning Programme logo

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.


RECERC Special Issue

La coopération transfrontalière en Europe : au-delà des cicatrices de l’Histoire

Cross-border Cooperation in Europe: Beyond the Scars of History


Link to the full publication

Link to RECERC Website


Article 1 : Jean Peyrony, La catastrophe de 1914/1918: un « sacrifice inutile ».  L’Etat-nation et ses frontières.

Article 2 : Birte Wassenberg, La frontière, objet d’intégration ou cicatrice de l’Histoire ? L’étude du cas de l’espace du Rhin supérieur.

Article 3 : Martine Camiade, La frontière, objet d’intégration ou cicatrice de l’Histoire ? L’étude du cas de l’Espace Catalan Transfrontalier.

Article 4 : Hannes Käckmeister, Dépasser les frontières en protection de l’enfance – La coopération transfrontalière à l’exemple d’un groupe d’experts franco-allemand

Article 5 : Antoni Soares, Cooperation, Identity and Brexit at the Irish Border.

Article 6 : Joachim Beck, Cross-border cooperation and the challenge of transnational institution-building – the example of the European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC).

Article 7 : Peter Ulrich, Can EU cross-border governance be democratic? Some theoretical thoughts on citizen´s participation in the European Union.

Article 8 : Marek Olszewski – Hynek BÖhm, Microprojects as an efficient cross-border co-operation tool- Example from euroregion Tesin/Cieszyn Silesia in 2007 – 2013.

Article 9 : Anne Thevenet, De la nécessité de l’accompagnement des acteurs de la coopération transfrontalière – Expériences du Rhin supérieur.


Martine Camiade, Professor in Catalan Studies in University of Perpignan

Birte Wassenberg, Professor in Contemporany History in IEP of Strasbourg

This special issue of RECERC, an online journal of the Franco-Catalan Transfrontalier Institute, results from the reflections carried out within the framework of the TEIN (Transfrontier Euro-Institute Network) network on cross-border cooperation and on the history of cross-border relations. Founded in 2010, it brings together 13 partners from nine border regions in France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Slovenia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Belgium, Spain, the French West Indies, the United Kingdom and Ireland. The special feature of TEIN is that it is composed of higher education university and research units as well as research institutes and training centers aiming at the practical activity of cross-border cooperation in Europe.

The members involved in TEIN are real actors of this cross-border cooperation. Their work includes training and assistance in cross-border and cross-border project management, but also support, training and advice for cross-border actors and research on cross-border cooperation. In this sense, TEIN can be considered as representing a true bottom-up approach.

The basic principle of cross-border cooperation consists in establishing spatial ties between borderlands in order to find common solutions to similar problems. This cooperation shows the need to ensure that identities in these cross-border areas are being sustained, but also that the process of European integration can benefit from the dynamism of local and regional authorities on both sides of a border trying to develop together a real partnership, a true synergy and a solidarity, just like a united and diverse Europe built up from the regional level.

A cross-border region is first and foremost defined by the sum of common problems it encounters. These problems concern the cross-border territory and the different sectors of economic, social and cultural activity. The environmental and space planning problems also mark the borderlands and largely condition the solutions proposed by local and regional authorities on both sides of the border.

However, it is the seal of history that marks the specificity and originality of borderlands. In the course of time, they have been entrusted with functions that were no longer military but more and more sectoral. Some frontier regions have tipped over historical events in a particular national territory, maintaining within their structures significant specificities that result from the instability of the frontier line and are thus very different compared to the inland regions. This unique history and these particular structures have shaped an original behavior towards the frontier and the border areas in most of the old and new border regions of Central and Eastern Europe as well as of Western Europe and this is what makes the border a complex and specific issue all across Europe.

Each border region has its specificities. Some border areas, for religious, economic, cultural and political reasons, convey more the notion of difference than the notion of resemblance in the mental representations of their inhabitants, hence the difficulties of approaching these cross-border spaces via their global or sectoral problems.

This special issue of RECERC takes into account these specific historical factors and markers of the development of cross-border cooperation. The title “ Cross-border Cooperation in Europe: Beyond the Scars of History” refers to the key object of our study: the border. At the beginning of the 1970s, Alfred Mozer, a Socialist deputy in Germany, who was one of the pioneers of cross-border co-operation in the German-Dutch Euregio in Gronau, has addressed the border in Europe as a scar of history and cross-border cooperation as a solution to “heal this scar”. By focusing on the historical dimension of the border, this approach to cross-border cooperation can acquire an unprecedented historical depth, which is necessary in order to understand the conflicts and co-operation in European border regions. Such an historical approach also makes it possible to highlight the common trait of cross-border cooperation and the European Integration process, namely the objective to overcome borders in Europe in order to maintain peace. Bringing people closer together means supporting European reconciliation, a necessary step after 1945 in order to establish the conditions required both for cross-border cooperation and for European Integration. Cross-border cooperation is therefore a “bottom-up” process which complements the “top-down” process of the founding fathers of the European Economic Community (EEC).

The articles in this special edition are divided into three parts, each taking into account a particular aspect of this “bottom-up” process of cross-border cooperation. The first part thus focuses more specifically on the notion of the border as a “scar of history” and the function of cross-border cooperation as contributing to the reconciliation of the European peoples. Jean Peyrony, in his article on “La catastrophe de 1914/1918: un ‘sacrifice inutile’. L’Etat-nation et ses frontières” give us from the start a key to the apprehension of mental borders which still exist between European nations and which are sustained by the way how the memory of the Great War is being celebrated in Europe. According to him, European cross-border cooperation and Integration is thus hampered by the persistent divergence of these national accounts of past conflicts. Taking the example of the commemoration of the First World War in France and Germany, he demonstrates how the border as a scar of history persists and he recommends a common approach to European history, an approach that pays tribute to the memory of peace in order to blur these borders and to facilitate cross-border cooperation. Two case studies then follow to illustrate how cross-border cooperation has helped to overcome the border as a symbol of conflict and pain and how it can facilitate reconciliation of the European peoples. Birte Wassenberg, in “La frontière, objet d’intégration ou cicatrice de l’Histoire? L’étude du cas de l’espace du Rhin supérieur” shows that Franco-German-Swiss cross-border cooperation was initiated in the 1960s with the aim of transforming the border as a place of separation into a model of cooperation, reconciliation or even Integration. The Regio Basiliensis, a cross-border association founded in Basel in 1963, the same year of the signature of the Treaty of Elysée between France and Germany, is a fine example of the complementary function between the “bottom-up” and  “top-down” reconciliation processes. In her article on “La frontière, objet d’intégration ou cicatrice de l’Histoire? L’étude du cad de l’espace catalan transfrontalier”, Martine Camiade then analyzes the border of the Pyrenees as an object of conflict during both the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War. She illustrates how this boundary has been gradually appeased through cross-border cooperation in the Catalan space and has become the place of affirmation of a common regional culture.

The second part of the special issue is dedicated to the analysis of identity issues in border regions. Taking the example of Franco-German cooperation in the Upper Rhine region, Hannes Käckmeister delivers a sociological study of what it means to be German or to be French in a border region where mobility is high. His article on “Dépasser les frontières de l’enfance – La cooperation transfrontalière à l’exemple d’une groupe d’experts franco-allemand” chooses the example of a binational group of professionals for child protection  care at the border between Kehl and Strasbourg in order to examine how children of mixed couples in difficult situations (following a divorce, for example) are being taken care of by local authorities on both sides of the border. He analyses in particular the cultural, political and mental “boundaries” that still hamper the management of this specific cross-border problem. For his part, Anthony Soares, in his article on “Cooperation, Identity and Breakdown at the Irish Border”, deals with the political identity issues arising from the conflict in Northern Ireland. While cross-border cooperation on the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland has helped to ease this conflict and to reconcile the border population, the decision of the Brexit may bring to the surface again the recurrent identity dilemma of a Northern Ireland population torn between English and Irish national affiliations. By re-introducing the political border of the European Union (EU) between Northern Ireland and Ireland, the Brexit can not only create new obstacles to cross-border cooperation but also deepen an intra-Community gap in a region which is still traumatized by the violent conflict of the past.

In the third part of the special issue, the practice of cross-border cooperation is being examined more in detail. The articles deal with possible approaches and solutions to facilitate cooperation without administrative, political or intercultural obstacles. Joachim Beck, in “Cross-border cooperation and the challenge of transnational institutional-building – the example of the European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC)” proposes the EGTC Community legal instrument as a possibility for the development a common cross-border administrative framework. This tool would be appropriate for finding solutions to the institutional problems that still arise in a context marked by the persistence of national administrative borders. For his part, Peter Ulrich makes a plea for increasing citizen participation in cross-border spaces. Moving beyond the political border and creating a sense of belonging to a shared political space would necessarily involve the invention of a “cross-border democracy”. His article « Can EU cross-border governance be democratic? Some theoretical thoughts on citizen’s participation in the European Union » examines the possibility for citizen forums to influence the political choices of operational Interreg programs from a theoretical point of view. His conclusion is not very optimistic: he sees little room for citizens to actively take part in cross-border policy which is framed too much by immutable cross-border administrative management structures. Marek Olszewski and Hynek Böhm come to a more positive conclusion when analyzing the contribution of micro-projects to cross-border cooperation close to citizens. Their article on “Microprojects as an efficient cross-border cooperation tool- Example from Euroregion Tesin / Cieszyn Silesia in 2007-2013″ shows that the specific tool of micro-projects within Interreg programs allows for cross-border projects initiated by small project promoters, often citizens’ associations, who can thus actively participate in cross-border cooperation. This micro-cooperation also helps to overcome the intercultural boundaries that persist and consequently to consolidate the process of reconciliation and cross-border Integration. Finally, in her article “De la nécessité de l’accompagnement des acteurs de la cooperation transfrontalière – experiences du Rhin supérieur”, Anne Thevenet shows how, through the development of a toolkit on cross-border training, actors in cross-border regions can be accompanied in their efforts to overcome the border and carry out joint projects. This support must necessarily take into account intercultural communication and management data which has to be considered in the specific context of each cross-border territory. Following the example of the Upper Rhine region, she demonstrates that it is indeed possible to support the process of reconciliation, co-operation or cross-border integration, and thus to help us to heal the borders “the scars of history “.

Link to the full publication

Link to RECERC Website


Leave a Reply




You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>