Piazza della Transalpina a Gorizia, targa che segna la linea del confine e ricorda l'ingresso nell'Ue della Slovenia - © REDMASON/Shutterstock

Transalpina Square in Gorizia, plaque marking the border line and commemorating Slovenia's entry into the EU - © REDMASON/Shutterstock

EGTC GO is a European group of territorial cooperation: a tool shared between municipalities to experience territories, overcoming and transforming borders

29/03/2023 -  Paola Rosà

Going from institutional protocols to concrete synergies, from political agreements to daily collaboration in an area where one rarely distinguishes between a "here" and a "there" of the Italian-Slovenian border: this is the evolution of cross-border cooperation for EGTC, European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation. For Tomaz Konrad, deputy director of EGTC, and for Tanja Curto, legal expert, the territory is unique, straddling the border and linguistic, cultural, and administrative diversities. We met with them to understand if this has always been the case and where new developments could lead.

"Along the border we have always collaborated, initially at a political-administrative level, through memoranda of understanding and discussion boards. We then took over with the intention of translating everything from a political level to a more technical sphere: an actual delegation to an "other" entity, which was an expression of everyone, of both nationalities, of all three municipalities, Gorizia, Nova Gorica, and Sempeter-Vrtojba. Before there was no cross-border entity: each municipality did its part, but without external coordination I remember the initial difficulties, with the first draft of the statute of the EGTC in October 2008, which was discussed, amended, and then approved in 2011, and with the appointment as president of Franco Frattini, then an MP elected in Friuli", introduces Tanja Curto.

Where did the push to create a "third party" body come from, which is usually considered a bureaucratic burden?

Tomaz Konrad: Without a doubt, from the bottom up, from the citizens, from the municipalities, from the people who then understood its strategic value. Previously, each partner had internal experts who collaborated on individual projects, so there was no real interaction. Now, however, working together is daily routine. We as EGTCs have a single administration made up of people who come from both sides of the border, we speak daily with people from all three municipalities, and this produces new ideas, new projects. Hence our vision of the area as a unicum: for us it is "the territory". And if before the mayors met two or three times a year, now they speak also three times a day. But obviously it would not have been possible without the regulatory basis that arrived with the European regulation of 2006 which established the cross-border territorial collaboration groups.

How was and how is the reception in the media? Do people speak with distrust of the EGTC, perhaps in Slovenia as Italian initiatives, and in Italy as Slovenian ideas?

Tanja Curto: No, it has never happened. If anything, there is some difficulty in getting all aspects of our work understood, which is very technical and which moves between different levels of legislation and regulations, from the European to the local one. However, our technicians have been able to transform cross-border cooperation into something practical, concrete at a territorial level, and we are slowly able to tell it, now that the project ideas are taking shape.

Tomaz Konrad: For us, there are no linguistic or national distinctions, we have never counted how many of our 11 employees are Slovenian and how many Italian – these are not staff from the three municipalities, but staff from the EGTC. Of course, we take into account the interests of the various municipalities, but for us the primary interest is the interest of all three, not the sum but the synergy, which as always goes beyond the sum of the three. And the press also respects this vision, the newspapers write that these are works by the EGTC, not by the Italians or Slovenians.

Tanja Curto: However, quotas exist for the EGTC assembly, where the 14 members are half Italian and half Slovenian, and the Slovenian ones are the expression of the two municipalities (Nova Gorica and Sempeter-Vrtojba) on a demographic basis. The technical committees are instead made of people proposed by the municipalities, but not necessarily on a national or linguistic basis, competence is worth more. Let's say it's a fifty-fifty (50-50) shuffle. It's not mine or yours, it's ours, period.

Veduta di Gorizia e Nova Gorica - © bepsy/Shutterstock

Gorizia-Nova Gorica - © bepsy/Shutterstock

Among the concrete things you have implemented, the Healthcare project for the integration of some healthcare services, the Isonzo-Soca cross-border park for cycle mobility, and support for Gorizia European Capital of Culture 2025. How is the response from the territory?

Tanja Curto: Involvement is always very high, also because our goals each time arise from established needs. Just look at the large participation we are seeing in the tenders for the "Small projects fu nd", the fund for small projects in support of Gorizia 2025: we want to create a cultural, logistical, and economic substrate that can continue over time. And here there is a lot of desire to do. We filled the theatres during the info-days and are now collecting applications to distribute the first 3 million Euros by rewarding small initiatives between 30,000 and 200,000 Euros. In this case, the territory we are addressing is wider and includes five regions in Slovenia, all of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, and the province of Venice.

When you talk about the territory, we understand how the frontier is truly invisible to you...

Tanja Curto: With Slovenia's entry into the Euro area, every barrier dissolved, and there was no longer any tangible sign of the border, except in the memory of people and those who had lived through more complicated times. But young people no longer say "I'm going there", if anything I go to that particular place, I go to that certain shop: they say the name of the place, not "in Italy" or "in Slovenia".

Tomaz Konrad: The proof of how connected cities are was during the pandemic. When Slovenia brutally closed its border overnight, there was a general uprising both here and there. All the ties consolidated over the last twenty years, exchanges, contacts, and so on, were broken: parents who take their children to school on the other side, or for sports activities, and families who live a little here a little there. Here, with that closure we understood how much we had forgotten about the border. On the other hand, unfortunately we also noticed how everything good that had been done over so many years could be erased with such obtuse policies, in a flash. Thankfully that did not happen, but we came close.

If you had to explain your work with a concrete example, which project would you choose?

Tanja Curto: Our technical role collides with the bureaucratic difficulties complicated by the regulatory stratification of institutions and states, therefore even a small work is a great work for us. I'm thinking of the cycle-pedestrian footbridge over the river: an infrastructure in Slovenia, created by applying the Slovenian contract code, but created by us who are an Italian public law body. A small example, but significant for us.

Tomaz Konrad: I think of what we have achieved with bike sharing  in the city: you can pick up a bike in the Slovenian part and return it in the Italian part, a single card, a single tariff, all bypassing the complications that would have arisen having two managements different and separate nationalities. For me, this represents what we could achieve for other services by applying real cross-border cooperation: my dream is to be able to achieve joint cross-border public services, with a single manager covering the territory, on both sides of the border.

Il Gect GO

The EGTC GO is an Italian public body with legal personality, founded in 2011 by the municipalities of Gorizia, NovaGorica, and Sempeter-Vrtojba to identify and address common challenges that can make the cross-border territory more competitive and attractive. The EGTC GO has jurisdiction over the territory of the three cities: it can go beyond the borders and face, for the first time, the challenges of a cooperation that plans and implements together, no longer thinking of three separate municipalities, but of one cross-border city, with no more divisions.


This content is published in the context of the "Work4Future" project co-financed by the European Union (EU). The EU is in no way responsible for the information or views expressed within the framework of the project. The responsibility for the contents lies solely with OBC Transeuropa. Go to the "Work4Future"

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