Seven programmes with Russia “Results are tangible, I’m proud”

The European Union and the Russian Federation have been successfully cooperating in the cross-border cooperation programmes since 2007. Russia is a strategic partner, and its share of co-financing to the ENI CBC programmes amounts to 96 million €. The Ministry of Economic Development – the National Authority in Russia – is responsible for the implementation of 7 cooperation programmes on the territory of the Russian Federation: Kolarctic, Karelia, South-East Finland – Russia, Estonia – Russia, Latvia – Russia, Lithuania – Russia and Poland – Russia CBC programmes. We’ve asked Anna Popova, Deputy Head of Department for Development and External Economic Activities, about the role and benefits of the CBC.

1)   For how long have you been dealing with cross-border cooperation, and in which capacity? 

I started working in the field of interregional and cross-border cooperation in 2010, when I joined the Ministry of Regional Development of the Russian Federation: at that time, it was responsible for the international relations of the Russian regions. At first, I was in charge of the Commonwealth of Independent States and Asian countries which granted me a solid experience in the field. In 2015 the issues of regional development became part of tasks of the Ministry of Regional Development and so, the EU-funded programmes made part of my responsibilities. Cooperation with the European Union is a particular field of work at our Division, as we contribute to the implementation of seven cross-border and one transnational cooperation programme – the Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme 2014-2020. This work is remarkably different from other forms of cooperation that we have, and our staff always has a great potential for professional growth and self-development. Following the example of the EU-funded programmes, we’ve come to the idea of extending the cross-border cooperation experience to other borders. It is a new project we are actively engaged in at the moment.

2)   In your opinion, what is the added value of cross-border cooperation in the border regions?

First of all, establishing people-to-people relations during the joint implementation of the project activities. Such relations can initiate other projects which are not necessarily financed by the CBC programmes.

We provide a platform and a financial tool for an active participation of the border region citizens in tackling relevant common problems. I really like, for example, joint medical projects being implemented in frame of the Poland-Russia and Lithuania-Russia CBC programmes. Such social projects allow to equip hospitals in small border communities with rehabilitation facilities, give a possibility to the medical staff in Russia, Lithuania and Poland to participate in the joint trainings, learn from each other and exchange their knowledge.

3) Can you tell us an improvement you have witnessed since the beginning of implementation of these programmes? 

It is somewhat challenging to talk about the results while the projects are still in their implementation phase, but I have to admit that Russian partners have already built up sufficient experience in drafting project proposals and in project implementation, and they more often aim to be lead beneficiaries.

4) Can you mention an achievement of the CBC programmes that you are proud of?

Implementation of the 2007-2013 programmes showed that joint actions bring meaningful results to the citizens of the border regions, even if the projects operate with relatively small funding. I am proud that our work has tangible results. For example, the joint project on reconstruction of fortresses on both sides of the border in Ivangorod (Russia) and Narva (Estonia) allowed to create a single tourist product. Both fortresses were restored, new museum spaces were opened and new promenades appeared.

5) The Russian Federation takes part in 7 ENI CBC programmes. What do you think about the joint participation and presentation of these seven programmes at big events, such as the side-event to the Session of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities which took place on 29-31 October during which the CBC programmes cooperating with Russia jointly organized an exhibition, a session and a reception?

This joint initiative started when the Delegation of the European Union to Russia proposed to join our forces in increasing visibility of the cross-border cooperation programmes between Russia and the EU in the media and other platforms. In May we organised an information session in the Federation Council of the Russian Federation where we showcased the projects of the 2014-2020 programming period. The level of participation was very high, the event attracted senators and vice-governors from the participating regions, as well as ambassadors to the EU countries involved in the programmes. The event was largely broadcasted by the channel of the Federation Council – the large number of views attests to the success and a great public interest to the event.

After this informational seminar, together with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we came up to the idea to organize a similar event, this time in Strasbourg, as part of the session of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities in the Council of Europe.  I am glad that our partners from the Council of Europe responded to the idea of ​​presenting the cross-border cooperation programmes at such an important and significant platform. I am convinced that interest in the programmes will grow, and I hope that such meetings will become a good tradition.

I also believe that such initiatives should be included in the programmes communication plans. They substantially multiply audience outreach and positively impact the joint image of the CBC programmes.