Nationally driven or community led? The role of EGTCs in the implementation of Cohesion Policy 2014-2020 in Central and Eastern Europe
European Union (EU) member states are encouraged to increase the role of European Groupings of Territorial Cooperation (EGTCs) in the implementation of 2014-2020 Cohesion Policy (regulation 1299/2013), which, in turn, is assumed to increase the quality of cross-border governance. The paper investigates whether, and how, this happens in Central and Eastern Europe by asking two questions: (1) Is cross-border governance and its outputs qualitatively different in borderlands where EGTCs are present? (2) How are EGTCs managing under conditions where local authority is contested by the national level, while there is pressure from Community level to increase local ownership through the application of community-led local development?
The paper draws on empirical data from Hungary, which has been one of the most active EU member states in advocating for, and supporting the establishment of, EGTCs, mainly due to the presence of Hungarian minorities in neighbouring countries. Currently 19 EGTCs have Hungarian participation, mostly registered in Hungary, and predominantly in areas with Hungarian minority presence on the other side of the border. While Hungary has promoted the establishment of these bodies, Europeanization have been one of the key factors behind centralized intergovernmental relations (Brusis 2014) and central authorities have been reluctant to let regional authorities set priorities (Dabrowski 2014). The paper analyzes document and interview data from one area with several active EGTCs (Hungarian-Slovak border) and one without (Hungarian-Austrian border). Findings will contribute empirical data and theoretical insight to the debate on the nature of the territorial shifts taking place in contemporary Europe.