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History

The Eurocity was born from the need, felt by both Municipalities, of encountering figures able to reevaluate our territories, to fix and attract population, to create and consolidate dynamics of employment, and finally, to attract productive investments. The affinities, historic acquaintanceship and the geographical continuity as well as a hard political will, made feasible the exponential growth of this project in no more than a year.

The Eurocity is located in 2 regions, Galicia and Northern Portugal which initiated a cross-border co-operation in terms of strategic planning in the 1980’s. That wish to co-ordinate spatial policies at the Regional level is due to an increasing integration of both economies in a European context. The first talks started with the entry of Portugal and Spain into the European Union in 1986, a national decision which has led to a strong interlinked economic development at the regional scale. 20 years after that entry, Galicia has become the 4th most important economic partner of Portugal, the Spanish region becoming for Portugal an economic partner more important than the United Kingdom. The volume of trade between Galicia and Northern Portugal has increased tremendously during the past decade. At the moment, it represents more than 7% of all Spanish-Portuguese trade. That integration was made possible because of the free-market policies of the European Union and some infrastructures investments subsidized by the European structural funds (bridges, motorway).

The necessity of a direct public co-ordination at the interregional level led to the creation of a “Working Community” in 1991. That community became the governance tool of the Euro-region “Galicia-Northern Portugal”. The executive control of the cross-border governance system is shared by the 2 regional authorities, the president of both public bodies being alternatively president of the working community. The system has also involved other partners through two types of commissions: the thematic commissions (environment – competitiveness/businesses – institutional socio-economical integration) and the territorial ones (4 cross-border valleys and an urban network). Socio-economic representatives and local authorities are associated to the commissions’ work, the spatial groups discussing about thematic issues. Two instruments have been created to support the commissions’ work: a prospective unit and an interregional spatial observatory. The working community has had no legal statutes but it does prevent the group from having a clear interregional mandate in terms of strategic planning and territorial cohesion. Its objective has consisted, till now, in stimulating a cross-border development framework through a multi-scale/multi-thematic platform. 

In 1991, another cross-border governance initiative took place in the area. Contrary to the first one, its executive members are local public authorities, that is to say in the present case, 34 Galician and Portuguese cities and medium size towns working in a registered association called “Eixo Atlântico”. The main objective of the association is to stimulate connections between its members in terms of sustainable development in a European context as well as take advantages of common potentialities and grow together in several fields. It has helped its members concerning comminatory expertise and territorial marketing at the EU scale. More generally the governance initiated by the association is instrumental in the building-up of a polycentric organization of the cross-border region. It is a transnational information platform for urban centers working with one another in 8 commissions (sustainable development – planning and transportation – youth and education – public services improvement – culture – tourism – sport) supported by a survey unit. 
The project design (its objectives, strategy and expected results) was presented to Eixo Atlântico do Nordeste Peninsular (a cross-border cooperation association of the main cities of Northern Portugal and of Galicia) to support the candidature of Verín to become a member of this association. That occurs at the same time (July 2007) that the Eurocity project started which, from the beginning, had the support and the technical assistance of this organization.

The recognition of the project value (essentially because it can be promoted as a living lab and, subsequently, used for the dissemination of results to other cross border regions across EU) was the key issue for the involvement of many authorities in a working group for the development of the project which is now leading by the Eixo Atlântico association.

The working group is mostly institutional and includes representatives of the Community Work of Northern Portugal-Galicia, the Galician Government (Xunta da Galicia), Diputación Provincial Ourense, CCDR-N (Commission for Regional Coordination and Development of the North of Portugal), Eixo Atlântico association and Chaves and Verín Municipalities.

This group is the main forum for discussing the strategy, actions and the applicability and evaluation of the obstacles that appear as it goes forward. The working group is also responsible for “use” the Eurocity project as an instrument for measure the barriers that delay the effective creation of a truly borderless Europe, and promote among national governments the discussion of solutions to these constraints.
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