Contending with state borders and their divisive effects, those in cross-border cooperation are with me in having territorialism in the cross hairs. They after all have first hand experience of the divisive effects of borders and the advantages of working with their neighbours in overcoming them. The EU helps, not only financially but also with the necessary instruments. Recipients are appreciative, member state less so: Cross-border cycling routes and exchanges of folk dance groups are innocent, but where does their being managed using instruments under EU legislation leave the states? Albeit reluctantly, they have allowed European Groupings of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC) to be set up to facilitate the joint management, not only of cross-border programmes, but others as well. (ESPON is an EGTC since 2014.) But there can be no transfer of regal powers and EGTCs are purely voluntary. Some member states are dragging their feet and will do only more so as regards a proposed European Cross Border Mechanism (ECBM) allowing border authorities to apply regulations of their neighbours: a ‘no-no’ if you take the state’s legislative monopoly literally.
Be the future of the ECBM what it may, 2020 has seen 15 years of working with EGTCs. The French Mission Opérationelle Transfrontalière (MOT) has invited to a – virtual – conference on 9 and 10 November. The focus was on France’s borders, including her one and only border with the Netherlands (Saint Martin – Sint-Maarten in the Caribbean). But of course the emphasis was on its continental borders. I single out two examples of sovereignty being asserted, with adverse effects on border regions: reactions to COVIT and Brexit.
The deep meaning of sovereignty, the German legal theorist Carl Schmitt of doubtful credentials (see my blog ‘Territorialism, Populism and the Third Reich’) is to be able to institute states of exception. Which is what, faced with COVIT states did, causing otherwise loyal local officials to cringe from the disruption caused by abrupt border closures. But to governments, borders are where their responsibilities – including that for the health of their subjects – end. To mayors and regional officials concerned, the many functional relations – including mutually beneficial health services – being disrupted by borders being closed are however the lifeblood of their regions. So when, sometimes brand new cross-border infrastructure was abruptly closed – the Leman Express connecting Annimasse in France with Geneva (paid for by local taxes) much as the new cross-border tramline from Strasbourg to Kehl (see my blog ‘Triumphant Territorialism?’) this not only hurt, but became examples of distant capitals invoking their regal powers.
Talking about distant: take Brest, 600km from Paris and a bare 150km from England fearing for its future post-Brexit – Brexit being the ultimate, of course, of territorialism. There seems no future for INTERREG involving the UK, and otherwise, too, the effects could be devastating for the Finistère in the extreme west of Brittany dependent on UK trade and tourists (and its affinity with the Cornish people and language).      

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