Some time ago I wrote a couple of blogs dealing with the trans-national Arc Manche region, which takes in both Kent and the Pas de Calais.
One or two comments on my blog suggested that I was making a mountain out of a molehill. This was just an example of simple voluntary international cooperation — what could be more harmless? Jonathan wrote: “Roger, do you honestly believe that if the EU were not to exist, English local authorities, French regions, Dutch provinces, (Norwegian municipalities?) etc would not wish to talk with each other? Yes, of course they would!”.
I put a written question to the Commission. In their reply, they sneered at the Euroscepticism of the British press, and assured me that the Arc Manche (and the EU’s other transnational regions) were merely voluntary arrangements between local authorities in their respective countries, with the objective of sharing best practice, establishing fraternal ties, and organising cultural exchanges. Nothing sinister, nothing far-reaching. Certainly no attempt to remove the nation-state from its rightful position as primary interlocutor for its citizens. Oh No.
“The Commission notes that this is not the first time that the British press publishes this kind of misleading information. The “cross-channel entity Arc-Manche”, mentioned by the Honourable Member, is, in fact, an organisation called Arc Manche Assembly set up at the initiative of local authorities and regions from both sides of the Channel with the aim of developing and reinforcing Franco-British cooperation by delivering joint actions and projects”.
But today the ECR Group in Brussels held one of its regular group meetings ahead of votes tomorrow, and we considered the various legislative and other packages which are scheduled. One of them is the Pieper Report: 5th Cohesion Report and strategy for post-2013 Cohesion Policy. The Pieper report was supported by several own-initiative reports, including Mikolasik: Implementation of cohesion programmes 2007/2013; Vlasak: European Urban Agenda and its future in cohesion policy; Sanchez-Schmidt: Objective 3, future agenda for cross-border, transnational and interregional cooperation; and Stavrakakis, Increased effectiveness between ERDF (European Regional Development Fund) and other structural funds.
(This is the kind of fun stuff we deal with on a daily basis).
And the point of the Pieper report? To establish that EGCTs (European Groupings of Common Territories) assume responsibility for the disbursement of ERDF and other EU funding streams.
So much for cultural exchanges and voluntary cooperation. When bureaucratic structures, with logos, councils and Presidents, are put in place, and given responsibility for disbursing funds, we are dealing with new governmental structures within the new Nation of Europe. And those structures are deliberately transnational, and deliberately bypassing national governments.
Again and again we see the EU undertaking small steps, that it can describe as insignificant. But they all lead the same way: to a Europe of regions governed from Brussels.