‘Risks’ as a justification for, and a challenge to, European territorial co-operation

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‘Risks’ as a justification for, and a challenge to, European territorial co-operation
    The European Journal of Spatial Development is published by Nordregio, Nordic Centre for Spatial Development and OTB Research Institute, Delft University of Technology ISSN 1650-9544 Publication details, including instructions for authors: www.nordregio.se/EJSD  ‘Risks’ as a justification for, and a challenge to, European territorial co-operation Online Publication Date: 29 November 2007 To cite this Article: Graute,Ulrich & Schöps, Stephan: ‘ Risks’ as a justification for, and a challenge to, European territorial co-operation,  Refereed Articles, Nov 2007, no 26, European Journal of Spatial Development  . URL: http:/www.nordregio.se/EJSD/refereed26.pdf PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE    1   ‘Risks’ as a justification for, and a challenge to, European territorial co-operation Keywords : Risk assessment, risk management, European territorial co-operation, flood prevention, INTERREG III B CADSES ABSTRACT Under the new ‘European territorial Co-operation’ objective of the EU’s cohesion  policy the programmes for the funding period 2007-2013 refer to ‘natural’, ’envi-ronmental’ or ‘flood’ risks. To reduce these risks, activities are funded which allow for better risk assessment, control, prevention, and management. The subject of the paper is an analysis of whether and how environmental and natu-ral risks were in the past addressed. Based on this, the draft programmes for the new funding period will be examined. The key questions are as follows: How do Euro- pean territorial co-operation programmes approach risks of various kinds? And sec-ondly, the structural funds provide a considerable amount of funding for dealing with risks - but do the funds also encourage appropriate actions in response to the risks identified? The paper will analyse how programme actors and project partners react to risks and how they approach risk reduction or prevention. Examples are taken from the IN-TERREG III B CADSES programme (2000-2006) and from the preparation of its follow-up programmes for European Territorial Co-operation in Central Europe and South-Eastern Europe (2007-2013).  Contact details of the authors: Ulrich Graute, Director of the Joint Technical Secretariat, EU Community Initiative INTERREG III B CADSES Neighbourhood Programme,  E-mail: u.graute@scriptito.de  Stephan Schöps, Project Financial Officer at the Joint Technical Secretariat, EU Com-munity Initiative INTERREG III B CADSES Neighbourhood Programme,  E-mail: stschoeps@jts.dresden.de      2   1. Risks – challenges in dealing with uncertainty 1.1 Uncertainty in the world risk society ( Weltrisikogesellschaft ) Modern society is faced with a large number of economic, environmental and other risks. These can be divided into two groups of risks: those the uncertainty of which can be calculated, and those of which this is impossible. An example of the first type of risk can be given in the context of flood prevention: The possible economic dam-age to be expected during a flood can be calculated for a given water level. In addi-tion, the costs of measures to prevent such floods can be calculated or at least esti-mated. The second type of risk can also be illustrated by means of an example from flood prevention: The exact date, place and expected water level of a flood cannot  be predicted. Estimations of such an occurrence moreover remain highly uncertain and do not allow for rationalist decision-making to take place. Risks of the second type are becoming more frequent and increasingly relevant. They force us to face uncertainty without the chance of calculating the risk involved or to take actions designed to prevent such a disaster taking place (Beck 2007, 22). Uncertainty is often so high that any potential action may even bring about the op- posite result of its srcinal intention. In addition, local, national and transnational risks and opportunities are increasingly man-made and interrelated. Ulrich Beck introduced the term world risk society ( Weltrisikogesellschaft  , Beck 2007, 28-48) to describe this situation. Risks as such are not the problem. They are often linked with opportunities. The history of humanity demonstrates that across history people have always had to deal with the concept of risk. Nonetheless, paral-lel to industrialization and ongoing technological development the idea that human-ity can do and achieve anything – in spite of all the risks faced – became increasing dominant. Growing environmental problems and the increasing spate of natural dis-asters however finally questioned this optimism generating awareness of the fact that our resources on earth are limited   and that this in turn limits the opportunities of mankind. The world risk society is not pessimistic. Beck discusses intensively the opportunities to successfully face up to risks and to master global problems but he does not share the idealistic approach that we are living in the best world possible. Uncertainties are now considered as so big that no man-made master plan can guar-antee success. There is a chance to succeed but in the world risk society it is always in the shadow of potential failure. 1.2 Uncertainty in European spatial development 1.2.1 Facing up to risks in the field of spatial development With reference to global developments and trends like those described in the report of the Brundtland Commission and the conclusions of the UN Conference in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 the European Union’s Member States launched a process of better coordination of the development of the European territory in the early 1990s (Graute 1998, 1-14). This process led to the development and discussion of the European Spatial Development Perspective / ESDP (European Commission 1999; Faludi and Waterhout 2002). Although supported by numerous experts and carried out over more than a decade, the process did neither produce a clear perspective nor a tar-geted strategy. Its targets were only vaguely defined and the number of uncertainties    3 remained high. European discussions and the development of a common understand-ing were hampered by the lack of a common language and terminology (Graute 2002, 107-114). The need for co-operation and the interests of the actors involved were often, moreover, very heterogeneous. This prevented the emergence of a defi-nition of clear-cut common objectives and a straightforward approach to implemen-tation (Graute 2002, 115-139). The ESDP was only occasionally applied and after a few years the European Commission managed to substitute even the term ‘spatial development’ by the not much more specific term ‘territorial co-operation’, which  became an objective of its own within the new cohesion policy of the European Un-ion (European Commission 2004 and 2005). The reasons for this development are certainly linked to the existence of different national and European interests. In addition, it is also necessary to point to the un-certainties in spatial development which did not favour a common approach. To give an example, it is useful to return to the case of flood prevention. If a flood af-fects a transnational river catchment area like the Oder/Odra (1997) or Elbe/Labe (2002) it is very easy to understand that transnational co-operation is necessary. It is obvious that the water level during the flood in Dresden in 2002 depended on heavy rainfall and a corresponding water level rise in the Czech Republic. Therefore, it is self-evident that the prevention of future flooding depends on co-operation between Germany and the Czech Republic. However, it remained unclear to what extent this co-operation should be developed. Countries along major European rivers established joint commissions to coordinate co-operation on issues related to the respective river. Such commissions exist for e.g. in respect of the Rhine, Danube, Oder and Elbe 1 . Their main activities are as follows: •    Exchange of information and experiences   There is no doubt that the exchange of information and experiences is of common interest. In addition, it is relatively easy to agree on common monitoring systems and, where necessary, on respective institutional arrangements.   •    Joint decision-making International commissions elaborate recommendations for their partners, i.e. they do not have an own decision-making  competence. Decision-making remains a national competence. One reason why no competences are transferred is suggested by the uncertainties: The water coming down a river is a potential threat for the people liv-ing along the lower part of the same river. Does this interdependence require e.g. a veto by the people from the lower part against an investment in the upper part if this investment increases the potential risk? How likely is the case which would require a transfer of competence? What would the specific competences involved entail and who would control the use of the transferred competence? Uncertainties make it difficult to come to an agreement and therefore European ter-ritorial co-operation is in general driven by voluntary co-operation and through the mutual agreements of the countries and institutions involved. The rules which they set up correspond to the common denominator acceptable for all partners. Their ac-tivities may be appropriate with respect to their own risk estimation but the uncer-tainties are often too high to tell whether an intended activity is appropriate with re-spect to the real challenges lying ahead.    4  Uncertainties with respect to ecological, environmental, urban and rural develop-ment issues are so manifold and numerous that there is no question that such risks have to be dealt with. The crucial point however is by whom, when and in what way? In addition, it is necessary to state that ‘risks’ are not only a technical or scien-tific category with respect to economic or environmental situations, but that ‘risks’ can also be used as a tool to influence policy and politics. The more difficult the sound calculation of a risk is the more open it is to interpretation. 1.2.2 The impact of ‘risks’ on European territorial co-operation The purpose of risk assessment is to anticipate possible disasters, their consequences and impacts. The results of such an assessment provide the basis for preparing ac-tions to prevent disasters. In the case of flood prevention risk assessment allows, for example, insurance companies to calculate in advance the possible damage which would be caused by a certain flood in a specific region. In addition, insurance com- panies may profit from the estimation of a high risk and possible damage because this, in turn, stimulates business on the insurance market. In general, it can be said that the higher the risk, the higher will be the willingness of clients to pay for insur-ance against this risk (Beck 2007, 373 and 66). In a similar way, authorities wanting to invest in disaster prevention measures must ensure that there is an awareness of this risk among decision-makers and the general public. Here, too, a high level of  perceived risk helps to gain the necessary support. The demand for European territorial co-operation is also related to risks. The pro-gramme documents for the new funding period refer, among other things, to ‘natu-ral’, ’environmental’, ‘flood’ or ‘social exclusion’ risks as a reason why a proposed  programme was necessary. 2 This is not surprising but is indeed logical in a context which requires that cohesion funds should be used in a demand-driven way to achieve common objectives. Unfortunately, this also works vice versa : Where risks and the related demand for actions are not wanted, it can be assumed that related institutions are not interested in a high estimation of such risks. This is also not sur- prising. It would not make sense for the Member States to stress risks for which they do not then want to take action against. In the case of INTERREG co-operation risks identified in the context of territorial co-operation and development are, on the one hand, of key relevance to the justifica-tion of funding for new programmes and projects. It is thus important here to clearly outline the relevant risks. On the other hand, actors in their day-to-day life tend to reduce complexity and to ‘minimise’ or ‘prevent’ risks. This is also true for pro-gramme planners and project applicants. Risks are welcomed as justifications for new actions, but when it comes to the definition of operational objectives and ap- propriate actions, actors often hesitate to take risks. As a consequence, the descrip-tion of major risks, challenges or threats in programming documents is usually fol-lowed by rather unspecific descriptions of objectives and envisaged actions. There is often no concise approach here with a direct link between risks and the necessary activities to solve related problems. Instead, a moderate approach is adopted to sim- ply contribute to, or facilitate, better development. In a process which is character-ized by many uncertainties this is not the worst approach possible. Nonetheless, one has to be aware of the limitations caused by this approach: The objectives are nei-ther precisely defined nor is it possible to evaluate the activities in accordance with
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