Cross- border communities or cross- border proximity? Perspectives from the Austrian–Slovakian border region
Introduction In the last two decades, spatial planning in Europe has been wrestling with the implications of the Single European Project, recognized in the European Spatial Development Perspective (ESDP – CEC 1999) as well as in the spatial agenda for European territorial development, both documents envisaging a polycentric territorial structure with a multi-level urban hierarchy (DE Presidency 2007). Central to the ‘polycentrism’ concept is the fact that subordinate territories benefit from connections to node cities, even across borders reflecting a reality that many border areas are actual or potential urban hinterlands for foreign cities. Therefore, cross-border planning lies at the heart of a successful territorial agenda for European competitiveness and cohesion. In the past (booming and stable) Europe, different actors across territorial borders, dependent on different systems sharing common problems and interests (cross-border pollution, land-use planning, security issues, border workers), tried to collaborate to find effective solutions. Any current decline in collaboration resulting from the recession counters the post-1957 trend of increasingly intense cross-border collaboration. Currently more than 70 crossborder regional organizations exist in Europe, and 32 per cent of EU citizens inhabit border areas comprising 40 per cent of EU landmass (Janssen 2006). Virtually all local authorities in these areas are involved in cross-border cooperation. Yet the renown of cross-border regions, such as Öresund (Denmark-Sweden) – highlights the rarity of effective cross-border planning arrangements. First, early cross-border cooperation was based on largely informal (‘gentleman’s’) agreements reliant on goodwill (Haselsberger 2007). Second, the later established legal frameworks enabling bi-and multi-national agreements based on public law, were constrained by cross-border regions’ embedding within national planning spaces. Lacking capacities to influence and challenge their respective national planning conventions, the scope of cross-border arrangements to achieve effective territorial management is restricted by the coherence between national and local planning visions.