8 May 2023
Our Interreg togetherness
Why is it worth investing time, effort and money in cooperation in the Baltic Sea region? Read the interview with Teresa Marcinów, Monitoring Committee member from Poland.
Eeva Rantama: What association with Interreg do you have?
When I think of Interreg, I think that cooperation is always better than competition. I think about the idea that not everything is about money but everything is about people. It is about learning and growing stronger. To me, Interreg means also togetherness. I understand it as belonging to a certain territory but also to a certain group of people who are not indifferent, who care.
How has Poland benefited from the Programme?
Interreg Baltic Sea Region has proven that it is better to join with partners to work on topics, such as climate, environment, transport, societal issues, and also some unexpected crises like pandemics. It is reasonable to seek solutions as a group because the expertise and tools available on a local, regional or national level are not always sufficient.
It is worth investing time, effort and money in cooperation in the Baltic Sea area to bring people and institutions together. We’ve managed to encourage people to cooperate and open their minds.
Here I would like to mention a new type of small project, which is still an ongoing experiment in the current Programme. I already see that many Polish organisations used this opportunity to take their first steps in transnational cooperation – in a smaller scale, with simplified rules. It is an important result of the Programme.
I believe that many Polish institutions appreciate the experience gained in the course of cooperation projects. I have noticed that organisations that are active in transnational programmes are more curious and courageous when they try to get the best solutions for their regions. In this context, it is impossible not to mention small infrastructure improvements, planning investments, e.g. in tourism routes, or testing new mobility or transport solutions. Those investments are real and they often initiate bigger projects financed from national and regional resources. For example, the EMMA, EMMA extension and Combine projects helped prepare ground and test solutions in inland waterways and combined transport in Kujawsko-Pomorskie region.
Last but not least, I have to say that – to me – a major contribution of Interreg Baltic Sea Region in Poland is about raising awareness in many fields.
Can you provide any examples of how the Programme has increased the awareness of people in some fields?
The Programme has helped convey the message that our choices, e.g. how we cultivate plants, what we use in housekeeping, and how we live, influence the Baltic Sea in this way or another. We have interesting projects that are building on it. For example, projects limiting hazardous substances in our lives and their inflow to Baltic. We have projects dealing with pollution, waste or chemical munitions in the sea. The latter opened up quite a broad debate on the quality of the Baltic Sea waters.
Even though some regions are separated by many kilometres, they share certain challenges related to, for instance, new demographic phenomena and the necessary economic changes related to them. For example, the BaltSe@nioR project brought furniture producers, academia and senior citizens together to create better conditions for the ageing groups of society. In a similar context, we also have projects working in the health sector. The Programme helps understand that it is very important to prepare solutions in close cooperation with their potential users.
What are your best memories related to the Programme?
I like listening to the stories of beneficiaries to see how the theory included in the Programme document is translated into their ideas and concrete actions.
When it comes to Programme events, I remember well the opening Conference of the Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme 2014-2020, which took place in Warsaw at the Jewish History Museum. There was this feeling that every piece of this event fit: there was a building with a vision, people interested to participate in the Programme and active interactions between the panellists and the audience.
I am particularly fond of the idea of cooperation between programmes in the Baltic Sea region. I recall a meeting in Gdańsk organised by the Polish presidency of CBSS. Perhaps it was the only meeting when we managed to bring together Interreg Central Baltic, Interreg South Baltic and Interreg Baltic Sea Region. There were many lively discussions, interesting project visits and even a bicycle trip.
What would be your wishes for the future of the Programme?
I wish the Programme to continue contributing to the development of regions around the Baltic Sea, combining knowledge and good practices from projects with policy instruments. I wish that our regions together will be able to recover from challenging situations now and in the future.
It would be great if also people outside the Interreg world appreciated the role of cooperation more. This Programme proves that transnational projects make sense and are meaningful. And I am very committed to helping convince decision-makers that it is cooperation that makes our region a better place to live in.
On a more general level, I wish that people would feel that the Baltic Sea is not only our joint resource but also our joint responsibility.
This year, our Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme is celebrating its 25th anniversary. For more examples of #MadeWithIBSR project results and testimonials of great people who have helped shape the regions with us, visit our birthday celebrations page!
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