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Improving water governance on the cross-border European Nature Park of Scarpe-Escaut Plains

Lisa Bardot is the cross-border cooperation officer at Scarpe-Escaut Regional Nature Park, located in the north of France. Among her tasks, she coordinates with the staff of the Escaut Plains Natural Park, across the border, on the Belgian side.

The two parks compose the European Natural Park of Scarpe Escaut Plains which has been a European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC) since 2021.

Lisa explains her role as a cross-border cooperation officer as a facilitator: “My mission is to foster the mutual work done by the technical teams and the elected representatives from both the French and Belgian parks”.

“It is all about building up the internal governance of the EGTC: gather the politicians of the cross-border territory, organise informal moments of exchange between both teams, draft and implement the cross-border strategy through different European and non-European projects”, she adds.

One of the main cross-border challenges faced by the territory concerns water governance. Water has no borders and is omnipresent in both parks. Lisa highlights why the EGTC European Natural Park of Scarpe Escaut Plains applied to receive technical expertise to face such challenge: “Even though the presence of transboundary watersheds brings the territories closer together, shared water management also causes problems. Different regulations on the two sides of the border make it difficult to implement holistic actions, which is further complicated by the number of stakeholders involved and their asymmetric competences.

With the objective of finding solutions to improve water governance on its territory, the EGTC European Natural Park of Scarpe Escaut Plains requested support from b-solutions.

Pauline Pupier, b-solutions expert, analysed the obstacle and suggested solutions in a report with the title “Water governance in a Franco-Belgian European Natural Park”. Solutions drawn include the drafting of bilateral agreements on water management, adaptation of the EU Water Framework Directive to take into account the specific nature of cross-border cooperation, and the implementation of cross-border projects led by the park to build mutual trust among the actors across the border.

The report also evokes the possibility to apply a single national law through the ECBM mechanism if approved at the EU level. This mechanism would make it possible to choose the national law, Belgian or French, which appears to fit best for carrying out a cross-border project.

Reflecting on the experience of b-solutions, Lisa shares her thoughts: “it is quite satisfying. From the beginning, the expert really helped us to better identify the obstacle by focusing on three main case- studies. The report is well structured, concise and not too technical so that it is easy for non-specialists to understand the analysis”.

She also explains that moving from the analysis towards the implementation of solutions remains challenging and requires the involvement of all parties on both sides of the border including at the national level.

Nonetheless, in terms of impact, beneficial, as she concludes: “we can benefit from this objective analysis to assert our role of cross-border coordinator towards the partners and take the lead to address these issues. The main interest of the report is that it strengthens the EGTC’s legitimacy to take actions on the cross-border territory of the European Nature Park of Scarpe-Escaut Plains. It confirms the importance of fostering intercultural knowledge of Belgian and French institutions and multi-level governance systems.”


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