CAIA, the Euro-town of Campo Maior-Elvas-Badajoz

Our dominant institutional mini-fund mentality will perpetuate this stigma that, paradoxically, serves to form the so-called grievance capital

I confess that I don't really like borders or limits, I prefer an open society and frank and loyal cooperation, which is the most precious resource we have and which we use so sparingly, we don't really know why.

The solution will never be a dual and bipolar country, the solution will always be knowledge, cooperation, culture and creativity (4C), through more and better collaborative and institutional intelligence that digital platforms now make it possible to achieve.

In the same way, thinking of the interior as a block of low-density areas doesn't seem right to me.

Once again, thinking about a bloc is thinking about a cyst, a union and making a capital of grievances yield, perhaps creating a stigma of underdevelopment that can become counterproductive.

The solution is networks of cities and towns, knowledge networks with universities, culture networks with artists, young people and cultural associations, rural extension networks with farmers and business extension networks with companies and their regional and sub-regional associations.

On the contrary, our dominant institutional mini-fund mentality will perpetuate this stigma which, paradoxically, serves to form the so-called capital of grievance, a capital that feeds the territorial indigence that many of our territories suffer from.

In the same sense, the administrative reform of the XNUMXst century has nothing to do with the administrative reform of the XNUMXth century. From then on, the front office will be very dematerialized and the back office will be designed to treat the problem saving more than for the problem solving.

In other words, there will be fewer face-to-face services and more remote and outpatient services, all done intelligently, with the help of digital platforms and collaborative co-creation, co-production and co-management structures.

This is the reason why, in the current situation, digital infrastructures are fundamental for covering the territory, but what is essentially needed, as I already mentioned, are cooperation networks in all areas.

I give an example of what needs to be done. Like the industrial and commercial schools of the XNUMXth century, today the arts and technology schools of the XNUMXst century should be created, a sign in the right direction and which could be created in each intermunicipal community (CIM).

In this context, the role of the national and regional media also needs to be reassessed, as they sometimes transmit an inadequate image of non-metropolitan areas and unwittingly end up contributing to perpetuate the narrative of a rural and bucolic interior. , because they think they can take advantage of the amount of complaints accumulated in the meantime.

I believe they should promote, with greater conviction, the collaborative networks and platforms I mentioned and create innovative public spaces around local and regional problems.

In terms of networks and territorial cooperation, an interesting question concerns the so-called neighborhood paradox. The cooperation factor is an abundant and cheap resource, but there is the neighborhood paradox or neighborhood friction that limits proximity cooperation.

A concrete example concerns higher education institutions. In each district capital, there is a higher education institution and, here too, the dematerialization of part of face-to-face teaching will be inevitable.

Therefore, part of its activity should be dedicated to the formation and consolidation of assistance and community extension networks. I'm talking about a true revolution, interregional cooperation networks, smart communities, collaborative platforms and territorial development contracts with territorial communities and, in each case, the formation of network actors to operationalize these territorial communities.

Despite the investments already made in recent years, in low-density areas of the interior, the economic impacts observed are very modest.

Investments have greatly improved living conditions and the emphasis is on the role of local authorities, which invested in infrastructure and equipment, but working conditions, employment and income did not undergo substantial changes.

In theory, perhaps we can say that the centripetal force of the coast is greater than the centrifugal force of the border, that is, the border does not yet have agglomeration economies that allow it to ensure the return on investments made there.

In other words, the opportunity cost of investing at the border is very high and, in the end, the two Iberian countries use the cross-border cooperation program to justify cross-border investments, that is, there is no true integration policy which, however, Euro-regions and Euro-cities could take the lead as new central places on the border.

I am sure that the most appropriate and consistent strategy has to be found within the framework of the guidelines contained in the ecological pact, the energy transition and the digital agenda, currently underway.

In this regard, I give the example of the Euro-city Campo Maior-Elvas-Badajoz. It has all the conditions to be a kind of new industrial district, if we want, a large logistics platform and a business pilot area at the connection node of a trans-European transport network – the international southern corridor (the ports of Sines, Setúbal and Lisbon ) and its railway connection to Badajoz, with the Southwest Iberian network that connects to Madrid.

If both countries want, this Euro-city could be an emblematic project for the decade to come

In fact, investment in the railway network, which will take us to Iberian High Speed ​​in the second half of the decade, is politically possible, especially as the two Iberian countries want to hold the world championship in 2030.

It is a strong enough objective to justify investment in the railway network. However, it has a high opportunity cost, as it is important to know what remains to be done for all this to happen.

Furthermore, there are some geopolitical uncertainties in the decade that could make the Iberian relationship fluctuate, for example: the monarchical/republican issue, the nuclear issue (Almaraz), the issue of transfers (the water wars), the issue of autonomies and independence, the issue of Gibraltar (United Kingdom), the issue of refugees.

Geopolitics and its black swans can interfere with geoeconomics when least expected.

However, beyond the hardware of cross-border cooperation, there is the of this cooperation and here there is a lot of work in common with a relatively low opportunity cost, namely: approving the status of cross-border workers, a green path for young people and seniors, a joint degree between higher education institutions, the creation of an agri-food system local (SAL) for the Euro-city of Caia, an Iberian Erasmus, a business internship grant, a collective CAIA brand, the creation of artistic, cultural and scientific residencies in the Euro-city taking advantage of the UNESCO brand that Elvas already boasts.

If the two Iberian countries really want to develop their cross-border area as a relevant part of their internal market, they must apply for the Iberian Peninsula, as a whole, to become a European macro-region and, from there, carry out all the investments foreseen in the trans-European networks.

Furthermore, they must prevent the emergence of a black swan that interrupts ongoing investments and jeopardizes the integration process.

The holding of the Football World Cup in 2030, once again, is a good example of a measure to safeguard this entire process. But it may not be enough to safeguard all risks.


Author António Covas is a Retired Full Professor at the University of Algarve


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