Innovative practices of agglomeration projects and problems of cross-border agglomerations.
Synthesis of the exchanges of the 2004 session, Namur
Remi Dormois, Helen Barthe Batsalle, Rémi Dormois, Roger Hagelstein, Yves Hanin, 2004
The first edition of the exchange platform on urban agglomerations took place in La-Chaux-de-Fonds (Switzerland) on 22, 23 and 24 May 20031. The objective of this seminar was to compare the experiences and reflections of the three countries represented - Belgium, France and Switzerland - on « the creation and functioning of agglomerations : first lessons from national practices ".
Key questions raised during the first edition
Several questions common to the participants from the three countries were discussed without necessarily leading to convergence:
what definitions should be given to the concepts of agglomeration, for which relevant territory(ies), according to an approach based on objectives, means, tools or institutions
what is a specifically urban agglomeration project,
through the practices of agglomeration leaders, what are the objectives pursued, the keys to success, the instruments for implementing this vision.
Issues addressed in the second edition
Three themes were chosen to structure the second platform held in Namur (Belgium) on March 18, 19 and 20, 2004.
What definition could be given to the agglomeration community, through the experiences of the three countries?
What are the specific problems of cross-border conurbations?
What can we learn from agglomeration projects about collective learning processes, modes of regulation and innovative approaches?
During the first meeting, case studies, with meetings of actors, as in the case of the Neuchâtel Urban Network (RUN) project, were deemed necessary to stimulate the debates.
Taking into account the wishes expressed by the participants, the second edition of the exchange platform was structured in three workshops
innovative practices in agglomeration projects
problems of cross-border conurbations
Walloon agglomeration policy : paths for new strategies
A morning visit to the Centre Urban Community (CUC - La Louvière) was an opportunity to discover its ambitions, achievements and underlying issues.
This summary is intended for the participants of the Namur platform. It sets out the main issues discussed during the workshops, presents the positions taken and raises new questions. The conclusion proposes a collective evaluation made at the end of the seminar and suggests possible themes for the third edition.
1. Innovative practices of agglomeration projects
Starting with innovative agglomeration projects, the first workshop focused on the content and methods of developing such projects. It appeared interesting to look back at the Walloon (La Louvière) and Swiss experiences.
Elements of debate on the practices of Walloon and Swiss agglomerations
In examining the actions proposed by the CUC2 (the « possible » of the project), P. Olivier highlighted the « existential » issue that generates the collective project : loss of 60,000 jobs in 30 years, lack of institutional recognition of the conurbation as a territory of solidarity, competition between neighboring cities, dual membership of some municipalities torn between La Louvière and Charleroi.
In the absence of a process initiated by the central state, the dynamics of the project (I want) come from the grassroots (the project’s bearers, mainly a few elected officials), while the institutional constraint (I must) is rather opposed to the constitution of communities of communes. The dual membership of some of the communes is a source of contradiction: it is an obstacle in terms of cohesion in action. But this ambiguous status creates a dynamic of negotiation, or even partnership on a voluntary basis between antagonistic territories, those of Charleroi, La Louvière and Mons. One may wonder whether institutionalizing the status of dual membership does not lead to slowing down the internal dynamism of the Louvière conurbation. Experience shows, however, that it is possible to manage this variable-geometry inter-municipal solidarity flexibly, taking care not to put neighbouring conurbations in competition with each other in areas such as economic development, taxation or transport.
A look at the Swiss experiences3 (the agglomerations of Basel, Neuchâtel, Fribourg, Lausanne and Geneva) reveals a diversity of innovative practices that reflect a search for the most appropriate operating methods. The institutional constraints of the federal agglomeration policy are pushing for innovation, but the cities are cautious and are proceeding step by step. L. Boulianne analyzes the current experiments as a learning process in a loop. This explains the development of agglomeration projects by making them evolve around functional (leaders) / institutional (elected officials and civil servants) and relational (citizens / supporters) logics.
The debate shows that the dynamics of the agglomeration project in Switzerland stem from a game of multiple actors, leading to different solutions depending on the canton. The process consists of inventing approaches.
The loop process leads to a few observations. Depending on the case, the project develops in a spiral (amplification effect) or runs out of steam. Time is a non-neutral component in this process : after a while, there is no longer a clearly identified starting point in the process.
Some argue that the project management (the leaders) must be professionalized, one of the key factors of success, in order to sustain the process. There are two opposing positions on another success factor: some advocate a dynamic of association of actors through individual projects, while others advocate the implementation of global strategies initiated by the institutional channel. In the field, the process often begins with projects initiated on the basis of voluntary collaboration; then, when the project reaches the limits of spontaneous collaboration, there is a need for institutionalization, which makes the collaboration binding.
The exchanges can be summarized around two dimensions of the agglomeration project process: territoriality and temporality. These two dimensions are largely in tension, depending on whether the process is built on local initiatives or whether it is incited, i.e. given, by the national institutional context.
The question of the territoriality of the urban agglomeration project process
When the process is given, the content, scope, competences, issues, actors, tools and even means seem to be clearly determined. The need to establish a new territorial level of agglomeration is presented as a matter of course by the promoters. In this context, the weight of the « obligatory » (I must) framework prevails. In the event of implementation difficulties, the evaluations highlight perverse effects, opportunistic use, lack of solidarity between communes, the leader’s inability to impose himself, etc. The difficulties are also explained by a lack of synchronization of temporalities between actors (leaders, elected officials, citizens, etc.) or an inability to move through the stages.
Conversely, when the process is initiated on the basis of local dynamics, it is frequently dominated by the « wish » (I would like). In this case, the content, spatial scope, consultation methods, etc., are usually not very similar from one initiative to another. The overall project is constructed according to the singular projects of local actors. The agglomeration project then takes the form of an assembly of multiple sectoral and partial projects. Some people define this diversity as a flight of fancy and a lack of coordination or global vision.
Nevertheless, whether the process is given or constructed, there is a convergence on two points. On the one hand, the process aims to recognize from above or below a territory with a new scope characterized by questions of relations between the city and the periphery, associative dynamics and finally services, equipment and large infrastructures for common use. On the other hand, the process is based on the complementarity between the dynamics initiated or encouraged and the diagnosis that aims to objectify, evaluate, become aware of specific underlying issues and recognize both internal disparities and relevant spatial scales within the area under consideration.
The question of the temporality of the urban agglomeration project process
When the process is given, a timetable, deadlines and even a phasing are prescribed. Conversely, when the process is constructed, the temporality of the process is essentially a matter for local actors. In this case, the synchronization of local actors’ schedules is often a difficulty in the short and medium term.
But this question of temporality also appears through the interplay of generations. Several participants stressed the difficulty of bringing the agglomeration project into line with the local context, which appears to be from another age (traditional managers, crisis situation not overcome, etc.). Conversely, a difficulty also arises from the actors who initiated the project and who are looking for groups to take over.
This second perspective of « transfer » can also be approached through the sequences of the territorial project process. In concrete terms, four phases have been mentioned :
The first is that of the innovation initiated either by the higher authorities in the case of an incited process, or by the new local actor(s) when the process is initiated and constructed.
The second phase aims to mobilize beyond these carrier groups. When the process is encouraged, the content will be oriented towards transversality and the multiplication of triggering and stimulating factors. Conversely, when the process is constructed, mobilization leads to the gradual development of content by federating projects in gestation or sectoral projects. The objective in both process dynamics is naturally to involve other actors: administration, politics, professional associations, inhabitants, etc. This second phase has also been described as the moment when « the mayonnaise has to take hold ». The strategy of negotiation is then predominant, sometimes resorting to authority, sometimes to flexibility. This phase is characterized by the conviction of the necessity of the new level of territory. Whether the process is encouraged or initiated, it is necessary to make people aware of the interest of the collective project at this spatial scale. It is therefore necessary to overcome the fears of duplication and loss of autonomy. For some, it is a matter of building a new political scene at this spatial scale to allow debate, to promote awareness of the emerging territory and the construction of an area of cooperation.
The third phase corresponds to the institutionalization of the territory through the affirmation of competent authorities and procedures.
Finally, the fourth phase, which seems to be the most feared, concerns routine. The authorities are recognized and the projects selected. This phase is then essentially marked by issues of support in the execution and management of the projects.
This vision in terms of territoriality and temporality demonstrates once again that the central question is that of the definition or specificity of the agglomeration project. Indeed, on many points the aspects developed are similar to those encountered in other territorial project approaches.
Innovative practices show complex games and incessant questioning. The process, whether encouraged or initiated, involves a great deal of feedback. In other words, the process seems to be more a matter of cumulative, complex, singular dynamics, and even of certain coincidences.
2. The problem of cross-border conurbations
The objective of the second workshop on cross-border conurbations was to address three aspects specific to them :
the specificities of territorial issues
innovative cooperation practices
and finally, the constraints and opportunities of this cross-border cooperation.
These aspects were presented in the following diagram proposed in the general design note of the platform.
The platform’s debates were enriched by various presentations of cross-border conurbations 4 :
the French-Belgian cross-border conurbation of COPIT, Lille-Mouscron-Tournai-Kortrijk-Roeselare5 ;
the cross-border conurbation of the European Development Pole, PED6 ;
the Saarbrücken-Moselle East cross-border conurbation7 ;
the trinational conurbation of Basel-St. Louis-Weil-am-Rhein8 ;
the Franco-Vaud-Geneva cross-border conurbation9 ;
and a presentation on the problems of cross-border conurbations in general10.
The Franco-Belgian cross-border conurbation (metropolis) of COPIT
The interweaving of French and Belgian territories has created a « community of problems » in this conurbation located at the meeting point of France, Wallonia and Flanders. For the past twenty years, the communities have been forced to seek common solutions (industrial conversion, water, etc.). In the early 1990s, the conurbation benefited from major infrastructure projects (North European TGV hub, etc.), strengthening its European position. Cross-border development has not only been managed in a bi-national way, but also in a tri-cultural way, in order to respect the identity of the three components. This concern for balance is reflected in the structure of the common tool : the Permanent Cross-Border Intercommunal Conference (COPIT) created in 1991 and formalized since 2000 in the form of a Franco-Belgian association under French law (1901 law) 10.
In 1998, the five inter-municipal organizations of the Franco-Belgian metropolis (Lille Urban Community, IDETA-Tournai, IEG-Mouscron, LEIEDAL-Kortrijk and WVI-Ieper and Roeselare), united within COPIT and the Lille Metropolitan Agency for Development and Urban Planning, created a cross-border workshop to draw up a draft cross-border planning and development plan (Grootstad). This Scheme addresses various themes such as the metropolization of the territory, the development of water resources, mobility, economic competition and complementarity, the coherence of local planning, etc.
This project was concluded in 2001 and led to the publication of a Proposed Strategy for a Cross-Border Metropolis, the general objective of which is to make the cross-border territory an integrated metropolitan system, with a common development strategy and to facilitate the emergence and implementation of cross-border projects12.
The cross-border specificity of this conurbation13 is based on three strong characteristics :
the complexity of the urban system : geographical, functional and institutional complexity ;
the urban character of the border (one could say « an intimate border »)
a relative balance in the distribution of forces between the two countries and the assets on both sides of the border (which can be seen in the attractiveness of the centers, the flow of workers, the power of political and economic actors).
There are innovative practices in the methodology (process) for developing the cross-border conurbation project 14 :
the bottom-up process, starting from the inter-municipalities, to mobilize the higher scale levels ;
the multitude of actors and networks of actors : the partnership was formed between the intermunicipal organizations, but was extended to provincial, regional and national authorities, as well as to economic and cultural actors ;
the initiation of actions that precede the creation of adequate tools (and not the other way around).
The assets within the project 15 are a common will to elaborate a cross-border development strategy and an ambition of metropolitan positioning based on a reality combining :
geographical proximity and interdependence ;
functional relations between the cooperation territories ;
political and institutional voluntarism
We identify two points of deepening (perspectives) for this cross-border metropolis project 16:
governance, which should be illustrated by the creation of decision-making and operational structures that are more elaborate with regard to the ambitions and reality of cooperation ;
the Eurodistrict concept, which constitutes a challenge that goes beyond the transformation of current legal structures and should lead to greater overall coherence and a greater capacity to mobilize resources.
The European Development Pole, PED
Cross-border cooperation within the tri-national agglomeration of Longwy is probably the one in which the State has been most involved politically and financially. The desire to reconvert a site in crisis, after the disappearance of the steel industry, led to the creation of the European Development Pole in Longwy in 1985. Initially dedicated to job creation, this multifunctional project eventually covered all the components of local life with the main objective of « turning a community of problems into a community of destiny ».
As early as October 1993, 21 mayors and burgomasters from the three countries declared their intention to create a cross-border conurbation, supported by a joint resolution from the three states concerned. The challenge was to involve all the local players in the territorial project and to ensure that they took ownership of it. This transfer of management of the project from the State to the local authorities was not without difficulty. The creation of a cross-border urban planning observatory in 1994 in Longwy, and then of a cross-border association in 1996, bringing together the elected representatives of 21 municipalities and the representatives of the States, enabled a new start to be made in the PED by creating a precise perimeter and by constituting a homogeneous territorial reference system between the three countries (GIS mapping with consistency of urban planning documents, statistics, harmonization of definitions, etc.).
This new phase was accompanied by the drafting of a cross-border conurbation charter which defined the structuring projects and supported local projects by focusing on their greater cross-border integration. The PED has continued its development with the transformation of the Observatory into a cross-border urban planning agency (AGAPE) … and in particular the development of a cross-border business park on the Point Triple (international tertiary business park, which should eventually become the new heart of the conurbation) 17.
The cross-border specificity of this conurbation18 lies in the fact that it is a tri-national, tripolar conurbation. Morphologically, it corresponds to a conurbation, while functionally it is becoming more and more a suburb of Luxembourg. The history of the steel industry is a strong common denominator of the three national parts of the conurbation, whose center of gravity, once occupied by blast furnaces, is now empty.
The innovative practices in the methodology (process) for drawing up the cross-border conurbation project 19 are :
the production of numerous common tools : setting up a cross-border GIS, intranet and extranet for project management ;
the structuring of territorial governance with the Cross-border Association ;
the cross-border conurbation charter and the development plan.
Two points of further development (perspectives) are identified for this cross-border metropolis project 20 :
to perpetuate the tools and technical teams without which the project would not have succeeded ;
cross-border governance needs to be further developed at the territorial level.
L. Reitz points out that, in the cross-border context, it is the citizen who has the power to change things, unlike in other cases where it is the elected representative21.
The Saarbrücken-Moselle East cross-border conurbation
The Saarland conurbation constitutes a genuine cross-border living area. On the strength of several operations carried out within the framework of Interreg, and benefiting on both sides of the border from a strong inter-municipality, more concrete cross-border projects should emerge, carried out within the framework of the project management of a single authority.
Five realities of the territorial dynamics and the situation of Saarbrücken-Moselle East 22 contribute to the project.
It is a question of « moving from a de facto cross-border conurbation, undergoing rapid change but still undergoing conversion and rehabilitation, to a cross-border conurbation of projects energized by intercultural innovation and by extensive internal cooperation ».
To achieve this, these five realities must be experienced simultaneously in order to set the territory in motion collectively towards a cross-border conurbation of projects :
the feeling of belonging, the common identity, the common values, of which we often speak of the visible side, « the territorial image ", signs of a more interior reality ;
interactions : these are particularly strong in Saarland/Moselle East ;
the vision or the « common representation ", we also speak of the « common mental map ", it is there, in part, it is being sought, with trial and error ;
the objective that allows us to move towards the vision : well connected to the vision, the development objectives become obvious, milestones on a dynamic path ;
the structure, or rather, a governance, with several structural elements, which can be flexible, starting from the existing.
The trinational conurbation of Basel-St. Louis-Weil-am-Rhein
The trinational conurbation of Basel-St. Louis-Weil-am-Rhein is developing its cross-border cooperation through an associative structure for technical and political consultation, the Trinational Conurbation of Basel, and a project for the development of a cross-border facility, the Three Borders Technoport, which is managed by a French development association. Other, more thematic actions are carried out within the framework of Interreg.
The Franco-Vaud-Geneva conurbation
The Franco-Vaud-Geneva conurbation is one of the most integrated urban cross-border sites from a geographical point of view (urban morphology and multiple cross-border flows). From an institutional point of view, it is characterized by a large number of organizations. Their mutual neutralization has slowed down the progress of cooperation for some time. Current urban cross-border cooperation has its roots in the Franco-Geneva Regional Committee, created in 1974, one year after the Franco-Geneva Joint Consultative Commission, to manage cross-border neighbourhood problems. The CRFG has wanted to become more involved in local cooperation since 1992 by moving from the management of neighborhood issues to a cross-border conurbation project, hence the publication of a White Paper identifying the challenges to be met for this area and proposing a series of concrete measures.
From 1993 to 1995, a cross-border charter was drawn up, based on 10 specific projects, but with very little involvement of the municipalities concerned. This charter, which is accompanied by a development plan for the Valdo-Franco-Geneva area, recommends the construction of numerous infrastructures, particularly in the field of transport (CEVA cross-border light rail system between Annemasse and CERN, etc.), and has led, among other things, to the launch of a phase for the creation of economic development clusters and the setting up of a cross-border statistical observatory. Two projects have recently entered the pre-operational phase: the creation of a cross-border economic development cluster around Geneva international airport (Rectangle d’Or project), and a mixed-use business cluster on the railway wasteland of the Annemasse station (Etoile Annemasse/Genève project) 23.
S. Lin reminds us of the cross-border specificity of this conurbation 24} :
If the city is cross-border like the others, its center is in one country and the periphery in another, leading to center-periphery problems that are coupled with difficulties characteristic of a relationship between two countries. The situation of Geneva, a Swiss city outside the European Union, in contrast to its French periphery, reinforces this local specificity.
The innovative practice of drawing up the cross-border conurbation project is not to have added up the specific features of each territory but to have worked straight away on themes that are applied to joint actions. One beneficial methodological aspect has been the constant back and forth between the strategic development phases and the implementation of actions on the ground. This constant link between a global policy and the implementation of concrete actions seems fundamental to refining the approach of a cross-border conurbation project.
It is also a question of inventing institutions (informal cooperation bodies, inter-state cooperation agreements, local cross-border cooperation groupings, cross-border management structures, SEMs, etc.) and of building Europe from below.
The next stage should enable the conurbation to establish an institutional platform that involves the competent authorities to a greater extent on a contractual basis, with an expansion into new areas (economy, training, harmonization of housing policies).
Summary of the problems of cross-border conurbations26
The experiences presented lead us to reflect on a number of concepts: the border, the territory and the conurbation in a cross-border context.
Cross-border means border. As a symbol of the construction of a national identity, the border is both a political, economic, sociological and cultural reality that cannot be ignored, and a psychological dimension that is deeply embedded in people’s minds. The cross-border approach, within the framework of territorial development, does not aim to make the border disappear, but to approach it as a resource and not as a handicap. Thanks to cross-border cooperation, the cross-border territory can then become a positive place, a support for projects associating people, know-how, dynamics and means. However, this approach must take into account the diversity covered by the very notion of border.
We can distinguish :
the glacis border : materialized by natural obstacles (mountain range, forest massifs) and therefore sparsely populated, it is perceived more as a place of protection (barrier) than as a place of flows and exchanges. For several centuries, its vocation was mainly military.
The border is characterized by an absence of natural obstacles, and owes its course to history rather than to geography. It often has a significant urbanization on both sides of the border. As a place of passage and of human and economic exchanges, it has encouraged mixing and facilitated the emergence of common cultural references (language for example).
In both cases, it is possible to develop specific projects and more broadly cross-border territories. The second case, however, will require a stronger political will to forge a common future between partners from two or three countries in the same territory.
A cross-border territory is a defined project area. It therefore assumes a strong will to give itself a common destiny.
The cross-border territory is thus born of a strong political will to promote local development and cross-border cooperation ; but it cannot be conceived without being part of a specific geographical, socio-economic and cultural space.
It can be the site of one or more specific projects, or of a single project with a more global vocation. We then speak of a territory project. Most often, the implementation starts with one-off actions, the exemplary nature of the results and the habits of working together then allowing for a broader and more transversal approach.
When it supports multiple projects, a cross-border territory may have different perimeters depending on the issues addressed.
A cross-border conurbation is defined less by a strictly morphological concept (cross-border urban ensemble crossed by a border) than by a more or less wide range of cross-border urban functions, coupled with a common political project on a defined territory.
These cross-border conurbations also reflect the contemporary economic dynamics at work, resulting from a certain « border effect »: differences in legislation, labor costs, real estate, etc., which stimulate economic growth and enable companies and the population to take advantage of these differences.
A small typology of cross-border conurbations on the borders of France and neighboring countries
Strict cross-border conurbations : they constitute a group of dense and continuous urbanization, in most cases polycentric with a hierarchy of centers (a main center and secondary centers). These cross-border conurbations are the most integrated form of local cooperation.
Cross-border urban networks : these are much more linear cross-border urban spaces where urban continuity is not complete (numerous rural buffer spaces). They are more like an urban network with an urbanization that is often coastal in filament form. However, in some cases, the reality of flows or the cross-border political project is no less strong.
Emergence of cross-border conurbations
Local urban cross-border cooperation has developed at very different rates depending on the border and the region. It is often difficult to pinpoint its precise origin, since it has its roots in institutional cooperation through a large number of projects, most of which have been urban in nature. Accelerated thanks to the Interreg program about ten years ago, it is becoming more individualized and gradually more autonomous to become a specific component of cross-border cooperation at regional level. More or less complex depending on the size and functions of the conurbations, according to the agreements, treaties, cultural traditions, and the language community, it takes a particular form for practically each of the conurbations concerned. It is therefore very difficult to deduce a model that is uniformly applicable everywhere. This is all the more true since we are still at the beginning of a cooperation that is gradually taking shape by adapting to very different spatial and legal configurations.
Issues and problems specific to cross-border conurbations
When we go into the details of the problems that are the subject of cooperation, all the issues that make up a « national » conurbation can be addressed in a cross-border conurbation project: transport, health, waste, planning… However, other questions relating to cross-border management are also raised: cross-border urban citizenship, methods of financing actions, local taxation problems, intercultural management of such a conurbation, local development…
The issues that characterize these cross-border conurbations are multiple: social, economic, political, spatial and cultural. They are considerable in terms of the development potential they underlie.
The articulation of the different levels of planning between each country is essential to the success of a cross-border conurbation project26.
Cross-border conurbations are territories with high potential for economic development. The challenge is to make the border a resource and no longer a handicap. It is also a question of achieving economies of scale by focusing on complementarity and avoiding the construction of the same facilities on both sides of the border.
These conurbations are real laboratories for European construction, because they are both places where national policies converge and the crucible of European citizenship. On a European scale, the cooperation that is taking place in these areas today represents the expression of a form of European economic, social and cultural integration, while at the same time strengthening the possibilities for local authorities to act across borders to create and manage services of general interest together. Encouraging the establishment of co-decision or management structures at the level of the cross-border urban territory, through community initiatives and the development of national legislation and laws, is one of the major challenges for their development.
Numerous problems disrupt the daily life of the populations and hinder the actors of cross-border projects and elected representatives in their desire to create urban coherence and a « community of destiny » with their neighbors on a common territory.
A number of pitfalls have been mentioned: real estate and land pressure, degradation of border peri-urban landscapes, increasing saturation of road infrastructures, additional costs of not having a cross-border conurbation (separate management of services), incompatibilities between administrative and legal systems, articulation of scales of cooperation, the problem of financing cross-border cooperation…
However, it is clear that the experiments under way in cross-border conurbations are making progress despite the various national institutional constraints. It also appears that these conurbations are taking advantage of the dynamics of cooperation as well as the dynamics of competition between neighboring territories, sometimes adopting attitudes of competitive cooperation, sometimes of cooperative competition, depending on the interplay of reciprocal interests.
3. Walloon agglomeration policy
Ideas for new strategies
The third workshop focused on Walloon agglomeration policy. The objective was, through the eyes of the French and Swiss participants, to highlight the particularities but also the shortcomings of the supra-municipal cooperation process in Walloon cities. This workshop ended with a debate with three representatives of the Walloon political world interested in the work of the platform28.
Beyond an assessment of the current situation noting the deficiencies 29, a series of reasons justify the establishment in Wallonia of supra-municipal associations in urban agglomerations :
to ensure territorial coherence, complementarity and cooperation between actors for the strategic management of certain urban development policies
to ensure a better visibility of a whole region on the economic level and to reinforce the links (economic or other) from region to region
asserting the identity of a conurbation community to attract private or public investors, benefit from European subsidies (critical size), give a positive image or facilitate partnerships, for example on an international level
strengthen links between the various constituent entities (center-periphery relationship, between rural and urban municipalities).
The Union des Villes et Communes de Wallonie 30, a pressure group representing local authorities, is calling for the adoption by the Region of a decree that would organize the procedures for communities of agglomerations and communities of communes through flexible collaborations, on a conventional basis, with a view to carrying out well-defined projects. Among the reservations raised by this demand, there is the concern not to make the already complex institutional landscape in Belgium more cumbersome, the fear of duplication (among others with the intermunicipal management and development companies), the lack of transparency and balanced representation of the municipalities. It should be remembered that in Wallonia there is no legal framework authorizing the creation of institutionally recognized communities31.
L. Maréchal32 emphasizes that the idea of supra-municipal cooperation emerged at the request of the driving forces during the public consultation on the regional development plan (SDER). It has resulted in the definition of cooperation areas, supra-municipal areas that are both urban and rural, and eurocorridors. It inevitably raises the problem of externalities between poles and within urban poles. Functional and political approaches clash: in Wallonia, the agglomeration dynamic is more a matter of political will based on values than on a relational approach based on people’s experience.
The interventions lead us to question the different positions in presence.
The option of a flexible agglomeration structure, without a strict and imperative legal framework covering the whole of Wallonia, opens up a parliamentary debate that is fraught with risks: what assurance can we have that local particularities will not prevail over the general interest, not only in the institutional aspects but above all in the financial issues (fiscal equalization)? Can we solve the problems of externalities project by project?
The question of project-based supra-municipality entails a reformatting of provincial institutions (whose influence is to be limited) and of inter-municipal « management » companies (whose size is to be reduced by half). But on what democratic basis would the « project » community be established, with what degree of constraint? The proposed political option of a second-level election of the representatives of the agglomeration community is preferred, because the option of direct election would not offer the guarantee of avoiding communal « egotism ».
The Walloon debate seems to lead to a questioning of the communal institution itself. How can it be legitimized today in an institutional structure? Is it a given, intangible, untouchable fact? Two models of the State seem to be opposed: a representation based on a State referred to the communal territory and a model of a translocal, relational, fluid society.
Through the questions raised by the emergence of the agglomeration territory - the relevant scale, the endogenous resources that can be mobilized, participatory or representative democracy, the quest for identity - we discover the strategies of social groups seeking to take advantage of a collective project, of which the (non-)solidarity of the city-center and the « middle-class » municipalities on the periphery is one aspect.
Finally, the risk of institutional overreaction in Wallonia following the many recent reforms encourages caution and the need to allow time for experimentation.
In the absence of a stated desire to promote cooperation between local authorities, it is unlikely that Wallonia will adopt a legal framework establishing communities of agglomerations or communities of communes in the short term.
The government intends to evaluate the current experiments and will consider at a later date the place that should be given to them in the institutional architecture of the Walloon Region.
It is therefore time for experimentation in order to demonstrate the effectiveness and necessity of cooperation between local authorities and the Region. However, the principles of such cooperation are recalled in regional policy documents: subsidiarity (a principle which implies that tasks in the public interest should be allocated to the most appropriate level and, in the event of equivalence, to the local authority), connectedness (a principle which guarantees that local authorities will be allocated sufficient resources in line with the allocation of new tasks), objectivity and responsibility.
It is to be hoped that this « institutional tinkering » will lead to new dynamics and voluntary solidarity within the agglomeration territories.
4. Themes for the 2005 platform
At the end of the second edition of the platform, we realize that there is a real difficulty linked to the vocabulary (project, agglomeration, development, sustainable, urban…) and to the metadiscourse (governance, solidarity…). It was suggested that a lexicon of the terms used prior to the seminars should be drawn up, but not everyone agreed with this idea. It is difficult to structure the debate. There is a tendency to transform intellectual constructs ("agglomeration project") into substantial objects: we should « do » the project to develop the agglomeration. However, a project creates inequality and dualization at the same time as it produces identity. It is necessary to reflect on the epistemological scope of the ambient discourses, on the ideological postulates of the positions taken, on the shifting processes rooted in the territories and in time.
It was proposed that the next platform be organized in Toulouse in March 2005. In view of the work of the 2004 platform, we can propose the following themes that would structure the continuation of the discussions :
the territorial scales of agglomeration and the articulation between them ;
territorial governance and strategic management of conurbations : from the transition from reference to the citizen to recognition of the user or consumer (the example of mobility and democracy or development councils) or the issue of contractualization ;
competition between territories and solidarity between populations: how to regulate competitiveness, how to create « win-win » situations, what impact do European policies (Interreg) have, what games of exclusion/inclusion?
how to build a global vision beyond individual projects?
the question of the complexity of issues, processes, policies ;
the question of solidarity: discourse and practice.
Among the improvements to be made to the seminar, it was suggested that the field visit be an integral part of the program, that there be fewer case presentations and that the participants be present for all the work.
The number of case studies could be reduced. The place of the local debate on Wallonia could have been reduced to free up time for discussion. The analysis grids proposed in the preparatory note could be used more as reading keys and as reference points for the questioning. It is necessary that the group be able to appropriate and work on the proposed diagrams.
The CIRUS team is in charge of preparing the third edition of the platform, which will take place on 17, 18 and 19 March 2004. It was suggested that research teams working on these issues be associated with the seminar. L. Boulianne proposed to invite Quebec partners that he will meet soon.
1 Boulianne L., Rey M. (2003), Plateforme internationale d’échanges dans le domaine des agglomérations urbaines. Synthèse des échanges, CEAT, EPFL, Lausanne, 16 p.
[#(note( 2] Presentation by P. Olivier, alderman of the City of La Louvière, document 1 of the platform proceedings.
3 Presentation by L. Boulianne, document 2 of the platform proceedings.
4 Sources : documents distributed by the various speakers + MOT notebooks (3), Cross-border conurbations, August 2003.
5 Absence of the interlocutor, P. Bintein, Intercommunale IEG, document 3 of the platform’s proceedings.
6 L.-F. Reitz, Intercommunale IDELUX, document 4 of the platform proceedings .
7 Ph. Vaillant, Etablissement public foncier de Lorraine, document 5 of the platform proceedings .
8 F. Duvinage, Basle trinational agglomeration, document 6 of the platform proceedings .
9 S. Lin, Direction de l’aménagement cantonal de Genève, document 7 of the platform proceedings .
10 G. Vautrin, CUCES-Universities, document 8 of the platform proceedings.
11 Les cahiers de la MOT (3), Les agglomérations transfrontalières, August 2003.
13 According to Jef Van Staeyen, Director of COPIT in Les Cahiers de la MOT (3), Les agglomérations transfrontalières, August 2003.
15 Proposal for a strategy for a cross-border metropolis (Synthesis)
16 Op. Cit.
17 Les cahiers de la MOT (3), Les agglomérations transfrontalières, August 2003.
18 According to Louis-François Reitz, Director of AGAPE in Les cahiers de la MOT (3), Les agglomérations transfrontalières, August 2003.
21 Presentation by L.-F. Reitz, Second International Platform on Urban Agglomerations, Namur, March 19, 2004.
22 Note distributed by Ph. Vaillant, Second international platform on urban agglomerations, Namur, March 19, 2004.
23 Les cahiers de la MOT (3), Les agglomérations transfrontalières, August 2003.
24 According to Sophie Lin, Head of the Master Plan Service at the Direction de l’Aménagement, de l’Equipement et du Logement of the Canton of Geneva in Les cahiers de la MOT (3), Les agglomérations transfrontalières, August 2003 + presentation and notes by S. Lin, Deuxième plateforme internationale sur les agglomérations urbaines, Namur, 19 March 2004.