Interview with Christian Estrosi, Mayor of Nice, President of the Nice-Côte d'Azur Metropolis

December 2023

Interview with Christian Estrosi, Mayor of Nice, President of the Nice-Côte d'Azur Metropolis

Following the launch of the Franco-Italian Border Cooperation Committee, and more recently of the "Observ'Alp" project, which brings together numerous partners between France, Italy and Monaco, Christian Estrosi answers our questions on the major cross-border challenges facing the Metropolis with its border neighbors.

What are the cross-border issues surrounding the Metropolis?

"Nice-Côte d'Azur is a metropolis with border status. In 2019, the Metropolitan Council adopted its "Cross-border cooperation plan 2020-2030", which was enthusiastically welcomed by Italian, Monegasque and French interlocutors.
I wanted this strategic document to respond to our territory's main cross-border challenges:

  • Improving living and working conditions for border workers in the French-Italian-Monegasque coastal zone: air quality, traffic, access to public services... ;
  • Respond to the problems of the cross-border mountain area affected by storm Alex in 2021: preserve the protected natural area, arm territories against climatic hazards, while supporting economic and sustainable mountain activities to maintain public services in education, transport, healthcare...

Between the Principality and the three metropolitan areas of Nice, Genoa and Turin, the stakes are even higher: the aim is to set up collaboration between researchers, major companies and start-ups to develop cross-border sectors around economic clusters: Artificial intelligence, aerospace, boating, biomedical... Finally, as our region is at the heart of the Mediterranean and at the foot of the Alps, we are working with the regions, states and European institutions to set up an innovative system to overcome potential legal and regulatory difficulties at borders ("ECBM 2. 0" supported by the European Commission). Our objectives are also to develop major public policy projects for development and transport on the Marseille-Genoa and Nice-Turin axes, to improve our statistical and cartographic knowledge of the territories, and to accelerate the implementation of a new Franco-Italian governance through the Border Cooperation Committee instituted by the Quirinal Treaty."

You recently spoke of a "EuroAlliance" with neighboring Italian territories. What are its objectives? What other cross-border news do you have?

"Together with the mayor-president of the Province of Imperia, Claudio Scajola, the City and Province of Cuneo in Piedmont, and the French Riviera Conurbation Community, I want to create a common governance space for the Southern Alps. This will be a working group that could be extended to the Principality of Monaco and the Metropolises of Genoa and Turin.  This will enable local elected representatives to propose joint solutions that go beyond border issues. For example, to facilitate travel, or provide better access to public services.

Since May 2023, I have been meeting with various Italian political leaders in the vicinity, including the President of the Liguria Region Giovanni Toti, the Mayor of Genoa Marco Bucci, the Mayor-President of the Province of Imperia Claudio Scajola, the Mayor of Cuneo Patrizia Manassera and the President of the Province of Cuneo Luca Robaldo, to create a common political dynamic. I also met the new mayor of Ventimiglia, Flavio di Muro, at an initial meeting to discuss mobility issues between our two cities. I have signed a Cooperation Pact with the Metropolis of Turin, while that with Genoa is currently being finalized.
At the first meeting of the Quirinal Treaty Border Cooperation Committee on October 31st, attended by Catherine Colonna, French Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs, and Antonio Tajani, Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Magali Altounian, elected representative in charge of European Affairs for the City of Nice and the Nice-Côte d'Azur Metropolis, and Laurence Navalesi, municipal councillor sub-delegated to cross-border relations, proposed the creation and hosting in Nice of a permanent secretariat for the Committee, with the help of the Provence Alpes Côte d'Azur Region. We also proposed to host the Committee's next meeting in spring 2024 in Nice.

In more concrete terms, we can mention the launch of cross-border civic service, which will enable us to welcome young Italians to Nice and give young people from Nice the chance to discover Italian institutions, the launch of the Salt Road cross-border tourist itineraries from the coast to Turin, class exchanges between Nice, Monaco and San Remo around the Pelagos sanctuary....

And let's not forget the call for projects for the "PITER - Plan Intégré Territorial" cross-border strategies of the Interreg Alcotra program, which has just been launched and for which the Metropolis is working on two axes of the cross-border strategy: the mountain scale and the coastal living scale with Italian partners to submit a project and obtain the European funds needed to improve living and working conditions in the area."             

What are your priorities for Interreg 2021-2027? What do you expect from the recently launched Observ'Alp project?

"The Observ'Alp project represents a real step forward, because unfortunately there is no shared geographic data system on our border, which means that we don't have precise common maps of our territory! Observ'Alp will enable players in the border departments of the Southern Region, Piedmont, Liguria and the Principality of Monaco to benefit for the first time from shared economic, environmental, social, statistical, urban and cartographic data. This will facilitate governance, technical and political decision-making, and the legibility of future projects. This is an initial project, for which we have chosen to focus initially on the "environment" and "employment" axes. Thanks to Observ'Alp, in a few months' time we may be able to announce the number of jobseekers in the cross-border area, or which jobs are in short supply... This kind of data will help decision-makers to solve problems.

Finally, the objectives of the ALPIMED+ territorial strategy, on the mountain area, in continuity with the project carried out in 2014-2020 are broken down into three objectives:

  • Strengthen cross-border economic activities through sustainable tourism products such as the Salt Roads, aimed at locals and visitors alike.
  • Study climatic phenomena on a cross-border basis and jointly propose solutions to prevent risks and combat climate change.
  • Co-construct actions with citizens and economic operators, as well as communication campaigns, for a stronger impact on the territory and to reinforce the feeling of belonging to a cross-border living area."

Read the article: "Kick-off of the Observ'Alp project: towards the first cross-border observation system between France, Italy and Monaco?"

Photo: iStock / Pierre Banoori

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