The areas of cooperation
COOPERATION BETWEEN PROTECTED NATURAL AREAS
The French-Italian border has a large number of protected natural spaces that cooperate with each other across the border. Most of this cooperation takes place along the Alpine part of the border, but there is also maritime cooperation between Corsica and Sardinia. On the French side this involves two national parks, a regional nature park, a marine nature reserve and the Espace Mont Blanc.
A French-Italian cooperation initiative between protected natural areas, particularly original because it is both coastal and maritime, brings together the Bouches de Bonifacio maritime nature reserve in Corsica (established in 1999, Corse du sud department) and the La Maddalena archipelago national park (established in 1992, Sardinia) at the northern end of Sardinia, thus forming the Bouches de Bonifacio International Marine Park. On 7 December 2012 this park was formed as a European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation, the first such structure for a cross-border international marine park.
Another area of advanced cooperation is the Espace Mont-Blanc between France, Switzerland and Italy, which can be considered a real cross-border Alpine laboratory.
The Vanoise National Park (established in 1963, Savoie department) and the Gran Paradiso National Park (established in 1922, Piedmont) are also cooperating actively. The European Diploma of Protected Areas, awarded by the Council of Europe, gives them an international dimension. South of the border the Queyras regional nature park (Hautes Alpes department) has strengthened its cross-border partnership and maintains cooperation relationships with four nature parks on the Italian side (Piedmont) of the Monte Viso range. Together they submitted a cross-border candidacy to UNESCO, which in 2013 accorded them the label Mont-Viso Cross-border Biosphere Reserve. The Mercantour (1979) and Alpi Maritime national parks are following a similar approach to cross-border cooperation, submitting a UNESCO world heritage application in 2018.
COOPERATION ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT AND MARITIME AREAS
As an interface between the islands and the mainland, the Mediterranean and its periphery form an area of intense cross-border activity. The RAMOGE agreement (Saint-Raphaël – Monaco – Genoa) aims to work towards sustainable development by providing the means necessary for actions favouring sustainable and integrated management of the coast. The area has gradually been enlarged and now extends from the mouth of the Grand Rhône in the west to the mouth of the river Magra in the east. There is also cooperation between Sardinia and Corsica to deal with their territorial and economic problems. Another example is the BlueConnect project, initiated in 2017, which aims to catalogue and map the port activities of six cross-border territories (Alpes-Maritimes, Var, Corsica, Liguria, Tuscany, Sardinia) in order to identify development areas and facilitate access for VSEs and SMEs to the markets of the sector.
COOPERATION ON EMPLOYMENT AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
Cross-border cooperation on employment and economic development is part of the European Union’s Europe 2020 strategy. It targets integrated management of employment and improved competitiveness of cross-border territories. On the border, economic development is based on a local approach. A network of chambers of commerce (CCI ALP-MED) was established in 2009, driven by the formation of the Alps-Mediterranean Euroregion. Currently a non-profit association under Belgian law, the network members are the seven French and Italian regional CCIs which coordinate 36 territorial CCIs for a territory of 124,000 km2.
Another example is the FRI-START project, concluded in 2019, aiming to encourage the networking of business incubators and bodies boosting innovation for businesses in the cross-border territory. The development of a cross-border catalogue of support services for innovative businesses has thus enabled the creation of links between start-ups in the scientific, economic and industrial sectors. On the Mediterranean side, the Marittimo Tech project aims to develop a “cross-border start-up accelerator” by bringing together the Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Corse-Du-Sud, Var, and of Maremma and Tirreno. This accelerator provides the cooperation zone with a cross-border offer of expertise and specialities, enabling the creation of a real support network for entrepreneurs.
COOPERATION ON TOURISM AND CULTURE
Tourism and culture are also considered to be major vectors of local development. This is demonstrated by the “Vi.A” project, which aims to promote the cross-border wine tours of the western Alps. In another example, the TRA[ce]S project aims to network the most significant archaeological sites of the southern Alps, from Antiquity to the Middle Ages. Since the launch of the Integrated Territorial Plans (PITER; ALCOTRA 2014-2020 programming period) the Alpine territory has benefited from numerous cross-border projects centred on culture and innovative tourism. In that respect, the PITER “Parcours – un patrimoine, une identité, des parcours partagés” (A Heritage, An Identity, Shared Paths), launched in 2018, aims to promote the natural and cultural heritage on the French, Italian and Swiss slopes of Mont Blanc, by establishing different natural, cultural, touristic and civic cross-border itineraries. Additionally, the “ALPIMED” PITER, whose “ALPIMED PATRIM” strand aims to promote the emergence of Alpes-Méditerranée as a tourism destination by focusing on its heritage assets and its geographic location between the mountains and the sea. The project aims to raise awareness of the territory and to promote it as a destination in order to boost its profile at the European level and to increase ecotourism flows.
COOPERATION ON RISK PREVENTION
The cross-border area, located between mountain and sea, includes a number of at-risk zones. In recent years the Italian and French local authorities have worked on cooperation to reduce and prevent environmental disasters. The projects within the cross-border Alpine area include the Thematic Integrated Plan (PITEM) “Risk”, launched in 2018. It comprises five individual projects aiming to develop new interactive communication tools (alert and information) for improving the management of risks and the operational training of players. In another example, the Proterina 3 project, launched in 2017, aims to protect the cross-border territory from natural risks linked to flooding. Additionally, in the cross-border maritime area, the MAREGOT project, launched in 2017, aims to prevent and manage risks arising from coastal erosion along the French-Italian coastline.
COOPERATION ON TRANSPORT
The mountainous topography of the French-Italian land border presents a natural obstacle to the development of cross-border transport links. Although cars remain the most prevalent mode of transport for cross-border journeys, the territory is well equipped with transport infrastructure.
Three train lines currently link France and Italy: the Cannes-Nice-Ventimiglia TER (regional) line, the Nice-Cuneo TER line, and the THELLO line, which forms the rail link between Marseille and Milan, via Nice and Ventimiglia. There are currently no high-speed lines crossing the border. The Métropole Nice Côte d’Azur is not yet served by the high-speed rail network, although the French government gave the green light in September 2018 to the construction of a new Provence Côte d’Azur line, without however specifying a date for its opening. Further north, the new Lyon-Turin high-speed line project, announced in 1991, saw effective preparatory works begin in 2002, and the start of tunnel boring in July 2016. Its entry into service remains uncertain, due to political and administrative obstacles on both sides of the border.
The existence of several cross-border tunnels in the Alps has enabled the development of road transport between France and Italy. Indeed, the Fréjus, Mont-Blanc and Tende Pass tunnels represent passages for cars and heavy goods vehicles. However, the high cost of these journeys has progressively displaced traffic from the Alps to the riviera.
In the face of congestion of land transport routes, attention has progressively turned towards the French-Italian maritime space. The development of a sea motorway between Nice and Genoa has in this respect presented a solution to the increased heavy goods traffic hindering flows along the A8 motorway, which links Ventimiglia and Nice.
Cross-border cooperation on maritime transport has seen significant progress through tangible accomplishments. One example is the project “GEECCTT-ILES” (Joint European Management of Connections and Transport for the Islands) launched in 2017, whose goal is the creation of an EGTC enabling the joint management of cross-border transport services (air, maritime, multimodal, etc.) and inter-island connections between Corsica, Sardinia and Elba.
COOPERATION ON HEALTH MATTERS
In the field of health, cross-border cooperation is embodied first of all by the facilities catering to healthcare needs on either side of the border. In February 2002, the Menton hospital complex and the local health authority of Imperia signed a cross-border cooperation agreement establishing a Menton-Ventimiglia “cross-border healthcare community”. This cooperation agreement also led to the creation of two cross-border nursing training institutes, inaugurated in December 2012 in Menton and in Imperia, and a cross-border perinatal centre at the La Palmosa hospital complex in 2016.
Cooperation in the healthcare field is also reflected in the implementation of cross-border projects. The “PROSANTÉ” project, launched in 2017, aims to create a cross-border healthcare network between the hospitals of Briançon and Suse in order to facilitate access to treatment for patients on either side of the border. Similarly, the “Coeur Solidaire” strand of the Coeur’Alp PITER (Territorial Integrated Plan), launched in 2018, aims to guarantee access for the communities of the Hautes Vallées to quality health and social care services, in a region suffering from isolation and depopulation.
COOPERATION IN THE FIELD OF EDUCATION
Other cross-border cooperation initiatives exist also in the field of education. The Académie de Nice (Nice Education Authority, covering Alpes-Maritimes and Var departments) and the Ufficio scolastico regionale (regional education authority) for the Liguria region signed an agreement in 2015 aiming to strengthen cross-border cooperation activities in education between institutions at primary and secondary level and in vocational education. This cooperation notably involves learning the neighbouring culture’s language. Within the Nice Education Authority’s public sector secondary schools, the proportion of pupils learning Italian is 23.1%. Despite the absence of data concerning the learning of French in Italian schools, a number of schools on the Italian side of the border offer a French-language or bilingual curriculum. One of the oldest examples is the Ecole française in Ventimiglia, opened in 1962, offering an entirely bilingual curriculum to around a hundred French, Italian, and binational pupils. This nursery and primary school plays a key role in the promotion of a cross-border identity. An example in the field of higher education is the FEAST project, launched in 2017. Originating in a partnership between the University of Savoie Mont Blanc and the Aosta Valley University, it aims to develop a double Master’s degree in “Development and internationalisation of businesses and territories” and to mutualise cross-border knowledge in order to encourage synergy between students and professionals.