Opting for expanded interregional cooperation

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By Emmanuel Argo

The consequences of the Covid 19 pandemic on the slowdown in international trade encourage us to take a look at the synergy of regional potential and inter-regional cooperation as possible solutions for a balanced economic and societal development of our territories. .

The economic change caused by the accelerated globalization of trade has widened inequalities in development, and it is primarily the formerly industrialized regions that have been paying the price for almost thirty years: the transfer of jobs from industry to jobs in service did not operate as planned at the end of the last century. Thus, as in other European countries, a dozen large cities now concentrate economic activity, research centers (R&D), partnerships, twinnings and pairings, qualifying vocational training... These are all breeding grounds for qualified jobs and even high-qualified jobs which attract the young and trained population of certain regions which are struggling to rebound.

At the same time, in neglected territories, regional and local authorities are managing the present at the cost of subsidies to retain the last companies still in operation; or they are betting on the future, investing in those that offer them jobs. We know what that is worth: a few years of activity and then, to finish, a relocation to other countries renowned for low-cost labor offering, in addition, advantageous taxation. For its part, the social and solidarity economy supported by very honorable experiences maintains employment as best it can, but it is not intended to invest in a policy of major works or reindustrialization in accordance with respect for the environment.

Therefore, the fundamental question arises of the enhancement of local and regional potential as a support for economic development, so as to attract investors with the aim of avoiding the demographic decline which in turn leads to a decline in the economic activity. Obviously, this requires the mobilization of the most innovative tools for a project resolutely turned towards the future without nostalgia for the past.

For the moment, we do not know on the one hand the economic and societal consequences following the Covid 19 pandemic and on the other hand the uncertainty currently hangs over the recovery, identical or not to what was . Be that as it may, we must tackle the urgent question of inequalities in development between our regions: firstly, by making an exhaustive statement of the richness of the terroirs of each of these regions, and secondly, by establishing complementarities between them. Thus, it is a question of abandoning the wait-and-see attitude in order to commit to an ambitious policy of shared efforts and future-oriented investments, taking into account the following elements: the effects of the global pandemic and those of Britain's exit from the European Union.

For their part, the overseas territories, like several regions of France, are experiencing demographic ageing, unemployment and impoverishment of the most vulnerable, dubbed by strong illegal immigration, insecurity and the parallel economy. However, real development potential exists in these territories, either in the form of agricultural or fishery resources, or renewable energies, or even in the form of landscape, heritage and culture. To all this is added a competent diaspora spread across the world who would like to consider a "return to the native land".

These French overseas territories which concentrate resources with high potential for the development of a future-oriented economy allow France to possess a maritime space which covers an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of approximately eleven million km2 _ the second in the world_ and which extends over 3 oceans: the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean.

In addition, maritime territorial wealth should be better taken into account in development plans and axes, with regard to the so-called Paris Agreements resulting from COP 21. Such a decision should give the blue economy a boost beneficial to the greatest number and in particular to overseas populations.

Regarding post-Brexit, there are other development opportunities for certain overseas regions. Neighboring small independent states in the Caribbean zone, with which they share a common history and language, the regional authorities of Guadeloupe, Guyana and Martinique, for example, also located in Mesoamerica, could serve as subsidiary economic engines with high added value. by establishing win-win partnerships with its neighbours. To do this, there is the OECS - Organization of Eastern Caribbean States -, CARICOM - Caribbean Common Market - and geographically opposed ASEAN - Association of Southeast Asian Nations. If all are essential interregional actors, the keystone remains the partnership agreements between the said ACP countries and those of the European Union known by the acronym ACP-EU.

All of these conventional organizations offer means and financial allocations commonly known as Structural Funds, the most requested being the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF). However, other specific funds intended in particular for the outermost regions are available but their existence seems to be unknown. Obviously, these development tools are not used enough, particularly by French overseas regions and communities. Hasn't the time come to set up a full-fledged Cooperation POOL that would take into account the lack of partnership with neighboring ACP countries?

We can no longer deepen the inequalities that generate rural exodus, immigration, social resentment and growing frustrations of those left behind. The stability of our democracy depends on it. Also, we must bet on a balanced development of the regions, whether hexagonal or overseas, rather than a spatial concentration around a few large metropolises, by carrying out development actions not on the basis of a rivalry or competition but on that of a reasonable, fair and lasting complementarity. To break with this logic of headlong rush and everyone for themselves on the pretext that we have no choice, we must design the implementation of a Geostrategic Economic and Societal Development Program to take into account the specificities and potential of each territory in France and overseas.

In conclusion, within the framework of interregional cooperation within France and between France and the Overseas Territories, partnerships are to be encouraged since the French overseas territories offer outlets and opportunities. trade over much of the world. To this end, French ports must be the first players that should be better adapted to interregional exchanges.

Above all, this requires political will at the national level, a strengthening of decentralization and its decision-making autonomy. The overall perspective, once defined and acquired, can be broken down into coherent intermediate and complementary endogenous projects. The partner territories would then operate as a network to federate initiatives and pool resources. In this context with a regional, supra-regional and international dimension, the SYDRES1 offer an organizational concept for the networking of partners (companies, banks, local authorities and other investors, etc.) from a single pole, bearer, referent and project coordinator.

However, this synergy of our strengths will only be effective if self-esteem and confidence outweigh our fear of the future. It is our duty to leave future generations a dynamic country that relies on the wealth of its land and its people.

1 SYDRES: International neologism created by Emmanuel Argo which means: ''Synergies pour des Développements Régionaux Economiques et Sociétaux/ Synergies for Development of Regions and Societies/, SYnergías por el Desarrollo Regional Económico y Social/, SYnergias pelo Desenvolvimento Regional Economico e Social''.