"Regional and cross-border cooperation is at the heart of the European idea - that borders are not seen as dividers but as opportunities to find shared solutions to the benefit of everybody," said Elsbeth Tronstad, State Secretary of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs during the opening session at the Forum. The Slovak State Secretary of the Slovak Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, Igor Slobodnik likewise noted the importance of active cross-border cooperation and expressed his appreciation for the Norwegian support for decreasing barriers in the development of the Slovak-Ukrainian border regions, and thus promoting prosperity and stability in this part of Europe.
Finding common solutions to common challenges was at the core of the four-day Forum which was supported by Norway through the Cross-Border Cooperation (CBC) programme. Cross-border cooperation was covered from various angles, addressing experiences, challenges and best practices. Stimulating growth on both sides of the border, increasing participation of municipalities and facilitating opportunities for businesses, researchers and young people were among the thematic areas covered.
During the Forum, the Office of the Government of the Slovak Republic awarded Svitlana Mytryaeva, Director of National Institute of Strategic Studies in Uzhorod and Vasil Hudak, Minister of Economy of the Slovak Republic and one of the founders of the Border Dialogues, the 'Border Dialogues Award' for their extraordinary contribution for cross-border cooperation.
Cross-Border Cooperation programme
The Forum was organised by the CBC Programme Operator – the Government Office of the Slovak Republic – together with the Institute for Stability and Development, the Norwegian Barents Secretariat – with is a Donor Programme Partner under the CBC programme, the Uzhorod regional branch of the National Institute for Strategic Studies, as well as the Consulate General of the Slovak Republic in Uzhorod.
The CBC programme focuses on two Slovak regions – the Košice and Prešov self-governing regions and one Ukrainian, the region of Transcarpathia, with the objective to foster business and people to people cooperation of the border regions, strengthen the capacity of the local administrations and support regional identities as a key factor for further development.