Support to Ratification of the Madrid Outline Convention

2013, Democracy, Institution-Building and Governance Department of the Council of Europe made the initiative for the realization of a series of seminars facilitating the implementation of Madrid Outline Convention. Representatives of the Slovenian, Croatian, Serbian and Hungarian government and professional organizations have been invited to the seminars. The second seminar was held in Budapest on 30th June 2014 with the co-organization of CESCI (Central European Service for Cross-Border Initiatives).

As concluded during the second regional seminar the third seminar was organized in Belgrade with the objective to give professional support to the Serbian party for the ratification of the Madrid Outline Convention as well as for Croatia and Hungary for the adoption of the 3rd Protocol of the Convention.

The role of the Madrid Outline Convention and its Protocols 
(Report on the impact of the Madrid Outline Convention and its Protocols on cross-border cooperation between Hungary and its neighbours (2014) )

Until the EU level regulations entered into force, diverging national regulations constituted the main obstacles hindering cross-border cooperation. Several efforts were made to eliminate these impacts and to establish the necessary legal frameworks. These efforts ranged from establishing preparatory committees (like, for example, BENELUX in 1969), through setting up inter-governmental committees (for example France-Germany-Switzerland in 1975), to signing inter-state agreements (for example the Helsinki Treaty in 1962).

It was a milestone in this process when the Council of Europe adopted the European Outline Convention on Transfrontier Cooperation between Territorial Communities or Authorities (The Council of Europe Treaty Series – CETS No. 106.) on 21st May 1980, in Madrid, known and regarded as one of the basic norms of international law. This Convention entered into force on 22nd December 1982.

The Convention highlights the initiatives of local authorities and public bodies of several development areas while presenting models of co-operation agreements and the development of solutions.

Model and framework agreements proposed by the Convention cover the following areas:

  • samples of interstate agreements;

  • framework agreements, policies, and agreements for intergovernmental co-operation.

The significance of the Convention was that within the framework of international law it offered norms how to regulate cross-border cooperation as well as it developed examples of legal solutions (model inter-state agreements). These norms made it possible for bureaucrats both at state and local level to think about how to interpret such initiatives and thus gave a considerable „push” towards institutionalisation.

Three Additional Protocols were issued to present day in respect of the Madrid Convention.

The First Additional Protocol (Additional Protocol to the European Outline Convention on Transfrontier Co-operation between Territorial Communities or Authorities, CETS No.: 159, opened for signature: 9th November 1995, entry into force: 1st December 1998) supported the establishment of cross-border cooperation with a basis of public or even private law beside decision-making powers.

Reservations were not addressed to the Protocol, but the acceding States were required to declare whether they wish to apply (i.e. in the case of accession, undertake a sense of subjectivity) provisions of Article 4 and/or 5 (operational rules of the institutions established under the form of private law and public law).

The Second Additional Protocol (Protocol No. 2 to the European Outline Convention on Transfrontier Co-operation between Territorial Communities or Authorities concerning interterritorial co-operation, CETS No.: 169., Opened for signature: 5th May 1998, entry into force: 1st February 2001) regulated cooperation between greater, non-contiguous territorial units replacing the term “cross-border co-operation” with the so-called "interterritorial co-operation".

Article 1

For the purpose of this Protocol, ‘interterritorial co-operation’ shall mean any concerted action designed to establish relations between territorial communities or authorities of two or more Contracting Parties, other than relations of transfrontier co-operation of neighbouring authorities, including the conclusion of co-operation agreements with territorial communities or authorities of other States.”

Along with the accession, the Contracting States have also agreed to apply provisions of the Madrid Convention and the First Additional Protocol to interregional co-operation including rules for institutionalisation (i.e. on common ground, creating two levels of co-operation).

According to the provisions of the Third Additional Protocol (Protocol No. 3 to the European Outline Convention on Transfrontier Co-operation between Territorial Communities or Authorities concerning Euroregional Co-operation Groupings (ECGs), CETS No.: 206, opened for signature: 16th November 2009, entry into force: 1st March, 2013), published in 2009, it is the most forceful additional protocol of the Madrid Convention establishing a new common institution for transfrontier cooperation. Based on the nature of this new legal institution, it is related most to the legal form of the European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC) applied in Community law.

Thanks to the adoption of the Madrid Outline Convention and partially its Protocols, the proliferation of bilateral or multilateral agreements (e.g. Benelux Convention: 1986, Isselburg-Anholt Agreement: 1991, Karlsruhe Convention: 1996, Carpathian Convention: 2003 etc.) and new cross-border structures (working communities, Eurodistricts, consortia etc.) could be observed in Europe.