Case Study Category: EnvironmentCase Study Tags: Administration, Cooperation, Denmark, Environment, Germany, and Netherlands
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The Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation was founded in 1978 to protect and conserve the Wadden Sea region. The main objective of this cooperation is to coordinate management and monitoring of the region and to address political matters.
The formal structure of the Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation consists of the Trilateral Government Council, in which ministers participate on behalf of the German, Dutch and Danish Governments. Government conferences are held every 3 years with participation of the politically responsible authorities. The Presidency for the cooperation shifts every 3 years, and is currently held by the Danish Minister for the environment.
The Nature Agency is represented by its centre in Ribe which implements and coordinates the decisions on behalf of Denmark. The decisions of the cooperation are not legally binding, and therefore it functions solely on a advisory basis in an effort to coordinate the protection and the management of the Wadden Sea between the countries.The cooperation is assisted by the Common Wadden Sea Secretariat (CWSS), with its large knowledge base and experience on the region. The CWSS is considered to be highly skilled and professional, functioning as a dynamo for the cooperation, delivering expert information at all levels. The secretariat also functions as a practical connection, being a nexus, tying the countries together.
The practical coordination between the countries has involved the same group of experts and staff for a number of years, The continuity is considered an asset as it has provided continuity for the project allowing the cooperation to focus its efforts on work beneficial to the Wadden Sea.
This continuity results in a large degree of confidence in the work between the countries. The cooperation has been characterised by mutual understanding and respect between the countries at all levels. The different political situations between countries has been respected, with the adoptation of solutions achieved through consensus. The cooperation has experienced a natural evolution in its focus areas with the emergence of new issues to address. The primary aim is to introduce standardized nature protection policies for the entire Wadden Sea area.
The process of EU-integration with legally binding cooperation has gradually taken over some of the issues. The German and Dutch areas have been added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2009, which affects the priorities of the cooperation.
In a cooperation with specified political aims, such as with the Wadden Sea cooperation, there many potential obstacles that usually are not a problem, as an objective has been agreed upon. However, if the political outcome or relevance decreases or is minimized within a non-legally binding, the relevance and focus of the cooperation will also decrease.
This results in three possible outcomes:
1. To broaden the scope of the cooperation.
2. Keep the activities at a low level (for a period of time).
3. Phase it out.
1. Since the founding of the Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation the cooperation has gradually developed and broadened its scope from the protection of the Wadden Sea to include the management of the coastal zone (especially in Denmark).
2. A focus on cooperation between world heritage areas in all three countries.
3. Personal knowledge and mutual trust between government officials can create an environment beneficial to cross-border cooperation.
4. In a non-legally binding cooperation, respect for the others’ point of view is necessary.
5. A skilled and professional ‘nexus’ (e.g. a Secretariat) can prove useful to maintain a strong cooperation.