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28.02.2013
Committed to the spirit of European Cooperation!
Interview with Thorsten Kohlisch, the new Head of the Joint Technical Secretariat of the South Baltic Programme

The South Baltic Cross-Border-Co-operation Programme is pleased to welcome Mr Thorsten Kohlisch who took over the management of the Joint Technical Secretariat as of the 1st February 2013.

Deeply rooted in both European co-operation and ERDF funding schemes, Thorsten has been co-ordinating the Information Point East of the interregional co-operation Programme INTERREG IVC during the last three years. Prior to his assignment in Katowice, he has been working for different institutions of the Berlin government, i.e. the Police Department, the Regional Development Bank of Berlin and the Senate Department for Economics, Technology and Research, dealing with strategies and policies for enhanced cross-border cooperation and ERDF funds management as well as the preparation and implementation of INTERREG IIIC and IVB projects in the Baltic Sea Region. At the same time, his academic and professional experience gained in the Baltic States, Brussels and Katowice has allowed him to get an insight into the process of European integration from different backgrounds and perspectives.

Beyond his mother tongue German, Thorsten speaks English, French and basic Polish.

From East to North, from interregional to cross-border co-operation: what is your impression from the South Baltic Programme so far? Can issues that matter to pan-European projects be rediscovered in the South Baltic Community?

As a newcomer to the South Baltic Community, I first of all do not want to miss the opportunity to sincerely thank the entire JTS team and all programme partners for their warm welcome and valuable support during my “start-up phase” here in the beautiful Baltic city of Gdańsk. Indeed, the first weeks at my new desk have strengthened my impression that the programme is firmly built on the key precondition for our business: the partners’ joint will to cooperate and to work in partnership for our shared area around the South Baltic.

Looking at the means to put theory into practice, we can certainly observe strong complementarities between INTERREG IVC and the South Baltic Programme. Driven by the aim to boost regional development without the need to re-invent the wheel, both multilateral programmes acknowledge the potential of so-called “soft cooperation” activities such as networking, exchange of experience and the transfer of good practices between local and regional authorities. At the same time, people-to-people projects, cultural exchanges, pilot investments and the “testing” of innovative approaches represent distinct assets of the South Baltic Programme. Without question, solutions such as the innovative dike constructions of the DredgDikes project or WAB’s model to use algae as a resource for biogas production carry the potential to be mainstreamed in the South Baltic area and beyond and may thus serve as new content for European-wide exchanges of experience in the future.

What are the main challenges for the Programme in the months ahead?

Beyond our “classical” monitoring, communication and organisational tasks, two strategic challenges will drive the JTS agenda in the coming months. At first, it is our duty and pleasure to contribute our know-how and experience to the “hot phase” of the preparatory works for the new programming period 2014-2020. Indeed, taking into account the programme’s multilateral character and the “critical mass” of regional competences involved, I believe that the ground has been well-prepared for an ambitious yet realistic future programme, designed to tackle the partners’ joint challenges through genuine cross-border cooperation. In parallel to the programming process, the JTS and the Contact Points should also not miss this year’s opportunity to actively disseminate the promising results achieved by our projects. In this context, I am indeed very glad about the support given by our Regional Contact Points to test new dissemination and capitalisation approaches in the coming months, namely the thematic consolidation of “best practices” achieved in the clusters on “business/entrepreneurship” and “energy/climate/environment” for selected stakeholders and thematic experts in the participating regions.

... and your personal challenges?

Of course, joining a new professional environment is always a demanding process. Without question, my new position will require continuous efforts to facilitate the work of the JTS team and to actively support the development of each colleague’s professional skills and competences. Furthermore, close coordination and cooperation with other programme bodies, institutions and stakeholders will undoubtedly represent one of my core responsibilities as the new Head of Secretariat. Being committed to the principles of openness and transparency, I am now very much looking forward to tackling the challenges lying ahead of me. At the same time, I remain grateful for the opportunity given to contribute my experience to the programme community and will thus do my best to help promoting the very special spirit of European cooperation across the shores of the South Baltic.


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