In the past, only loose cooperation existed between the German states of Bremen and Lower Saxony within the scope of a Joint Regional Planning (Gemeinsame Landesplanung GLP). In 2002, the Regional Working Committee Bremen – Lower Saxony (Regionale Arbeitsgemeinschaft Bremen – Niedersachsen RAG) was founded. This marked a first important step toward regional cooperation in the northwest of Germany. The area covers the State of Bremen and the surrounding regions, from the Frisian island of Wangerooge in the north to the borders of North Rhine Westphalia in the south near Diepholz and Cuxhaven in the north east.
At its first regional conference in 2003, the RAG agreed on a white paper expressing the vision of a ‘maritime northwest’. In the run-up to the region conference in November 2004, the question arose as to how regional cooperation can be intensified, not only within the RAG region but, if possible, including the regions between the rivers Weser and Ems. The objective was the foundation of a region with high commitment and resilient policy.
To accelerate the cooperation process, nextpractice initially interviewed 48 various parties from all over the northwest region using its qualitative interview and analysis tool nextexpertizer. The interviewees came from areas including government, administration (district, regional and state), companies, banks and the tourist industry. Using their own words and completely free of predefined categories, they assessed various territorial entities such as cities (e.g. Bremen, Osnabrück), smaller regions (Emsland, Ostfriesland), greater regions (Weser-Ems, Lower Saxony), urban agglomerations (Hamburg, Hannover) and tourist destinations (North Sea coastal region). The objective was to collect assessments and attitudes in regard to regional cooperation in and the public image of the northwest.
Across all 48 interview partners, the distinct desire for a stronger public image and joint marketing efforts as well as more intensive political cooperation could be observed. Among the favoured concepts for success were two empirically identifiable mainstreams. One group saw the urgent need for committed cooperation platforms, while the other group banked on personal interconnection. Over and above the diverging assessments, both groups saw well-planned economic development and the high quality of living as the region’s greatest strengths. In addition to structural deficits, the ranking of sub-regions and cities revealed image problems, for example the cities of Bremerhaven, Wilhelmshaven and the region Cuxland/Unterweser.
Evaluation of the benefit:
At a subsequent press conference, Jens Eckhoff, Ex-Senator for Building and Environment for the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen, Germany stated: “When it comes to helping the region see the light of day, this was incredibly successful midwifery. I've taken part in many events which can only be called palaver shops, this was the exact opposite. Everyone concentrated on the work, held motivating discussions in the work groups and entered their best ideas into the laptops. The feedback could be readily followed. For us politicians especially, this is virgin soil, normally our ideas are only evaluated every four years”. In an interview with the regional radio station Nordwestradio, the organizer, Gerd Stötzel, Chief Administrative Officer for the District of Diepholz and RAG chairman, summed up briefly:
“A huge success”. The conference had a sustained impact. In May 2005 the RAG stakeholders agreed on establishing a committed platform of cooperation and founded the “Metropolitan Region of Bremen and Oldenburg in the Northwest”.