The Occitan Region Head Office in Toulouse (France) hosted a France-Andorra working day on Wednesday 13th December to promote joint projects and exchange experiences and synergies between the two territories. During the meeting, different workshops were held to address cooperation initiatives related to economic development, health, tourism development focused on mountain tourism, aspects related to education, higher education and youth.

In the field of economic development, delegates discussed many aspects transversally, such as energy transition and the development of green economy, agro-food industries and organic farming. The Andorran delegation was also able to present their mobility and urban model projects related to Big Data carried out in collaboration with MIT. In this workshop, Minister Silvia Calvó, and Actua members participated, alongside French representatives, including Christophe Lerouge, head of the Regional Directorate for Companies, Competition, Consumer Affairs, Labour and Employment (Direccte), who presided over the meeting, accompanied by other leaders and technicians from Occitan Business and Commerce.

The Andorran delegation was headed by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Maria Ubach, and the Minister for the Environment, Agriculture and Sustainability, Sílvia Calvó, together with the Secretary of State for Health, Joan León. On the French side, the meeting was chaired by the prefect of the region, Pascal Mailhos and the vice-president of the Regional Council, Guillaume Cros, representing the president of the region, Carol Delgado and the French ambassador in Andorra, Jocelyne Caballero.

A new step for Health cooperation

In the field of health, delegates highlighted the active cooperation between France and Andorra, and announced new efforts will be carried out in 2018 and 2019 through different actions such as the prevention of disability, including professionals in the geriatric sector, in close collaboration with Gerontopole, Toulouse’s hospital center, and the cooperation in medical emergencies, chronic diseases and cancer treatment, integrating Andorra into the Occitan network of oncology
Cooperation in the field of health will also affect medical recruitment, improved health security and the exchange of large data processing and ethical reflection. The Secretary of State for Health, Joan León, took part in this workshop with SAAS medical officers and Actua members. On the French side, the director of the Regional Health Agency (ARS) Monique Cavallier participated, as well as the heads of the Gerontopole medical centre and the Regional Cooperation and Mobility Service.

Sustainable tourism projects

Delegates discussed aspects related to the sustainable development of tourism and the challenges in the Pyrenees. They all emphasized the importance of mountainous areas for the development of new activities. They have also highlighted the challenges of addressing climate change and managing natural resources, such as water. During the workshop, in which representatives of the Ministry of Tourism and CENMA participated, as well as the Occitan Regional director for the Environment, and other representatives of the Region, improving the access of road RN20 was positively assessed to strengthen relations between the two territories.

Promotion of higher education institutions specializing in agriculture and engineering

The two delegations also worked to promote and strengthen French higher education for young Andorran students, particularly agricultural and energy engineering education centers.
Education and Environment directors from the Andorran government, and representatives from CENMA and the University of Andorra, met with the rector of the academic region of Montpellier, Armande Le Pellec-Muller, and other Education and youth Occitan members.

This was the first cross-border cooperation meeting since the creation of the new region of Occitania, despite the traditional cooperation existing between both territories, especially in recent years in different areas such as health, education and science.
Both delegations agreed on cooperation issues, following last March’s signing of an international agreement for the feasability of the French national roads 20, 22 and 320 between Andorra and France. It involves a shared investment program of 21 million euros, improving road safety between Ax-les-Termes and the Andorran-French border.

In this sense, both the prefect of the region, Pascal Mailhos, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Maria Ubach, agreed this is a decisive step in the relations of proximity between France and Andorra while opening new ways of cooperation in areas of mutual interest.

Text and photos: Govern d’Andorra