Border on the Olza River
No more barriers (2007)
The Schengen Area is an area which ensures freedom of movement and does not carry out control within the internal borders of countries, yet it maintains strict and uniform control at the external borders. All citizens of member states are allowed to cross the internal borders at will. Abolition of borders led to the creation of the Schengen Information System (SIS) which is a joint electronic database on persons and objects. During a normal control, one can check whether the particular car was stolen, or if the driver is on the list of wanted persons. Each member state provides SIS with specific data available to the services of other countries.
At the same time, so-called mobile controls are carried out throughout the entire Area, aimed at verifying whether a person had the right to cross the border of the Schengen Area and whether such person has the legal right to reside in its territory. Therefore, while going to another country belonging to the Schengen Area one must have an identity document – either a passport or a national ID card – at hand.
Facilities of border control services became the seat of the Association of Political Critique (Photo: M. Dembiniok)
For Cieszyn and its inhabitants, December 2007 constituted a return to the centuries-old history of a single, common city. During the celebration, Bogdan Ficek, the mayor of Cieszyn, along with his Czech counterpart - Vit Slováček, the mayor of Český Těšín - signed a joint document entitled The Cieszyn Declaration which emphasized that the most important issue is the development and deepening of Polish-Czech cooperation in Cieszyn Silesia, regardless of nationality, religion and political beliefs, recalling at the same time that this region had for centuries existed as a multinational body, the development of which was influenced by Poles, Czechs , Slovaks, Germans and Jews. The opening of state borders resulted in the liquidation of queues and degradation of customs controls at border bridges. Yesterday’s criminals engaged in smuggling Czech beer or sneakers were suddenly allowed to legally carry goods bought at the other side of the Olza river.
Border tablet with signatures of the participants of the “Schengen night in Cieszyn” (Photo: K. Firla Cieszyn Silesia Museum Collection)
Besides the possibility of establishing contacts, visiting family members in a free manner or going shopping for the residents of Cieszyn, the opening of the state borders also provided a unique opportunity for launching cooperation between people, businesses and governments. Cieszyn-based construction companies were able to obtain contracts on the Czech side. Manufacturers of kitchen furniture, massively purchased by the Czechs, became famous while Cieszyn markets began attracting an abundance of customers, even from Slovakia.
Silesian Province Governor Zygmunt Łukaszczyk submits a portion of the border barrier to the Museum of Cieszyn Silesia (20th Feb 2008). (Photo Cieszyn Silesia Museum Collection)
The possibility of freely crossing the borders provided new ways for cooperation between the local governments of Cieszyn and Český Těšín. Following the cultural activities conducted together by the Polish-Czech-Slovak Solidarity Association, the Museum of Cieszyn Silesia in Cieszyn and the Muzeum Těšínska in Český Těšín, as well as the National Home and Kulturní Středisko, it was high time for launching economic cooperation.
Even earlier, for in 1999, an excellent idea that yielded a plethora of profits was the establishment of the Cieszyn Silesia Euroregion, which allowed both parties to obtain substantial European funds. An example of the actual cooperation between local governments of Cieszyn and Český Těšín is the implementation of several major projects.
INFO TESSIN II (Applicant: Cieszyn Commune, Partner: Město Český Těšín)
Long-term cooperation between Cieszyn and Český Těšín in raising the level of tourist attractiveness of cities on both sides of the border this time took the form of the “Info Tessin II”, a continuation of the “Info Tessin” project aimed at publishing common promotional materials throughout both cities. The “Info Tessin II” project propagated the tourist values of Cieszyn and Český Těšín with the use of state-of-the-art tools – a tourist guide of Cieszyn / Tesin4mobile cooperating with the GPS system. The free app contained photographs with brief descriptions of the monuments and other tourist attractions, hiking trails, an event a calendar along with a useful Polish-Czech address database. The selected attractions were labelled with a QR code for downloading information from www.visitcieszyn.com. Android users can use a spoken version. Furthermore, the project also included a guide that was printed in five languages and contained a brief description of joint activities carried out within the project Garden on two banks and a promotional film material showing the attractiveness of both cities. Promotion of the project was conducted through distribution of gadgets. The project constituted a landmark step for modern promotion of the cities.
Two cities - one tradition (Applicant: Museum of Cieszyn Silesia, Partner: Muzeum Těšínska)
The aim of the project was to present the history, common tradition and culture of both cities of Cieszyn and the Cieszyn Silesia region. The project was launched in order to bring the inhabitants of the region closer together and make them aware of the common cultural heritage through presentations in the form of exhibitions, events and various activities. By organizing the collaborative projects both museums aimed at inoculating in the region’s residents the habit of visiting cultural institutions on both sides of the Olza river. In addition to the educational impact, the project also contributed to the widespread tourist promotion of Cieszyn Silesia. Catalogues issued on the occasion of the project enriched the public library collections across the area.
Museum open to the world (Applicant: Museum of Cieszyn Silesia, Partner: Muzeum Těšínska)
The project was mainly aimed at digitization of all the exhibits included in the department of photography and the permanent exhibition as well as presentation of its results on the website of the Museum of Cieszyn Silesia. A special program was created for the purpose of archiving the developed materials and running virtual tours throughout the permanent exhibitions and warehouses. The project was implemented in cooperation with the Muzeum Těšínska in Český Těšín. In return for the received help, employees of the Museum of Cieszyn Silesia Museum have developed for their partner from across the border a virtual tour over the exhibition and a digitization of selected exhibits in the form of a rotating gallery, which was made available on the website of Muzeum Těšínska. (www.muzeumcieszyn.pl, https://www.muzeumct.cz)
Cross-Border Volunteer Centre (Applicant: Cieszyn Commune, Partner: Město Český Těšín)
The Cross-Border Volunteer Centre (TCW) is a project funded by the Cieszyn Commune. Its main aim was to train a group of young people to serve as volunteers supporting a variety of projects in Cieszyn and Český Těšín as well as organizing, thanks to the competence gained, their own initiatives within the city. The TCW office was established for this exact purpose. It organizes trainings and workshops for young people and helps them both prepare and implement their own ideas https://www.muzeumct.cz. Besides the support for major cultural and sports events as well as various social actions of TCW, the management of the volunteer centre also took part in additional trainings so as to learn the basics of Czech language which allowed for better communication with young people from Český Těšín in view of the project’s cross-border nature. Some of the activities were carried out in high schools in both Cieszyn and Český Těšín, where volunteers had the opportunity to participate in workshops aimed at integrating young Poles and Czechs. The project also resulted in the development of informational materials provided in the form of two Polish-Czech booklets describing the methodology for execution of the entire project along with procedures for the implementation of events organized in Cieszyn and Český Těšín.
Analysis of the possibility of restoring the tram as a tourist destination in Cieszyn and Český Těšín (Applicant: Cieszyn Commune, Partner: Město Český Těšín)
The aim of the project was to prepare a multi-faceted analysis of socio-economic and technical alternative models for the restoration of the tram connection at the border area of the partner towns of Cieszyn and Český Těšín. During the analysis, an inventory of the necessary investment works, which will be planned from a domestic and cross-border perspective, was carried out. This multifaceted consideration also included the possibility of creating a tourism offer aimed at increasing tourist traffic on the basis of a new tourist product or a selected scope and form of its utilization (implementation). The analysis served as the starting point for discussions about the future of the cross-border tram connection comprising a unique tourist attraction linking the town centres of the two partner local governments.
Joint Action Zone (Applicant: Město Český Těšín, Partner: Cieszyn Commune)
The aim of the project was to activate and strengthen the integration of the two partner local governments (Cieszyn and Český Těšín), establish cooperation among the departments and offices responsible for promotion, culture and sport, as well as link the urban cultural and sports institutions and other organizations operating within the partner cities. It was assumed that the measures that would contribute to the achievement of the project will consist of:
- creation of a cross-border network of cooperation within the Joint Action Zone / Zona společných aktivit - linking the activities of departments and offices responsible for promotion, culture and sports within both partner cities,
- recognition of experiences in the field of joint promotion and opportunities to build mutual ties and new joint initiatives,
- study walk by urban cultural and sport institutions involving employees of departments responsible for promotion, culture and sport from both cities as well as members of the Commission for Education, Culture and Sport and the Commission for Culture and the Commission for Physical Education,
- creation of a cooperation support mechanism in the form of a Polish-Czech data base of institutions, NGOs and other organizations operating in the partner cities, which will result in a common calendar, translated into both languages, and bilingual leaflets promoting the events organized by the cities of Cieszyn and Český Těšín
- creation of gadgets aimed at promoting cross-border cooperation of the two partner cities. Their distribution will take place during the events included in the event calendar.
Safe bike (Applicant: Město Český Těšín, Partner: Cieszyn Commune)
The aim of the project was the development of cooperation, exchange and share of information and databases, as well as the exchange of experience between the Municipal Police of Český Těšín and the Municipal Police of Cieszyn. The project contributed to the development of a cross-border partnership based on the share of best practices, new solutions and views on the topic. Another goal was to increase the awareness of residents about a new and effective method of preventing crime (bicycle marking) and events aimed at accident prevention and increasing safety amongst cyclists. During the meetings, residents were informed e.g. on the differences in traffic rules applicable in both states.
Enjoy Cieszyn - Garden on two banks - a project executed by Cieszyn in partnership with the City of Český Těšín in the framework of INTERREG IIIA Program Czech Republic – Poland.
Its goal was to create an urbanist study along with a development strategy for the border area, which would contribute to a sustainable and comprehensive development of recreational activities and increase of the attractiveness of both cities. The innovative character of the project relied on the common cross-border approach towards partnership implementation of the project on the basis of public consultations as well as use of experience from the cooperation - implemented in this area - on the French-German border. Therefore, an inventory of the areas of both cities located on both sides of the Olza river was carried out with focus on the key elements for development. An urbanist study and a plan for development strategy were carried out as well. The Polish-Czech consultations resulted in the establishment of a catalogue of priority projects subject to joint implementation, assuming the creation of a route linking the market squares of the two cities along with construction of a European bridge, development of land providing access to the bridge, construction of footbridges for pedestrians and cyclists, restoration of a park on the Castle Hill and the Masarykovy sady Park, creation of a cycling route loop along both banks of the Olza river, development of green areas for sports and recreation purposes. Today, when looking at the results of the mutually complementing projects, the starting point of which was the project Enjoy Cieszyn - Garden on two banks, one can recognize how the previously developed documents were utilized:
Sports footbridge for pedestrians and cyclists linking the banks of Olza river (Photo: M. Dembiniok)
- Project: Revitalpark 2010 developed as part of POWT RCz-RP 2007-2013. The effects of the project include a comprehensive revaluation of Castle Hill together with the castle boroughs in Cieszyn along with the maintenance of trees growing on the slopes of Castle Hill. A retaining wall and the multi-purpose pavilion Noiva were developed at the waterside of Olza river. The Masarykovy sady park underwent development as well. The element that functionally and architecturally connects the areas covered by the project on both sides of the river is the Friendship Bridge, which has been modernized and equipped with new lighting and illumination of the castle.
- Project: SportPark – a sports park developed as part of POWT RCz-RP 2007-2013. The following parks were revitalized and expanded: Pod Wałką in Cieszyn and Adam Sikora Park in Český Těšín, located on the border Olza river. Furthermore, pedestrian-cycling paths in the Pod Wałką Park and Adam Sikora Park were created so as to comprise part of the cycling route loop running through both cities. The parks include playgrounds, footpaths, element of street furniture and a picnic area.
- Project: SportMost – a sports bridge developed as part of POWT RCz-RP 2007-2013. A sports footbridge for pedestrians and cyclists was built over the Olza river along with an in-run to the footbridge from the pavements along the Olza river. Both the footbridge and the cycle path have been illuminated.
- Project: Garden on two banks 2013-2015 was approved for funding under the POWT RCz-RP 2007-2013. The project brought together the areas revitalized during the previous projects with a string of pedestrian-bike routes along the Olza river, which are an extension of the bicycle paths created in the sports and recreation areas. In this way, a large pedestrian-bicycle loop running through both cities was created. The area included in the project constitutes a place for meetings and walks convenient for both locals and tourists, who are attracted by Cieszyn Venice - a string of buildings along the Młynówka canal. Furthermore, the fortifications on the banks of the Młynówka channel were modernized as well and the area was supplemented by pedestrian and bicycle paths, elements of street furniture, a characteristic illumination of the channel and walking areas was introduced while playgrounds underwent modernization and development.
Multifunctional pavilion AVION on the banks of Olza (Photo. M. Dembiniok)
A significant manifestation of the Polish-Czech cooperation in the Cieszyn Silesia Euroregion - Těšínské Slezsko, which the two cities co-create and constitute its heart, is the utilization of examples of good cooperation practice between institutions on the French-German border. Upon implementation of the micro-projects, particular emphasis was laid on the promotion of completed projects as well as the attempt of ensuring “secondary transfer” of similar implementations to other Polish-Czech partnership projects.
The program generates new ideas for enterprises and projects that do not constitute its components, but directly refer to it or fit in its foundation and thus strengthen their coordination. An important feature of these measures is their bottom-up, non-governmental character, which provides possibility of inclusion of representatives of other sectors, besides public authorities, in the Program. Therefore, the whole area, to which the Program applies and is adjacent to, becomes a coherent whole and a true showcase of both cities.
Text based on materials obtained due to the courtesy of Cieszyn Silesia Euroregion and SRiWR OLZA.