Alqueva – cross-border cooperation in Alqueva region (Extremadura & Portugal)
Cross-border cooperation between Spain and Portugal has been developing for many years, and has played an important role in European stability and integration. The Iberian countries have signed various bilateral and international agreements and treaties that have strengthened relations between them, and have also carried out cooperation projects in areas as essential for their development as energy, transport, education, tourism and culture.
In particular, the case of the Alqueva area is materialised in a cross-border cooperation that has focused mainly on water management and rural development around the Alqueva reservoir and dam.
In this regard, since the 1980s, several agreements have been signed between Portugal and Spain for the construction of the Alqueva dam, which is one of the largest dams in Europe, officially started in the 1990s and was completed in 2002, with the aim of guaranteeing water supply for agriculture and hydroelectric power generation in both regions.
The Alqueva area is located on the border between Spain and Portugal, in the region of Alentejo (Portugal) and Extremadura (Spain). It is a rural area with an area of approximately 26,000 km² and a combined population of around 1.2 million inhabitants. The region’s economy is mainly based on agriculture, livestock farming and tourism.
The Guadiana river is the main source of water in the region, and the Alqueva dam is the main reservoir along its course. The reservoir has a storage capacity of 4,150 hm³ of water, making it the largest reservoir in Western Europe.
In addition, cross-border public/private cooperation in the Alqueva area has focused on several joint projects, some of which are described below:
- The Alqueva dam and reservoir: as one of the most important examples of cooperation between Spain and Portugal, this project has created a 250 km² freshwater reservoir that has had a positive economic and social impact on the region. In this way, the Alqueva dam and reservoir have become an important resource for its geographical area of influence, providing water for agriculture, industry, fishing and tourism.
- Alqueva Cross-Border Project: this project was initiated in 2008 and aims to promote the sustainable development of the Alqueva region through cross-border cooperation. The project has supported initiatives in areas such as agriculture, tourism, education and culture, and has established a network of collaboration between local communities.
- EuroBIRD project: this project started in 2017 and aims to improve the management of protected natural areas in the Alqueva region. The project has established a network of protected areas in the region, and has developed management plans and biodiversity conservation activities for the protection and conservation of birds (which are also an important attraction for ornithological tourism in the area).
- Alqueva Dark Sky Project: this astronomical tourism initiative aims to protect and promote the dark sky of the Alqueva region, and the reduction of light pollution in the area. The project has created a network of observatories and developed activities and events related to astronomy.
Especially the latter two examples (EuroBIRD & Alqueva Dark Sky) have a direct impact on tourism in the area, as nature conservation and the promotion of astronomical tourism are attractive for tourists interested in ecotourism and sustainable tourism. In addition, bird protection and night sky conservation contribute to improving the quality of life of local residents, strengthening the community and promoting sustainable economic development in rural regions.
In this sense, the cross-border cooperation between Extremadura and Portugal in the Alqueva area relates directly to the BLUE-C principles in terms of active co-creation of a positive impact on the coastal community, with the common goal of developing sustainable blue economy solutions and promoting the efficient use of resources. Alqueva thus seeks to harness the water resources of the Guadiana River for the development of agriculture, tourism and hydropower generation.
Cross-border cooperation between Spain and Portugal in the Alqueva area on water resources development and strengthening the resilience of local communities has had numerous benefits, including the following:
- Improvement of the quality of life of local communities: cooperation projects have contributed to improving the quality of life of rural communities in the Alqueva region, through the improvement of infrastructure, access to basic services and the promotion of sustainable economic development.
- Protection of the environment and biodiversity: cooperation projects have contributed to the protection of the environment and biodiversity in the Alqueva region, through the creation of protected areas, the conservation of natural resources and the promotion of sustainable tourism.
- Strengthening relations between Spain and Portugal: cross-border cooperation has contributed to strengthening relations between Spain and Portugal, through the exchange of knowledge and experience, the promotion of dialogue and collaboration in areas of common interest.