Date of Award

8-2009

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Geography

Major Professor

Dr. Lydia Pulsipher

Committee Members

Dr. Thomas Bell, Dr. Anita Drever, Margaret Gripshover, Dr. David Tompkins

Abstract

The transformation of the Polish-German border from a carefully monitored border to an open border with no restrictions on the cross-border mobility of individuals was complete with Poland's full membership in the Schengen Agreement in the fall of 2007. Meanwhile, funding from the European Union since the early 1990s has been supporting the development of projects that require collaboration between Polish and German borderlanders. A chief mechanism for this has been the zoning of border regions into so-called euro-regions, zones of cross-border cooperation, that by financially supporting projects that require collaboration across the border encourage Polish and German organizations and towns in the border region to establish closer ties. In the summer and fall of 2007 during the final months of controls on the border, I interviewed Polish borderlanders living in the northwestern provinces of Lubuskie and Zachodniopomorskie to learn how successful these policies have been at reducing the divisive effect of the border between European member countries. Surveys and open-ended interviews were used to capture Polish borderlanders opinions on the changes in their cross border mobility, to learn about their awareness of euro-regions and to explore how they identify with the region. The findings of this study are meant to contribute to a better understanding of the early stages of European Union integration in Central Europe.

Despite the delight borderlanders in my study expressed over the closing of custom checkpoints along the border, I found that linguistic and economic differences continue to influence individuals' decisions to cross the border and structure their interactions with German borderlanders. Although it has become relatively easy for borderlanders to cross the border, most participants only cross the border once a year. And although the majority of borderlanders in my study held positive views on cooperating with German communities across the border their actions appear to be driven by the perceived economic benefits of cross-border cooperation and not a sense of belonging in an multicultural European society.

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