AEBR’s view on the “Boosting growth & cohesion in EU Border Regions” Communication:



 

The conference “Boosting growth & cohesion in EU Border Regions” took place on 20-21 September in Brussels to mark the adoption of the Communication to the Council and the European Parliament on “Boosting Growth and Cohesion in EU Border Regions”.

As explained in the European Commission’s DG Regional Policy and Urban Development (DG REGIO) webpage dedicated to this matter, “the aim of the Communication is to highlight ways in which Europe can reduce the complexity, length and costs of cross-border interaction and promote the pooling of services along internal borders”.

When the EU’s Cohesion and Regional Policy came under strong criticism in the beginning of the year 2016 (see also White Paper of Commission President Juncker, Scenario No. 4), and was threatened to be subject to severe cuts, the AEBR was regularly active at European level (EU Commission, Parliament and CoR) to make sure that cross-border cooperation could be safeguarded and further strengthened within the framework of territorial cooperation.

In this regard, and following the request of the European Commission, AEBR elaborated several papers on the future of cross-border cooperation and how to strengthen this type of cooperation.

DG REGIO has also made important steps (Cross-Border Review, acceptance of people-to-people projects) in order to strengthen cross-border cooperation. Furthermore, instruments were improved or will soon be implemented (Border Focal Point, online professional network). These joint activities have right now led to important successes, as proven by the Communication mentioned earlier.  

The Border Focal Point (BFP) in DG REGIO is going to be a major advance to address doubts, questions, etc., on the implementation of legislation and the coordination of administrative procedures, including the use of e-tools. An online professional network will discuss about legal and administrative issues and solutions through the online platform Futurium moderated by the BFP.

Special attention is paid to Interreg as an instrument to solve cross-border obstacles, people-to-people projects, smart and smart specialisation.  

An open call is going to be launched to select 20 pilot projects before the end of 2017, legislative measures are recommended, e-government will be promoted as a tool to facilitate cross-border administrative procedures under the once-only principle, information services such as SOLVIT are to be reinforced and new ones should be in place, full support to cross-border employment, border multi-lingualism, CB accessibility, pooling of health care facilities and mapping of CB health cooperation.  

Besides, a new instrument is under consideration to apply the rules of a Member State in the neighbouring one for a specific project or action limited in time, located within a border region and initiated by local and/or regional public authorities.

Building evidence of CB interaction to inform decision-makers will be promoted by collecting data and evidence on border obstacles. The coordination of national institutes of statistics is on-going in order to produce cross-border data. ESPON promotes territorial research linked to border regions. The focus will be on the discussions on the possible reduction of the budget due to the Brexit and other circumstances. Territorial Cooperation should not suffer from the cuts, and get even more relevance by earmarking resources in other programmes that only Interreg.

In these hard times, that is really good news for all regions at the internal borders of the EU/EFTA. Next step is to extend this to the external borders, to those between the countries of the Neighbourhood Policy, the IPA ones and with the Russian Federation.

DG REGIO has published now further information about the Workshop that will take place on 25 October 2017 in Mérida (Extremadura/Spain), prior to our Conference of European Border Regions (26-28 October in Badajoz, Extremadura/Spain): http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/en/conferences/boosting_merida.

The AEBR has strongly welcomed this Communication, after two years of a strong commitment within the Cross-Border Review. This is a very good opportunity for EU border regions to make a qualitative jump into a further phase of cross-border development and integration, adding an enormous value to the European project. However, we deeply regret that only EU internal land borders are the main object of this set of actions. We have already discussed this with the Commission and different stakeholders, having recommended to promote a specific study for CBC in maritime borders, where also many obstacles arise, but plenty of opportunities too. A specific initiative should also be addressed to CBC programmes co-financed by the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI CBC), and a particular attention should also be paid to CBC programmes within the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA-CBC). We are convinced that further actions proposed in the Communication for internal EU land borders will produce an invaluable benefit for the development of these territories, and this will be the main argument to initiate a similar exercise in EU maritime and external border regions.

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