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6th meeting of the Commission for Territorial Cohesion Policy and EU Budget (COTER)

The last meeting of the COTER commission took place online on Thursday 26 November, moderated by Isabelle Boudineau, Vice-President of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region and President of COTER.

After starting with a declaration by the Polish delegation showing their concerns about Poland’s EU budget veto, some of the topics discussed were the future of cross-border cooperation, as well as the contribution of the COTER to the Cross Border Citizens’ Alliance, launched by the Association of European Border Regions (AEBR), the Mission Operationelle Transfrontalière (MOT) and the Central European Service. Pavel Branda, AEBR Vice-President, prepared a draft opinion on cross-border services, which was adopted by the commission. Considering all the problems caused by the borders closure, during the first wave of the pandemic, the members of the commission agreed that a minimum of cross-border cooperation needs to be assured in times of crisis.

It is estimated that one-third of EU citizens live and work in border areas. These borders have an impact on the quality of their lives, and when accessing public services in comparison with citizens living in central regions. People living in border regions face specific challenges, whether it is finding a job, accessing healthcare and other public services, as well as everyday commuting and overcoming administrative problems, all these data can be found in the ESPON targeted analysis presented last year (link).

According to Pavel Branda, for a successful and more widespread delivery of cross-border public services, the EU should have a leading role in providing three essential tools: a legal framework, which allows to cooperate; permanent cross-border structures are also very important; and financing, as we have seen with Interreg.

Cross-border cooperation in general and providing public services is of a European nature and can be more effectively tackle at EU level, of course with close collaboration of national, regional and local authorities.

It was proposed that Cross-border Contact Points would be designated by different DGs of the European Commission, that would potentially deal with cross-border issues, especially in the fields of environment, civil protection, disaster management, transport, health care, education, spatial planning or employment, a new and revised EU legislation should consider the provision of cross border public services. Establishing National Cross-border Contact Points could be also a great support to exchange experiences with local and regional authorities.

In his presentation, Mr Branda strongly supported the adoption by the Council of the European Cross-Border Mechanism (ECBM) as a voluntary legal instrument for tackling legal and administrative obstacles and creating a suitable legal framework for specific implementation of cross-border services. The experience given by b-solutions project is that more than one third of the cases presented could be solved with the ECBM.

“Having more widely available cross-border public services could contribute to reducing negative border effects and increasing the quality of life of citizens living in these regions. The current frameworks and divergent national rules often impose overwhelming administrative burdens and costs. We need EU wide rules, permanent cross-border structures as well as funding to make these cross-border services more widespread. Here the EU could demonstrate its clear added value to millions of its citizens”, said Pavel Branda.

The Committee of the Regions will launch a public consultation on the future vision for long-term cross-border cooperation, targeting citizens living in border regions, cross-border structures such as EGTCs and Euroregions, as well as local and regional authorities, NGOs and businesses from Europe’s border Regions.

During the COTER meeting, members additionally exchanged views on the experiences and lessons learned by regions and cities during the Covid-19 crisis.

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