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AEBR Annual Conference 2020: a Glimpse into the Future

On 5 and 6 November 2020 AEBR’s Annual Conference took place. Various stakeholders exchanged on two main topics: the future of the EU from the perspective of border regions, and the future role of AEBR. Divided in four sessions, inspiring discussions engaged many actors from border regions. A brief summary of the four sessions follows:


Session 1: The future of Europe (from the perspective of border regions). In the first session, opened by Oliver Paasch, Minister-President of the German-speaking Community of Belgium, and Karl-Heinz Lambertz, AEBR’s newly elected President, representative of European institutions offered their insights on future developments in Europe, especially with regard to territorial cooperation. Gunn Marit Helgesen from the Council of Europe’s Congress of Local and Regional Authorities claimed the need to multiply cross-border cooperation in Europe – and to achieve this, the necessity to develop new multilevel governance models and ensure solidarity between cross-border territories. Pascal Boijmans from the European Commission’s DG Regio presented the novelties of Interreg 2021-27, where cooperation takes a new dimension. Wolfgang Petzold from the European Committee of the Regions called for collaboration among institutions, policy makers and associations within the framework of the Conference on the Future of Europe to influence an agenda geared toward more cross-border cooperation. In their final comments,  the speakers stressed the importance of a strong cross-border alliance and collaboration that will bring border regions to the heart of the decision making process. The future of Europe should find citizens, institutions and politicians in a good partnership that will promote the interest of border regions and citizens, and will leave no one behind.

Replay the session here.



Session 2: Crises like COVID-19 and their impact on cross-border citizens. The following session looked at the situation in border regions of the EU when national governments decide to close borders. Nathalie Verschelde from the European Commission’s DG Regio pleaded for better coordination for strategic planning to prevent crises, much needed especially in border regions, as a study on the impact of measures taken in Spring 2020 to prevent the pandemic of COVID-19 to be released soon points out. Michael Dejozé from the EGTC Euregio Meuse-Rhine presented their experience in cooperating while borders where closed, emphasising the relevance of the cooperation ties established before the crisis, which have been of utter importance to allow for solutions benefitting citizens in the moment of crisis. Arola Urdangarin Ferreira from the EGTC Eurorégion Nouvelle Aquitaine-Euskadi-Navarre also informed about their experience and stressed the key role played by cross-border structures during the pandemic as bridges between citizens and national authorities. Nicolas Decker and Jo Maas from the European Patients Empowerment for Customized Solutions- EPECS brought the point of view of citizens and patients, demanding a long-term plan on policies and decision making related to health matters in the EU – the only way to involve citizens of border regions. Finally, Julie Hanique from the General Council for Culture of the Federation of Wallonia-Brussels dwelled on the impact of COVID-19 on cultural operators in the border regions, which contributed to national isolation. Closing the session, speakers and participants pleaded for a united call to avoid borders’ closures. To support border regions through crises like COVID-19, it is necessary to rethink the role of the EU in future crisis, establish trust and strong relationships across borders, allow for local solutions and push for cross-border risk management, also through Interreg funding.

Replay the session here.



Session 3: A project-based organisation? On 6 November Martín Guillermo Ramírez invited five speakers to share their view about the role of AEBR in managing projects enhancing cross-border cooperation. Cinzia Dellagiacoma of AEBR’s Project Office showed how the initiatives Interreg Volunteer Youth and b-solutions offer AEBR new ways to achieve its primary objective of promoting cross-border cooperation. Ricardo Ferreira from DG Regio, promoter of the b-solutions initiative, stressed the strategic role that AEBR has in fulfilling successfully the project, allowing for a wider impact of the action thanks to its ability to involve more actors. Io Chatzivaryti from  the Chamber of Drama and Pablo Rivera Búa from  the EGTC Chaves-Verín brought their experiences taking part in projects implemented by AEBR, showcasing the possibilities that these initiative bring to borders’ stakeholders. While briefing on AEBR Latin American projects, José María Cruz of AEBR Global Initiative informed about the many actions AEBR is part of in Latin America and Africa to transfer and gain new knowledge on cross-border cooperation. Through its projects, AEBR acts as an indispensable bridge between various stakeholders, channelling information and knowledge while ensuring capitalisation, dissemination and capacity building – all to the benefit of cross-border cooperation’ s practices.

Replay the session here.



Session 4: Communication and Networking AEBR cooperation with European institutions and other strategic partners. Ann-Sofi Backgren introduction four additional guest speakers to exchange on future collaboration between AEBR and key partners, bringing up new ideas and fresh commitments.  Andreas Kiefer from the Council of Europe’ Congress of Local and Regional Authorities welcomed the call for more coordination among different actors to create synergies through alliances – and in this sense expressed gratification for the longstanding cooperation between AEBR and the Council of Europe. Christian Gsodam from the European Committee of the Regions launched many interesting and ambitious ideas to promote, in synergy with various stakeholders, cross-border cooperation, bringing forward the development of new structures, new strategies, new collaborations, along with citizens’ dialogues. Dirk Peters from the European Commission’s DG Regio stressed what are the instruments to strengthen cohesion in border regions put at disposal by European Territorial Cooperation – emphasising that trust among all partners is the fundamental element for cross-border cooperation to be successful. Finally, Jean Peyrony from Mission Opérationnelle Transfrontalière (MOT) presented the European Cross-Border Citizens’ Alliance, a joint initiative to ensure that EU cross-border citizens’ voice is heard by institutions and policy makers. Closing the session, the speakers emphasized the importance of these debates, being vital for strengthening the collaboration of all stakeholders and for bringing forward the necessary policies that will benefit cross border citizens all over Europe, having a direct positive impact on their daily life.

Replay the session here.



All Power Point presentations are available here.

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