Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, all events have been organized with online participation. Growing restrictions in Belgium and other European countries after the summer strongly limited the expected capacity of the venue, and further limitations followed very soon. On 30 September, Belgium was marked as “red zone” by Germany, and other countries also applied restrictions. A growing number of daily cases in many European territories, and the need to be very flexible and cautious, led the German-speaking Community of Belgium (East Belgium), hosts of the events, and AEBR to adapt to every scenario (three plans were elaborated: A, B and C) and inform regularly AEBR members and other registered participants about the evolution in the organisation.
The registration was opened on Monday 12 October for AEBR IV Cross-Border School and Annual Conference 2020. AEBR members also received the statutory communication to register for the General Assembly and submit their proposals for AEBR Election 2020, as well as first information on the procedures, technical aspects, etc.
A different kind of ceremony was also organized to deliver the Cross-Border Award Sail of Papenburg 2020. The call for proposals was open until 1 October 2020, and an independent Jury appointed by the AEBR Executive Committee made its deliberations on the ten selected applications until the end of the month. The topic in 2020 has been Covid-19 – re-opening of borders. Joint measures and solutions in border regions, and the Jury selected three outstanding activities submitted by the Working Community of the Pyrenees (CTP), the Euregio Meuse-Rhine, and the Eurodistrict PAMINA, while BRCT Iaşi was awarded with a special prize. Congratulations to all of you! You can watch the ceremony here.
FINAL PROGRAMME (with links to presentations and recording)
Wednesday, 4 November 2020
The 4th edition of AEBR Cross-Border School worked around four themes:
Bringing together cross-border cooperation academics and practitioners with the double aim of enhancing dialogue and mutual learning whilst increasing knowledge. Many stakeholders contributed: the universities of Liége (Belgium), Kaiserslautern (Germany), Luxembourg, and Liberec (Czech Republic), as well as ITEM (the Netherlands) and other organisations. Various AEBR members and task forces also took part, and there was wide online participation (more than sixty people connected in most sessions).
Thursday, 5 November 2020
AEBR General Assembly 2020, combined with the Executive Committee, took place on 5 November in the morning (10:00-12:00), including the Election of AEBR bodies. Mr Karl-Heinz Lambertz, President of the Parliament of the German-speaking Community of Belgium, was elected President of AEBR for the next two years. Ms Ann-Sofi Backgren (Council of Ostrobothnia, Finland) was elected as AEBR 1st Vice-president.
AEBR members also made various decisions on AEBR finances and organization and approved three resolutions on the new AEBR Charter of Border and Cross-Border Regions, the European Cross-Border Citizens’ Alliance, and demanding the respect to international law and the peaceful reunification of the island of Cyprus.
In 2020 AEBR welcomes River Minho EGTC (ES/PT), Maramureș County Council (RO), the Province of Drenthe (NL), and MidtSkandia (NO/SE), in a joint partnership with Kvarken Council (FI/SE), as AEBR new members.
In the afternoon of 5 November and the morning of 6 November, AEBR Annual Conference took place online. Main topics were the future of the EU from the perspective of border regions, and the future role of AEBR.
Simultaneous interpretation was provided in English, French, German and Polish for the General Assembly and the Annual Conference.
Session I – The future of Europe from the perspective of border regions
13.30 – 13.50 Official opening and welcome speeches by Karl-Heinz Lambertz, after his election as AEBR President and Oliver Paasch, Minister-President of the German-speaking Community of Belgium, host of AEBR Annual Events
13.50 – 14.05 Gunn Marit Helgesen, Councillor of Telemark County (NO), President of the Chamber of Regions, Congress of Local and Regional Authorities (Council of Europe)
14.20 – 14.35 The Future of Interreg, Pascal Boijmans, Head of Unit for Interreg and CBC at DG Regio, European Commission
14.35 – 14-50 The future of Europe and the role of border regions, Wolfgang Petzold, Deputy Director at the European Committee of the Regions,
14.50 – 15.15 Exchange with participants, and proposal of a structured debate afterwards through the Border Focal Point’s forum in Futurium: https://ec.europa.eu/futurium/en/border-regions/forum
15.15 – 15.30 Sum-up, conclusions, and proposals for action.
(online) Cross-Border Award Sail of Papenburg 2020
Session II – Crises like COVID-19 and consequences for border citizens
This crisis has shown how weak the situation across the internal borders of the EU could be when national governments decide to close the border. Recovery is thus harder in border regions. Therefore, the role of the EU is crucial to coordinate a growing variety of issues, also public services, where provisions and procedures might collide at the border. A lot of knowledge is produced on the ground, and there is a growing awareness at national level (and in a growing number of departments at EU institutions). Then, do we need a new narrative for cross-border areas?
Moderator: Nathalie Verschelde, Border Focal Point, DG Regio, European Commission
16.30 – 16.45 First lessons learned: a study on COVID and borders. Introduction to the session and presentation of the study by the moderator.
16.45 – 17.00 Covid-19: borders as bridge to supportive neighbours! Michael Dejozé, EGTC Euregio Meuse-Rhine
17.00 – 17.10 Borders’ closure and cross border cooperation: Arola Urdangarin Ferreira, EGTC Eurorégion Nouvelle Aquitaine-Euskadi-Navarre
17.10 – 17.30 Summary of comments included in the chat, questions and comments from the audience, brief reaction from the speakers.
17.45 – 17.55 Covid’s impact on cultural operators in the border regions, Julie Hanique, General Council for Culture, Federation of Wallonia-Brussels
17.55 – 18.10 New summary of comments in the chat, a few comments from the audience, brief reaction from the speakers, and final remarks (sum-up and conclusions) by the moderator
Friday, 6 November 2020
The future of AEBR
Session III – A project-based organisation? (b-solutions, Interreg Volunteer Youth, InterVentures, EUROsociAL, …)
Moderator: Martín Guillermo Ramírez, AEBR Secretary General
09.00 – 09.15 Interreg Volunteer Youth and b-solutions, Cinzia Dellagiacoma, AEBR Team
09.15 – 09.30 Boosting growth and cohesion in EU border regions, Ricardo Ferreira, Border Focal Point, DG Regio, European Commission
09.30 – 09.40 Working with IVY, Io Chatzivaryti, Euroregion Nestos-Mesta (GR-BG), Chamber of Drama
09.40 – 09.50 A b-solutions case by an EGTC, Pablo Rivera Búa, EGTC Chaves-Verín (PT-ES)
09.50 – 09.55 Briefing on AEBR Latin American projects, José María Cruz, AEBR Global Initiative, Brussels
09.55 – 10.20 Exchange with participants
10.20 – 10.30 Sum-up and conclusions
Session IV – Communication and networking: future AEBR cooperation with EU institutions and other partners
Moderator: Ann-Sofi Backgren, Regional Council of Ostrobothnia (FI)
Moderator: Ann-Sofi Backgren, Regional Council of Ostrobothnia (FI)
11.00 – 11.05 Introduction by the moderator
11.05 – 11.15 Andreas Kiefer, Acting Secretary General of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities (Council of Europe)
11.15 – 11.25 Christian Gsodam, Head of the Cabinet of the Secretary General, European Committee of the Regions
11.25 – 11.35 Territorial Cooperation Instruments to strengthen cohesion in border regions, Dirk Peters, Senior Expert for European territorial cooperation, EGTC and ECBM at DG Regio, European Commission
11.35 – 11.45 European Citizens’ Alliance – The example of the DE-FR Aachen Treaty, Jean Peyrony, Director of the Mission Opérationnelle Transfrontalière (MOT)
11.45 – 12.05 Exchange with participants
12.05 – 12.15 Sum-up and conclusions
12.15 – 12.20 A brief look into AEBR 50th Anniversary in 2021 and presentation of the host of next General Assembly and Annual Conference: the Province of Gelderland (video)
12:20-12:30 Closing words by AEBR President, Mr Karl-Heinz Lambertz