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AEBR Executive Committee in Flensburg, Germany

AEBR’s member of the Executive Committee met on 28 February 2020 in Flensburg, Germany, hosted by Region Sønderjylland-Schleswig (DK-DE). Main points on the agenda were an update on current developments of issues of interest for border regions, a follow up on the discussions on the EU future budget and its impact in Cohesion Policy, informing about relevant initiatives and highlighting latest achievements of the Association of European Border Regions.

Ms Ann-Sofi Backgren, President of AEBR, and Mr Clemens Schmidt, representing Mr Henning Brüggemann, Mayor of Flensburg, welcomed the participants and opened the meeting. Ms Backgren addressed the important changes in European affairs coming about in the last months, and particularly the European Green Deal recently launched by the new European Commission to tackle climate change. “Border regions should take an active part in the implementation of the Green Deal, maximising their potential in a context of transformation of the growth model”, claimed Ms Backgren.

Current developments regarding the future of Cohesion, and particularly Territorial Cohesion, including budgetary and regulatory aspects, were outlined by AEBR Secretary General Mr Martín Guillermo Ramírez. Looking at the follow up of the Commission’s Communication Boosting Growth and Cohesion in EU Border Regions, AEBR is about to release the first output resulting from the implementation of the pilot project b-solutions, an action undertaken in the context of DG REGIO’s communication. A compendium will illustrate main findings and lessons learned from the analysis of 43 obstacles to cross-border cooperation and proposed solutions to overcome then identified all over Europe, and it will include policy recommendations geared toward the needs of border regions.

Furthermore, AEBR and DG REGIO will launch two more calls for proposals in Spring and Autumn 2020 to identify further solutions to enhance cross-border cooperation in the light of the extension of the pilot initiative. b-solutions will run until December 2021 and produce many more outputs to support capacity building and information sharing on cross-border cooperation.

Information was also given on those bodies dealing with cross-border cooperation in EU institutions, such as the inter-group at the Committee of the Regions coordinated by Vice-President Pavel Branda. Thirteen meetings have already taken place with the participation of all organisations dealing with cross-border cooperation, making the group a good platform to increase activism for CBC-issues.

AEBR members discussed also some issues that have been disrupting the work of stakeholders in some border regions, as the implementation of the A1 certificate. This form, introduced to ensure the fulfilment of social security rights, is creating difficulties for people crossing the border on duty in some European regions, following a strict interpretation of the Posted Workers Directive.

A further initiative which AEBR welcomes and invites its members to participate in is the Conference on the Future of Europe, one of the main topics in the agenda of the European Commission to give Europeans a greater say in the next two years on what the EU does and how it works. Being local and regional authorities from border regions at the heart of European Integration, they should be active in the framework of the Conference to deepen subsidiarity and integration. “It is important to get involved here – so to show the presence of border regions and to express a strong pro-European commitment” said Mr Karl-Heinz Lambertz.

AEBR Secretary General updated the members about the progress of the initiative #CohesionAlliance, which continues defending the Cohesion Policy in all relevant political debates. In December 2019, Charles Michel, President of the European Council, has been addressed, and in January representatives of the Cohesion Alliance met with Commissioner Elisa Ferreira.

AEBR staff updated the members about financial and organisational aspects, as well as on the developments of the many projects AEBR is involved in: Interreg Volunteer Youth, b-solutions, Inter Ventures, Peripheral Access, BorderLiving, TREMIS, BUS, and projects within AEBR Global Initiative. To conclude informing about AEBR activities, Mr Johannes Moisio outlined the initiatives prepared by the Task Force External Borders, including the opening for registration for the 12th Youth Forum hosted by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Drama next July and the planning of a project to integrate foreign students in border regions. Mr Rudolf Godesar informed that the Task Force Cross-Border Culture is organising two congresses on culture in remote areas and the support to culture, taking place in the Summer in the Greater Region and in the Upper Rhein region. The Task Force Cross-Border Labour Market organised a workshop on 27 February 2020 illustrating solutions to enhance cooperation in border regions using cases from the project b-solutions and showcasing the project “Grenznetz”, along with a presentation from Hellenic Chambers to facilitate the establishment of SMEs in remote areas.

This Executive Committee meeting was also the occasion to welcome new Executive Committee members: Vice-President Edouard Jacque, representing Région Grand Est (FR), Vice-President Peter van‘t Hoog, regional minister of the Province of Gelderland, and Mr Stuey Hamelink, representing Euregio Scheldemond (BE/NL).

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