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b-solutions extended! Two more calls for proposals

AEBR and the European Commission have extended the project b-solutions to identify more solutions to legal and administrative obstacles to cross-border cooperation. Two more calls for proposals will be launched in 2020. In Spring 2020 AEBR will publish the Compendium showcasing 43 solutions to overcome obstacles hindering cross-border cooperation collected since 2018. Lessons learned and relevant policy recommendations targeting the needs of border regions are an integral part of the compendium.

The project b-solutions has been extended until December 2021 to identify more solutions to legal and administrative obstacles hindering cross-border cooperation through two more calls for proposals. The European Commission has announced the extension on the online platform “Boosting EU Border Regions” (access the news here). With the extension of the pilot initiative b-solutions by two years, the Association of European Border Regions and the European Commission’s DG Regio aim to support more practitioners of cross-border cooperation in border regions across the European Union. In the framework of the project AEBR will launch two more calls for proposals to allow more public bodies and cross-border structures to tackle legal and administrative obstacles and to find innovative solutions to enhance cross-border cooperation.

Depending on the evolution of Covid-19 pandemic, these two calls will be launched in Spring 2020 and in Autumn 2020, addressing public bodies (national, regional, local) and cross-border entities (EGTCs, Euroregions and similar CB structures with legal personality). Successful applicants will receive legal consultation by experts in cross-border issues to devise solutions to obstacles currently faced. The result of the consultations will benefit in the first place the applicants, but also other border regions and actors of cross-border cooperation, being the promotion of capacity building and mutual learning an objective of b-solutions. Latest updates on the calls will be posted on the European Commission’s “Boosting Border Regions” online platform. Other deliverables are also expected.

In the framework of the first phase of b-solutions, AEBR has been collecting information on obstacles that hinder cross-border cooperation projects in the EU and has analysed them. The knowledge shared by local and regional authorities from all over the European Union and the experts involved in the projects helped draw relevant conclusions to improve policymaking addressing border regions. European institutions, Interreg Programmes’ Managing Authorities and Joint Secretariats, national authorities as well as regional and local authorities are urged to take actions to make cross-border cooperation’s practices a main strategy for border regions.

As one of the actions ensuing the communication Boosting growth and cohesion in EU border regions released by the European Commission in 2017, b-solutions aims at tackling legal and administrative difficulties arising from the implementation of cross-border projects along EU internal borders. In the first phase of the project, through two call for proposals, AEBR, together with the Commission’s Border Focal Point, has selected 10 pilot actions proposing a solution that has been realised within the framework of b-solutions, and 33 advice cases – obstacles perceived by local actors in border regions, which have been investigated and documented by legal experts. The next two calls for proposals will allow for the selection of 50 more advice cases.

To realise this initiative, AEBR has involved about 30 experts of cross-border cooperation as well as over 40 local actors of cooperation in the first two years of implementation of b-solutions. Through this exercise, AEBR has gained unique knowledge in this field and has created a strong network capable of utilising this knowledge to support local and regional authorities willing to cooperate with their neighbours to improve life of citizens in border regions.

From the information raised so far, the need to address legal and administrative obstacles that hinder cross-border cooperation emerges clearly. Stakeholders face huge complexities to implement cross-border projects: the lengthy procedures to overcome differences in the administration and in the legal framework, the efforts to coordinate and the uncertainty accompanying innovative endeavours are often perceived as insurmountable.

In particular, more support is needed for regional and local authorities to be able to apply the tailor-made arrangements that are often necessary to overcome obstacles to cross-border cooperation. The involvement of national authorities is especially fundamental for solutions of legal or administrative nature that involve changes in current frameworks. In the light of this, a cross-border logic should be integrated in national legislative provisions and more support should be provided by EU institutions – especially Interreg programmes.

b-solutions shows a very good path to really achieve place-based European development and integration, following the recommendations of Prof. Fabrizio Barca in his legendary report. To allow for European citizens in border regions to have access to labour market and healthcare, for the internal market to function smoothly and for cross-border cooperation to thrive, border obstacles must be removed. There are many tools offered by the European Union’s institutions, but national authorities must engage in border regions too to fulfil cross-border cooperation and deliver services to citizens all over their territory. The compendium that AEBR and DG Regio will publish in Spring 2020 will present more possibilities to enhance cooperation in border regions.

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