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Celebrating 50 years of cross-border cooperation thanks to AEBR’s work

21 June 2021

50 years is a long time for an organization founded on the voluntary participation of its members. In these years, enemies become friends and many transformations took place in our continent. (…)
Borders are everywhere and they must be recognised, acknowledged, and overcome, and overcoming borders means changing paradigms and perspectives. (…)
CBC is at the heart of European integration and one of the most important ingredients of the EU’s success story. (…)
CBC has developed for a long time but has also shown its volatility. Nothing can be taken for granted, and nothing is offered for free. Despite decades of cooperation, the first reflex towards crises is closing borders, but the spirit of cooperation remains.

AEBR President Karl-Heinz Lambert (German-speaking Community of Belgium)

AEBR President Karl Heinz Lambertz opened the events to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Association of European Border Regions on 18 June 2021 at the Anholt Castle in Isselburg, Westphalia.

Photo: AEBR (own elaboration over Tuxyso / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Two public (hybrid) round tables and a meeting of AEBR Executive Committee have been organized at the Anholt Castle, commemorating the 2nd Anholt Talks on 17-18 June 1971, when AEBR founders established a Standing Conference of European Border Regions (they finally decided to call it the “Association of European Border Regions”). These first two hybrid round tables have started a series of events planned in 2021, with its height on 20-22 October 2021 in the Province of Gelderland (the Netherlands) during AEBR Annual Events, when we will discuss about major challenges for border regions with a focus on the Green Deal. From 18 June until December 2021, various round tables are also organized with different stakeholders on their experience so far, the challenges they currently face, and the future of cross-border cooperation (CBC).


Current representatives of AEBR’s founding euroregions were invited to the first roundtable to introduce this general reflection on cross-border cooperation looking at their know-how. In his opening statement, AEBR President pointed out the achievements of AEBR during 50 years of work since its foundation, throughout the history of European integration, building a strong network with engaged partners, and taking part in the design of tools to promote CBC. “Borders are our core business […] and we must recognise them, know them and overcome them to achieve change”, said President Lambertz.

Thanking all those who have worked in, with, and for AEBR, the President welcomed Manuel Friesecke, Director of Regio Basiliensis (CH); Sjaak Kamps, Director of Euregio Rhine-Waal (DE/NL); Bert Bouwmeester, Mayor of Coevorden and Chairman of Ems Dollart Regio (DE/NL); Joris Bengevoord, Mayor of Winterswijk and member of the Board of EUREGIO (DE/NL); Peter Hansen, Director of Region Sonderjylland-Schleswig (DE/DK), and Peter van’t Hoog, Member of the Executive Council of the Province of Gelderland (NL), and invited them to share their knowledge and experience with AEBR. All of them expressed the need for a permanent and deeper exchange, the strengthening of our network and continue representing border regions as AEBR has done during the last 50 years.


Partners across Europe and from other continents congratulated AEBR in the social media, and some of them took the digital floor to express their interest in continuing to build a good collaboration with our Association. Andreas Kiefer, Secretary General of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities at the Council of Europe; Jean Peyrony, General Director at the Mission Opérationnelle Transfrontalière (MOT); Gyula Ocskay, Secretary General at the Central European Service for Cross-Border Initiatives (CESCI); and Frédéric Vallier, Secretary General of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR), voiced the need to create synergies for the benefit of citizens, and their willingness to keep on working hand in hand with AEBR in the future.


The second round table dealt with communication challenges. Alexander Homann, Director of the Representation of the German-speaking Community of Belgium, the Wallonia-Brussels Federation, and Wallonia in Berlin, various journalists and experts in communication to look into the future of CBC in a post-pandemic Europe and beyond, but also into the traditional difficulties to make CBC visible. Agnés Monfret, Head of the Communication Unit at DG Regio (European Commission); Peter Schenk, journalist at BZ – Zeitung für die Region Basel; Hans Vlaskamp, from Antenne Niederrhein (DE); Peter Berendsen, from REGIO 8 in Achterhoek (NL); and Ruža Jeremić Turudić, from the Radio Television of Serbia, exchanged on the role of the media in border regions to enhance cooperation. Bringing the point of view from different border regions, they all signalled how fragile and how difficult it is to achieve cross-border cooperation, and yet how important it is to continue to work on it, creatively and in a more structured way. Concluding the event, Mr Homann noted the work that AEBR has accomplished in 50 years to support cross-border cooperation – a marathon made possible by all the persons that have contributed actively and with passion to facilitate the life of citizens in border regions.


The high participation (around a hundred people were connected all the time) and the very positive feedback received encourage us to continue with the next planned talks with stakeholders dealing with “hot “ topics and major milestones for cross-border cooperation: Small Project Funds and People-to-People projects; the legacy of the Madrid Outline Convention of the Council of Europe, its Additional Protocols, and related agreements; the role of EGTCs in CBC; the external borders of the EU, the Eastern Partnership and the Mediterranean; how Interreg would support reconstruction and how reconstruction can support Interreg; and, boosting the ECBM!


AEBR would like to thank all speakers and participants for their contributions and for the many wishes received for the 50th anniversary!

Messages by the speakers during the events can be read on AEBR’s Facebook page.

The full recording of both round tables are available on AEBR’s YouTube page. These are the versions with the speakers’ original sound (in DE, EN or FR): AEBR Founders RT and CBC Communication RT.

The version with English interpretation is available here.


Speakers and organisers at the Anholt Castle on 18 June 2021.

Photo: AEBR

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