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Conference on the Future of CBC

Organized by the European Cross-Border Citizens Alliance, established by the AEBR, the MOT and CESCI, and joined by the European Committee of the Regions, as part of their works to guarantee sustainable, effective and fruitful CBC in the coming decades, and to include CBC in the Conference on the Future of Europe. You can read a press release by the European Committee of the Regions, including quotes from some of the speakers.

Ivan Žagar, Mayor of Slovenska Bistrica, Slovenia), 1st Vice-Chair of the COTER Commission (for Territorial Cohesion and EU Budget) at the CoR opened and moderated the Conference.

James Wesley Scott, Professor at the Karelian Institute in Joensuu, a very well-known specialist in border issues, gave a keynote speech before the first panel, Lessons learned during the COVID-19 crisis, ongoing challenges for cross-border regions and how it reflects on the future of CBC, with the participation of:

  • Jean Peyrony, Director of MOT, who developed the concept of cross-border citizenship
  • Sławomir Tokarski, Director at DG REGIO, highlighted institutional cooperation for better cross-border public services, the activation of labour markets with better job conditions across borders, recognition of diplomas, etc., the need to integrate border regions in the Green Deal, and more.
  • Arola Urdangarin, Director of EGTC Euroregion Nouvelle Aquitaine – Euskadi – Navarra, describe the services developed by the EGTC for cross-border citizens, enterprises, etc. during the pandemic, including a survey with 2,000 answers in 10 days, and very interesting results in terms of the impact of the closing in daily life for highly dynamic cross-border areas
  • François Hublet, Managing editor, BLUE, Groupe d’études géopolitiques, presented the study Subsidiarity crisis management in the COVID-19 pandemic. Germany’s federalist experiment in transborder perspective, regarding subsidiarity quality during the pandemic. He highlighted the relevance of Germany’s decentralised management of the crisis.
  • Gyula Ocskay, Secretary General of CESCI, stressed people’s local trust in the European project in former communist countries (Hungary and Poland) towards pessimistic messages and restrictions during the pandemic. First lesson: they won’t return to the past experience. Migration crises showed that politicians blame each other, but during the pandemic, we did not experience this. Second lesson: every problem should be tackle following the principle of good neighbourhood and the interest of CB communities. We can talk now about real troubles on citizens, drawing good evidence to illustrate instruments such as the ECBM.

The second part was a debate on A Vision for CBC as part of the Future of Europe debate, moderated by Mayor Žagar, with the contributions of:

  • Pavel Branda, Rapporteur on “Cross-Border Public Services” (CPS) and Chair of the CoR’s interregional group on CBC, asked to move to improve CBC, facilitate the lives of citizens, and strengthen the role of the CB Alliance at the Conference on the Future of Europe. Improved CBC, access to CPS, removing obstacles, … the CoR has addressed this in various opinions and resolutions, like the one the previous week, asking the Commission to maintain CBC as it was in the previous period, at least. “We need an EU framework for CB Functional Areas. Including digital passes for CB services.” He also referred to the ECBM, and the need to revitalize this very necessary instrument. But we also need “an instrument helping Member States during the transposition of EU legislation to take into account cross-border realities. Putting CBC back at the heart of the EU project.”
  • Nataša Tramišak, Minister of Regional Development and EU Funds of the Republic of Croatia explained their long border and its specific shape and geography, the focus of the Croatian Government on CBC and the value of CBC for border territories, but also for the whole country, when it helped to build capacities to prepare the accession to the EU.
  • Céline Geissmann, Vice Mayor of Strasbourg,
  • Heike Raab, State Secretary and Representative of the Land of Rhineland Palatinate,
  • Jari Nahkanen, President of the CPMR Baltic Sea Commission and Board Member of the Council of Oulu Region,
  • AEBR Vice-president Peter van t’Hoog, Regional minister of Gelderland, explained the “Germany strategy” of this Dutch province, referred to CBC as the “cement of the European house”, the works of AEBR with the Commission to identify obstacles to CBC and possible solutions, to involve young people in Interreg, and the 50th Anniversary of AEBR. He also announced AEBR Annual Events next October in Arnhem, with a focus on the role of border regions in implementing Europe’s Green Deal.

Europe needs to implement many transitions to face challenges such as the climate change, and border regions can take a key position to shape these transitions in the years to come, putting commitments such as the Green Deal into practice at cross-border level, acting once again as dynamic laboratories for European integration.

AEBR Vice-President Peter van’t Hoog (Province of Gelderland)

You can watch again the conference on YouTube.

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