Speech of Walter Deffaa, Director General of DG REGIO, held on the occasion of the AEBR pre-conference event on 8 November 2012 in Berlin:


(English translation from the German original) 


Dear Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear hosts of the Association of European Border Regions!


Thank you very much for inviting me to speak at your Annual Conference.

I am particularly glad, because the AEBR is one of the oldest and most important stakeholders in the field of cross-border cooperation and because we, the Commission, cooperate with you in a very positive manner.

You give the European border regions a voice. Your work creates partnership and offers the basis for a cooperation of confidence that overcomes borders on the local and regional level. You contribute in an important extent to overcoming borders, which is the basis for prosperity and peace in Europe. This is how in particular organizations as yours have helped to create the basis for the EU to merit a Nobel Peace Prize.


At the present moment, however, the EU is in its deepest crisis up to now: a financial, economic and social crisis. The increasing unemployment rate in many countries and regions, and the increasing youth unemployment in particular, show the worrying impact of this deep crisis. This is why the subject of this Annual Conference, Cross-border Labour Market Mobility, is of particular importance against the background of the crisis. Especially in times of crisis the proper functioning of labour markets needs to be improved, on cross-border level, too.

Today in many border regions there are regional labour markets with a considerable flux of cross-border commuters. People living in one country and working in another are confronted with different national conditions and legal systems. They might have to face legal, administrative or tax related mobility obstacles on a daily basis.

Therefore projects for the promotion of cross-border labour market mobility are supported in many programmes. Today some of these projects will be presented. And in the next programming period this remains an important funding priority in the field of cross-border cooperation as well[1].


The considerable importance accorded to cross-border cooperation by the Commission becomes visible while considering the budget proposals for the next period. The Commission plans to clearly increase the funds for cross-border cooperation from 2014-2020. This is a clear political signal, especially in times of restrictive budgetary policy.

But of course it is not all about money. The European Commission plans to modernise the Cohesion Policy including ETC. The new modern Cohesion Policy should be completely aimed at more growth and employment, strongly needed in the present crisis, apart from the necessary budgetary consolidation and the structural reforms for better competitiveness. This reorientation is valid for the ETC, too. We want the ETC to being also considerably aligned with the Strategy Europe 2020, and I am sure that border regions will contribute with smart projects.

For the first time the Commission has proposed a separate Regulation for European Territorial Cooperation. Like this we can better take into consideration the multinational context in which the programmes are implemented.

Many things have already been accomplished in the past – but the potential for territorial cooperation has to be used even better in future: In this context it is of particular importance to manage the programmes in a more efficient and effective way. This is why the key words of the reform of Cohesion Policy are valid for ETC as well:

  • Result-oriented – the portion of cross-border cooperation in sustainable economic development has to become visible for the European citizens.
  • Thematic concentration – we should concentrate on a limited number of subjects. The thematic concentration is more efficient than the “principle of the watering can”. In the same time we have to guarantee that the regions have the possibility to flexibly choosing their priorities according to their needs
  • Simplification – it is our objective as well to simplify the access to Structural Funds, to streamline the implementation rules, to reduce the number of authorities involved in the programme implementation – in other words: we want to reduce bureaucracy and strengthen the economic development.


Ladies and Gentlemen, the discussions on the reform at the Council and at the European Parliament are progressing.

Informal trilogues between EP, Council and COM, in first instance on the Basic Regulation, have already started. We hope that the negotiations will progress rapidly and that, as planned, the budget questions, that are particularly difficult in times of crisis, can be solved before the end of the year, in order to allow a timely programme start on 1st January 2014.

If we want to guarantee that the new programmes are based on an appropriate financial basis, we need to make sure that they guarantee verifiable good results and “value for money”. Today’s event will certainly contribute to this objective.

I wish you productive discussions and a successful event.

[1] Apart from the investment priority 9 (ESF) of the ERDF (promotion of employment and labour mobility) the ETC Regulation clearly provides in art. 16 as additional investment priority for cross-border programmes: Integration of cross-border labour markets, including cross-border mobility, common training measures (in the framework of the thematic objective employment and promotion of labour mobility).

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