AEBR Executive Committee in Saarbrucken, Germany:

Executive Committee
Executive Committee

AEBR Executive Committee members met in Saarbrucken (Saarland, Germany), in the territory of the Greater Region, last 5th April 2019 to discuss the latest news on cohesion and regional policy, to review the work of the association and mark current and future priorities. There was an exchange on the most relevant updates regarding CBC in the EU and other issues of interest for border and cross-border regions at European level: progress at the different EU institutions just before Elections to the Parliament and nomination of a new Commission, the 8th Summit of Regions and Cities in Bucharest, the #Cohesion Alliance, the debates on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) 2021-2027, the proposed Regulations 2021-2027 (in particular the Common Provisions, Interreg, NDICI, ERDF and CF, but also ESF+, EMFF, AMiF, BMVI, InvestEU, CEF, Horizon Europe, LIFE, Erasmus or Creative Europe). The European CB Mechanism (ECBM) was also subject of analysis during the Executive Committee meeting but, particularly, during a previous workshop with Greater Region stakeholders. Other topics of interest for border regions such as Brexit, external borders, climate change, transport and connectivity and labour market where also discussed, as well as the progress on main AEBR projects (IVY, b-Solutions).

On 5th April 2019 members of AEBR’s Executive Committee met in Saarbrucken (Saarland, Germany) to discuss the latest news on cohesion and regional policy, to overview the work of the association and mark current and future priorities.

Members had occasion to exchange on the most relevant updates regarding cross-border cooperation in the EU and other issues of interest for border and cross-border regions at European level. AEBR’s Secretary General Martín Guillermo Ramírez informed the participants about the efforts of the European Commission to promote cooperation. Some measures in this sense are the encouragement to make use of e-Government practices throughout the EU, the development of a new policy tool ensuring successful cross-border cooperation practices such as the European Cross-Border Mechanism, the endeavour of DG Regio to collect data and evidence on obstacles to cross-border cooperation and the coordination among the different Directorate-Generals in enabling projects of integration across the Member States’ borders.

The Border Focal Point in DG Regio is growing and highly supporting CB players. The Online Professional Network is yet under-used, but it is a very good tool for the exchange of information, questions and answers, dissemination, etc.. and to get to know the publication of calls, events, studies, etc.

Other departments of the Commission are growingly interested in CBC and in our work. This has been the case of DG Santé or DG Near for several years, but also DG Grow has asked to keep an exchange on challenges, responsibilities and measures regarding EU Single Market for services and it impact in border regions. AEBR Secretary General took part in that exchange on 11 April.

The work of the Committee of the Regions in relationship with border regions and CBC was also analysed, in particular the Intergroup on CBC chaired by Pavel Branda, which met on 11 April 2019 to follow up latest developments on the future of Interreg and next CoR related opinions. Consultation processes for these opinions are enormous opportunities for us to exchange on relevant topics in a systematic way with other stakeholders and EU institutions, though we cannot be in all of them. That’s why it is so important to have active AEBR members at the CoR who can be active participants in the Intergroup and in consultations. The role of our members’ offices in Brussels is also very relevant, though we have only made an intensive use of Extremadura’s facilities.

The results of the 8th Summit of Regions and Cities it Bucharest on 14-15 March were also analysed and the role of AEBR. See related articles clicking on the links.

We also follow the works of the European Parliament’s Informal Working Group on CBC, but especially REGI Committee, which has already made its job to fulfil the set of debates, opinions and reports on the Cohesion package of regulations.

César Morcillo, director of the office of Extremadura in Brussels, updated AEBR’s members of the Executive Committee on the latest developments of the #Cohesion Alliance, with a lot progress (10,000 signatories) and stronger influence in other EU institutions. In the meantime, the debates on the proposed regulations (and finances) for next programming period concentrate most efforts at all levels, which some members of AEBR having submitted position papers on the future of Cohesion Policy after 2020 in general, and some specific aspects in particular, mainly on small projects funds and people-to-people projects, some organizational aspects, and issues such as the future of CB maritime programmes, the eligible distance to the border, flexibility and simplification of procedures, etc. You can see here the report presented on recent and current debates regarding future Cohesion Policy and the role of the Cohesion Alliance in the defence of Cohesion, ante Territorial Cooperation (Interreg) in particular. Some AEBR members, such as the EGTC Eurodistrict PAMINA, have discussed and adopted position papers on the future Cohesion Policy after 2020. You can find PAMINA’s contribution adopted on 17 October 2018 in FR and in DE). They stress CBC as inherent to Cohesion and tackle the provision of funds for ETC, the simplification of program management and the complementarity with other EU programs. And there are more contributions from Euroregions specifically addressed to the proposed regulation for ETC. Please also refer to the related news for an updated reference.

The meeting highlighted the progress concerning the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) 2021-2027: First discussions started at the Spring Council Summit in March and will continue next 20 June. A first agreement on the budget for the next programming period was expected to be reached in October 2019, but everything looks like this decision will be delayed. Therefore Member States will need additional reminders on the need to keep adequate funding for Cohesion Policy, in particular Territorial Cohesion. Here you can find a draft AEBR Discussion Paper on EU MFF 2021-2027, and here a compendium of brochures on the EU Budget devoted to Regional Development and Cohesion.

And, regarding the Regulations, here you can find a draft AEBR paper on the proposed Regulations 2021-2027, including links to all proposals (Common Provisions, Interreg, NDICI, ERDF and CF, ESF+, EMFF, AMiF, BMVI, InvestEU, CEF, Horizon Europe, LIFE, Erasmus, Creative Europe). We have also integrated in our exchanges with the Commission those AEBR members’ positions received so far. Euroregions at the Eastern border of Germany with Poland and the Czech Republic have warmed of serious concerns, which have been stressed in various meetings of the German Grouping and in bilateral meetings with Spree-Neiße-Bober, Elbe-Labe, Neisse-Nisa-Nysa and Pomerania. Various euroregions have sent their position papers well on time, and here you can find the paper from Pomerania (in German), highlighting a series of key points, and stressing especially the limitation of 25 km of distance to the border, or the decrease of EU co-financing rates. These euroregions and also the Federation of Polish Euroregions have produced position papers, in particular dealing with the restrictions to the management of small project funds and people-to-people projects. All these arguments have been taken on board and discussed with different EU officers, Parliament representatives and CoR staff and politicians. It is notorious that a more flexible approach is needed, as well as some steps by the euroregions, a normal behaviour in sharp negotiation processes.

Here you can find the proposed Specific provisions for the European territorial cooperation goal (Interreg) supported by the ERDF and external financing instruments, COM(2018) 374 final, 29 May 2018. And here a draft summary on the specific Regulation for European Territorial Cooperation (Interreg VI), and here an early draft paper on small project funds and people-to-people projects, including references to positions papers from a number or Euroregions. In order to better understand the procedure for those proposals which move from the Commission to the Parliament’s committees and plenary, and then to the Council in up to three readings, with different timing each, you can fin of interest our briefing on Legislative Procedure concerning Interreg.

A further relevant topic debated during the Executive Committee is the Commission’s proposal of new legal instrument, the European Cross-Border Mechanism. Mr Guillermo Ramírez took occasion of the gathering to invite AEBR’s members to support this proposal and to seek for opportunities to encourage national authorities to favour the ECBM. In fact, a workshop was organized prior to the Executive Committee meeting in order to analyse this instrument, its development and perspectives, as well as its potential role as main solution to be implemented in order to solve some particular legal and administrative obstacles. To illustrate this, several cases were invited to present their views during the workshop in Saarbrucken. You can read more about this workshop here.

As usual, an overview of current issues of interest was offered. Brexit was the first of them, following information on a recent report prepared by ICBAN and AEBR Looking Beyond Our Borders Report, examining cross-border strategies, models and solutions applicable to the Central Border Region of Ireland / Northern Ireland, with the support of the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Reconciliation Fund. Another topic of interest for many AEBR members is the situation at the external borders of the EU. In this sense, a brief review of current developments on Eastern Partnership, Neighbourhood and Pre-Accession was made, including migration issues. Climate change, decarbonisation and coal regions transition is also a growing matter of interest, not only for coal regions but for all, with specific border (and cross-border implications). Transport, connectivity and digitalisation are growing issues, which seem to be far of the scope of many AEBR members, but they will be more and more present in our daily work in the coming years. We stressed the recent 2019 call on cross-border partnerships in the area of labour mobility, published by the EU programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI) and a deadline on 6 June 2019 for actions to be implemented in 2020-2021. And, last but not least, Cross-Border Labour Market is an permanent ongoing issue for border and cross-border regions, with properly labour implications, but also educational, systemic, financial, taxation or public service implications. We are particularly following the proposal of establishing a European Labour Authority.

Following an overview of ongoing and finalized projects managed by AEBR, such as b-solutions, Interreg Volunteer Youth (IVY), ESPON’s Targeted Analyses on Cross-border Public Services and Territorial Impact Assessment, AEBR’s Secretary General invited members to make use of these initiative as they are very much in support of cross-border cooperation’s practices.

Further activities and appointments for AEBR were discussed, as well as some organizational aspects, such as the need of a systematic communication approach internally, towards AEBR members, and externally, towards partners and friends. This would be the best way to keep our members contacted regularly (and gain new ones). A survey among AEBR members is planned in the coming weeks and, afterwards, another survey will be addressed to partners and friends. AEBR participation in Citizen Engagement Activities through IVY will be a new challenge for our organization to make the best of use of current communication possibilities.

The next AEBR Executive Committee meeting will take place in the City of Szczecin (Euroregion Pomerania) on 12 July 2019, and AEBR General Assembly and related events (III CB Scholl and AEBR Annual Conference) will be held in Dresden (Euroregion Elbe/Labe) from 23rd to 26th October 2019.

AEBR Team thanks the Ministry of Finance and Europe of Saarland for the invitation to host AEBR in Saarbrucken, in the territory of the Greater Region, and their support to organize a very interesting workshop on the proposed ECBM and the Executive Committee meeting.

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