Workshop in Saarbrucken on the European CB Mechanism and b-Solutions :

Workshop Saarbrucken
Workshop Saarbrucken

Saarland hosted a workshop on the European Cross-Border Mechanism (ECBM) and b-Solutions in the Greater Region on 5 April, just before AEBR Executive Committee meeting. Several b-Solutions cases might find such an instrument as the solution to their CB obstacle. Basic and latest information on ECBM, as well as various examples from the Greater Region and around, were presented to prepare further arguments.

Along with last AEBR Executive Committee meeting in Saarbrucken on 5 April, AEBR and the Ministry of Finance and Europe of Saarland organised a workshop on the European Cross-Border Mechanism (ECBM) proposed by the European Commission following a suggestion brought forward by Luxembourg during its presidency of the EU in 2015 (the CB Convention).

State Secretary of Saarland Roland Theis and AEBR’s President Oliver Paasch welcomed about a hundred participants, representatives from various institutions from the Greater Region and AEBR members, who met to know more about this promising legal instrument

The ECBM is a policy tool to solve obstacles of a legal and administrative nature which every day in border regions hinder the realisation of projects reaching beyond the boundaries of a national state.

To engage in a discussion on the actors who will be called upon to utilise this tool if adopted by the European Union, AEBR and the Ministry of Saarland invited local and national authorities, think thanks, practitioners and stakeholders from the Greater Region to Saarbrucken, a city on the border between Germany and France and very much at the heart of Europe.

AEBR’s Secretary General Martín Guillermo Ramírez chaired a panel which hosted State Secretary of Saarland Roland Theis and AEBR’s President Oliver Paasch, Dr Thiemo Eser, Head of Division of International Affairs and European Territorial Cooperation at the Luxembourgish Ministry for Energy and Spatial Planning, Esther Rippel and Céline Laforsch from the Task Force Grenzgänger of the Greter Region 2.0 (TFG 2.0) and Peter Hansen from the Region Sønderjylland – Schleswig.

If adopted, the ECBM would offer a policy tool which allows for the derogation of a Member State’s own legislation in favour of the legislation of the neighbouring country in the event this exception enables the implementation of a cross-border project. Stressing the voluntary nature and the limited scope of the ECBM, which would be applicable only to the specific project for which its employment is necessary, the participants in the workshop expressed their interest in this instrument.

Both Mr Theis and Mr Paasch pointed to the importance of such a legal instrument for border regions like Saarland or East Belgium to allow for more cooperation with the neighbouring regions. The ECBM would permit a smoother interaction with the neighbouring regions and alleviate the huge effort to find ad-hoc solutions which requires many resources.

The participants also stated the need for clarifications of some aspects of the ECBM: its applicability is still very unclear and elements such as its voluntary nature, the CB coordination points, the allocation of competences and the role of the actors involved require a better definition.

Yet, the ECBM would benefit border regions greatly, especially those regions where there are no pre-existing bilateral agreements between the Member States or a strong tradition of and infrastructure for CBC. In this light

AEBR supports and encourages this initiative, inviting actors at all level to engage in discussions with national authorities to bring testimonies and arguments forward in favour of this instrument.

Here you can find the Commission’s proposal of regulation on a mechanism to resolve legal and administrative obstacles in a cross-border context (COM(2018) 373), adopted on 29 May 2018, in EN, and in other EU languages.

This volunteer mechanism will work either through:

- a “Commitment” (enabling transfer of rules from the neighbouring Member State and thus derogating normal rules, which would continue to remain in force); or

- a “Statement” (undertaking to legislate to amend national rules when appropriate).

This mechanism would be “voluntary, focused on intra-EU land borders (participation of maritime and external borders is possible) and it would cover joint projects for any item of infrastructure, or any service of general economic interest provided in a cross-border region”. Attention is to be paid to arts. 5 and 6 on “Cross-Border Coordination Points”, dealing with the coordination, preparation, signature, implementation and monitoring of all commitments and statements.

At the European Parliament, it is worth mentioning that MEP Joachim Zeller reacted very strongly on 22 November 2018 against the lack of commitment of many fellow MEPs to progress in effectively solving CB legal and administrative barriers through this mechanism. The REGI committee decided to enter into inter-institutional negotiations on the basis of its report, with this decision confirmed by plenary on 12 December 2018. Inter-institutional negotiations had not commenced before the European Parliament Election. The EP adopted its first reading position at its plenary session on 14 February 2019.

The CoR adopted an opinion on the Mechanism at its Plenary Session of 5 and 6 December 2018, led by rapporteur Bouke Arends (NL/PES). In this opinion, the CoR expressed its appreciation for the efforts of the European Commission to progress towards making better use of the potential of border regions and to help enable growth and sustainable development, and endorsed the Regulation proposal, as it establishes a clear and complementary legal instrument for all internal and external borders, so that bottlenecks can be tackled throughout the EU using the same procedure.

The CoR stressed the complementarity of the cross-border Mechanism and the EGTC instrument and also sees the Mechanism as a useful complement to Interreg programmes. The CoR recognises the need for restrictions on the areas to which the Regulation will apply, but is concerned about the limitation of application of the Regulation to NUTS level 3 regions, and therefore called for an evaluation of its geographical and thematic scope five years after the Regulation's entry into force.

Furthermore, the CoR asked the Commission for clarification about the joint projects that will be eligible, and for a definition of infrastructure projects and services of general economic interest.

In line with the above mentioned considerations, the CoR proposed a number of recommendations for legislative amendments. The opinion is available in all language versions on the CoR internet site. 

The Government of Luxembourg and the MOT have implemented a Working Group on Innovative Solutions to CB Obstacles since 2016, helping very much to coordinate views towards such an instrument by most stakeholders. AEBR has taken active part in this WG since the beginning. The ninth meeting of this WG took place in Brussels on 18 December 2018 to analyse the situation of this mechanism and the role of b-Solutions to provide supporting arguments. Ms Cinzia Dellagiacoma, IVY Project Manager at AEBR Projects Office in Berlin, represented the Association in this meeting and explained b-Solutions, while several AEBR (and MOT) members presented their cases.

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