Cross-Border Cooperation and its potential for living conditions in Germany, Ministry of Interior, Construction and Community, Berlin, on 13 September 2019:



 

The Federal Ministry of Interior in Berlin hosted an event on 13 September following their strong support to cross-border cooperation. Dr. Michael Frehse, Director of the Department of Community at the Ministry welcomed the participants offering very openly to be the connection of euroregions with the different departments of the German Government. Dr. Mark Speich, Secretary of State for European and Federal Issues in North Rhine-Westfalia explained the rich experience of cooperation at their border with the Netherlands. Alexander Homann, Director of the Representation of East Belgium, Valonia and Valonia-Brussel Federation in Berlin, presented cross-border regional cooperation from the point of view of these Belgian regions and their involvement in cross-border structures such as the Greater Region, continuation of former Saar-Lor-Lux, and Euregio Meuse-Rhine. He also warned about the growing scepticism in some countries about the impact of CBC developed at regional level.

An exchange with the public followed. The question What hasn’t worked? was answered with asymmetries in competences and lack of attention to border problems as long as we get away from the border. Most obstacles to CBC have to do with public services, social security or environmental regulations across borders, and most answers lie in subsidiarity. EGTCs have a special difficulty with liability across national boundaries. It was also stressed the fact that territorial cohesion instruments are mostly voluntary.

After the lunch, Christian Pegel, Minister of Energy, Infrastructure and Digitalisation in the State of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, presented the potential of CBC for his region and stressed the role of languages and the need of cross-border provision of services in rural and polycentric areas. Dr. Kristina Zumbusch, Vice-Director of the Institut for Systemic Management and Public Governance at the University of St. Gallen (CH) presented the Added value, success criteria and current challenges of CBC. She highlighted the sustainability of projects, the need to go out, thinking ahead and place-based acting as factors of success. Main challenges have to do with “re-bordering” trends, a growing importance of benefit calculation and the decrease of subsidies.

During the discussion with the public, it was raised the difference in CBC EU-CH and EU-EU, CBC with less available money, the quality of projects and the need to increase trust.

Anne Funk, Speaker of the Government of Saarland moderated a debate among well-known experts, taking also questions from the public. Jürgen Oser, Representative of the Sports Federation of Baden in Freiburg for CBC. Bernd Lange, Görlitz District Administrator and Co-President of the Euroregion Neiße-Nisa-Nysa, presented his doubts about too much concentration on EGTCs for the management of small-project-funds, and was wondering what will be the final decision by the Council on a number of open issues. Dirk Peters, Europäische Kommission (DG Regio) highlighted the concept of DE-ÜL integration area (Verflechtungsraum), and the need to look further than only Interreg. Amb. Sibylle Katharina Sorg, Representative for Relationship with EU Member States and for cross-border and regional cooperation at the Foreign Ministry of Germany stressed the excellent CBC with France. Vera Moosmayer, Director of the Section „Spatial planning, land use and regional policy“ at the Ministry of Interior put the attention on the role of the new Commission.

A new set of questions were taken from the public, particularly on the need to do regulations easier to read (to interpret and to implement), and on some particular cases, as the difficulties still faced by emergency and rescue teams across borders regarding professional and volunteer personnel, qualifications, standards, etc. Dr. Michael Frehse, wrapped up and announced further opportunities of exchange with the Federal level and with the EU, taking very much into account the points of view of cross-border structures.

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