AEBR was established as a “Permanent Conference of European Border Regions” on 17-18 June 1971 at the Anholt Castle (Westphalia, Germany) during the 2nd Anholt Talks, a series of conferences to analyse joint development opportunities while promoting peaceful relationship and integration between European border territories. First Euregios had got well organized during the sixties, under the particular leadership of Alfred Mozer (EUREGIO), and had addressed regional, national and European authorities to raise awareness about the particular conditions and needs of border regions.
During the first talks in 1970, Alfred Mozer asked a specific committee to “examine all cross-border regional organisations in Europe in order to prepare the foundation of an organisation”. Such organisation was created one year later during the second Talks. The official foundation of the “Association of European Border Regions (AEBR)” was signed in Bonn three months later, on 27 September 1971, and the first AEBR Secretariat was established at the then capital of the Federal Republic of Germany.
The following were the ten enthusiastic AEBR founding border and cross-border regions:
The formal set up of AEBR was preceded by almost two decades of preparatory work by representatives of European border areas. In the 1950s, local authorities of European border areas started to discuss the dismantling of border barriers and the possibilities for cross-border cooperation. To facilitate coordination, local authorities in border regions began to establish regional associations on either side of the borders which covered areas of common concern and aimed to improve cross-border cooperation. In many cases, some of those regional associations joined together to form a cross-border umbrella association (an euroregion or similar structure). From the 1960s to date these associations have, at all political and administrative levels, persistently pursued a policy of improving the socio-cultural and economic situation for the people living in the border areas and of alleviating or eliminating border barriers. Parallel to the process of European integration, border regions were shaping a new geopolitical context of nation-states in Europe.
Presidents of AEBR
Karl-Heinz Lambertz has been elected as the new President of AEBR during the 2020 General Assembly in Eupen / Online. He already held the presidency from 2009 to 2017. Mr Lambertz was Prime Minister of the German-speaking Community of Belgium from 1999 to 2014 when he became President of the Regional Parliament. In 2016 he became Senator of Belgium and from July 2017 to February 2020 he has been the President of the European Committee of the Regions, of which he has been a member since 2001. He has now returned to the presidency of the regional parliament. He has also been a member of the Congress of Regional and Local Authorities since 2000, where he is rapporteur on cross-border cooperation and currently holds the post of Vice-President.
Ann-Sofi Backgren has been re-elected as first Vice-President of AEBR during the 2020 General Assembly in Eupen / Online on November 5th after Mr. Lambertz has been appointed President of AEBR. She has acted as President of AEBR since the general assembly in Dresden (Euroregion Elbe-Labe) in October 2019. Ms. Backgren has been AEBR’s first Vice-President since 2010 and has been a member of the board of directors of the regional council of Ostrobothnia (Finland) since 1999. Ms. Backgren has been active at the regional level for more than 20 years, mainly on the Ostrobothnia Regional Council and in several organizations, including non-governmental organizations. She is also active in Nordic cooperation, especially in the northern region.
Oliver Paasch was elected President of AEBR at the General Assembly on 26 October 2017 in Badajoz, Extremadura (Spain) and held that position until the General Assembly in Dresden on 23 October 2019. Mr Paasch is Minister-President of the German-speaking Community of Belgium (East Belgium), which has (virtually) hosted AEBR Annual Events 2020.
Lambert van Nistelrooij was AEBR President from 2004 to 2009. Mr van Nistelrooij was member of the European Parliament from 2004 to 2019.
Joan M. Vallvé was elected President of AEBR in 1996 and remained in office until 2004. He was Regional Minister for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries of the Government of Catalonia (1989-1992) and Member of the European Parliament from 1994 to 1999 and from 2002 to 2004.
Karl Ahrens was President of AEBR from 1984 to 1996. In April 1983, he was the first German to be elected President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and held the position until April 1987. He also served as Chairman of the Western European Union (WEU) Political Committee from May 1986 until April 1991.
Wolfgang Schäuble held the Presidency of AEBR from 1979 to 1983. He was also member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (1975-1984), and member of the German Bundestag since 1972 until now (2020), when he holds the Presidency. He has been Minister of Finance (2009-2017) and of Interior (2005-2009) with Chancellor Merkel, Chief of the Federal Chancellery (1984-1989) and Minister for Special Affairs (1984-1989) with Chancellor Kohl.
Horst Gerlach was President of AEBR from 1976 until 1979. He was member of the European Parliament where he worked on the first proposals for the development of a new legal instruments to foster cross-border cooperation.
Alfred Mozer was the first President of AEBR, elected in 1971 and remained in office until 1975. He had a cross-border life between Germany and the Netherlands and was a strong European Federalist and activist of the European Movement. When the European Economic Community (EEC) was established in 1958, Mozer was appointed Head of Cabinet of the Vice-president of the European Commission until his retirement in 1970 to Arnhem, where he kept on advocating for practical CBC through EUREGIO and AEBR. During his mandate in AEBR, he cooperated with the Council of Europe to organise the first two “European Conferences of Border Regions” (in 1972 and 1975), with the aim to improve the legal and organisational environment for cross-border cooperation, and led to the adoption of the Madrid Outline Convention (European Outline Convention on Transfrontier Co-operation between Territorial Communities or Authorities) in 1980.