(Source: European Committee of Regions)
On 5 July, citizens, local and regional leaders will discuss the importance of cross-border cooperation for the future of Europe and the lessons learned during the COVID-19 crisis
In a bid to put cross-border cooperation back at the top of the EU’s policy agenda, the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) has adopted a resolution today calling on the European Commission to present a proposal for maintaining cross-border cooperation and cross-border life in the event of future crises. The resolution contains multiple proposals to improve cross-border cooperation and calls on the European Commission to follow up on already existing legislation and treaties, whose implementation could often still be improved. The future of cross-border cooperation will be further discussed during an event organised by the CoR, together with other key European partners, on 5 July.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the biggest setbacks for cross-border cooperation in the past decades, seriously impacting many regions’ economies and mobility as well as citizens’ access to emergency services. Even before the outbreak of the pandemic, many border regions were already struggling with a plethora of unique regional obstacles. In a recent consultation by the CoR, border regions cited cross-border transport and connectivity as well as bureaucratic hurdles for citizens and businesses as the biggest obstacles that they face in their territories. Given this situation, the resolution, which is based on studies and feedback gathered from border regions over the past year, is aiming to help put cross-border cooperation back on top of the EU’s policy agenda.
Pavel Branda (CZ/ECR), rapporteur on a recent CoR opinion on Cross-Border Public Services and Chair of the CoR’s interregional group on cross-border cooperation, said: “It is very good that the Committee of the Regions has taken on the task of representing border regions and their citizens in the Conference on the Future of Europe. We must put cross-border cooperation where it belongs – at the very heart of European integration project. Cross-border cooperation is one of the biggest successes of the European Union and must play an even greater role in its future. It is at the borders where the real benefits of European integration are being experienced by citizens. Today’s resolution suggests concrete steps to further improve their everyday lives at the borders.”
In its resolution, which is backed by all political groups of the CoR and will serve as a contribution to the Conference on the Future of Europe, the CoR calls on the European Commission (EC) to present a proposal for maintaining land and maritime cross-border cooperation and cross-border life in the event of a new EU-wide or regionalised crisis. The resolution also calls on the EC to propose measures that would allow personnel and vehicles working in the emergency services to cross borders freely at all times. Furthermore, the resolution highlights the need to improve and enhance cross-border public services, stressing that cross-border structures, such as the European Groupings of Territorial Cohesion (EGTCs), should be given a more prominent role in managing cross-border areas as they are uniquely placed to do so.
The CoR also points out that the EU already has many pieces of legislation and treaties that have the potential to significantly improve lives of citizens and remove obstacles faced in border regions. However, many issues with their implementation still remain. The resolution therefore urges the European Commission to review the implementation of existing legislation and to strengthen follow-up capacity in order to ensure that all the EU legislation is properly implemented at all levels.
On 5 July, the CoR will be organizing the Conference on the Future of Cross-border Cooperation together with the other funding partners of the the European Cross-Border Citizens’ Alliance: the Association of European Border Regions (AEBR), Mission Opérationelle Transfrontalière (MOT) and Central European Service for Cross-border Initiatives (CESCI). Participants will discuss the effects of the COVID-19 crisis on cross-border cooperation and the conference will feature a presentation of the resolution and a debate on the future of cross-border cooperation based on the experiences prior to and during the pandemic. The participation link and final agenda of the event can be found here.
During the CoR’s plenary in February 2021, members adopted an opinion on Cross-border Public Services drafted by Paval Branda (CZ/ECR). You can find the press release on the opinion here.
The European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC) is a legal instrument designed to facilitate and promote cross-border, transnational and interregional cooperation. The European Committee of the Regions runs the EGTC platform, which integrates the political and technical representatives of all the existing EGTCs, EGTCs under constitution and members of the Expert Group as well as associations and other experts and stakeholders.
The European Cross-Border Citizens’ Alliance was launched in 2020. It is an initiative that aims to better the life of European citizens living in the EU’s border regions. Internal border regions cover 40% of the EU’s territory, accounting for 30% of its population (150 million people) and hosting almost 2 million cross-border commuters.