(Source: European Committee of Regions)
During the 11th Annual meeting of the European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC) Platform hosted in Innsbruck (Austria) by the Region of Tyrol, the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) celebrated the ten years of the EGTC Euregio Tyrol-South Tyrol-Trentino and welcomed the foundation of the new EGTC Euregio Connect between Austria and Italy. The CoR recently adopted a resolution calling on the European Commission to present a proposal for maintaining cross-border cooperation and life in the event of future crises. The resolution contains multiple proposals to improve cross-border collaboration and calls on the Commission to follow up on already existing legislation and treaties, whose implementation could often still be improved.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the biggest setbacks for cross-border cooperation in the past decades. Bringing cross-border cooperation back to the forefront of the EU’s policy agenda is one of the CoR’s top priorities. In a resolution adopted in July, which will serve as a contribution to the Conference on the Future of Europe, the Committee called on the European Commission 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. Furthermore, the resolution highlighted the need to improve and enhance cross-border public services, stressing that cross-border structures, such as the EGTCs, should be given a more prominent role in managing cross-border areas, since they are uniquely placed to do so.
Opening the 11th Annual meeting of the EGTC Platform, Apostolos Tzitzikostas, President of the European Committee of the Regions, said: “Cross-border cooperation, as well as transnational and interregional cooperation, have seen the biggest setback in decades. The COVID-19 crisis had reminded us what closed borders mean, but it has also shown us the incredible resourcefulness, the ingenuity and the solidarity between Europeans, who managed to overcome obstacles, mobilise opportunities and help each other. This is what Cross Border Cooperation is for: to build bridges in areas like health, climate change, mobility of people and businesses, local economies, research.“
Isabelle Boudineau (FR/PES), Chair of the CoR Commission for Territorial Cohesion Policy and EU Budget and chair of the EGTC Platform, as well as regional councillor of Nouvelle-Aquitaine, declared in the margins of the conference: “Borders are still a major issue for European integration. We saw it during the pandemic, when countries closed their borders, denying many people access to essential public services like hospitals or the right to work. The EGTC platform proposes tangible solutions to improve transport connections and cross-border public services, while also addressing juridical and administrative barriers. However, we need the European Commission to present a new version of the European Cross-Border Mechanism, as the only instrument that can guarantee that internal borders are no longer walls preventing Europeans from living a better life.”
The Tirolo-Alto Adige Südtirol-Trentino EGTC results from a partnership between Austria and Italy, involving 1 695 130 inhabitants in an area of 26,255 km². The Euregio was founded in 2011, and since then more than 350 projects have been initiated and implemented.
Günther Platter (AT/EPP), Governor of Land Tirol, president of the European Region Tyrol-South Tyrol-Trentino and CoR member, said: ” Euregio is strong. The last two years have not been easy: coronavirus lockdowns and related border closures have brought enormous challenges to us. And even in these difficult moments, we have fought together and supported each other wherever possible: from purchasing protective equipment, taking over intensive patients to influence federal policy in order to allow family visits again. This means that the Euregio is not only a formal alliance, but also an important instrument of cooperation, particularly in times of crisis .”
Arno Kompatscher (IT/EPP), Governor of the Autonomous Province of Bozen/South Tyrol and CoR member, said: ” Over these first ten years we have been able to achieve a lot of concrete results for citizens in Tyrol, South Tyrol and Trentino. We want to show that Europe can overcome borders in its diversity and better overcome major challenges if it keeps a constant dialogue open and sets common actions .”
Maurizio Fugatti , Governor of the Autonomous Province of Trento, said: ” The tenth anniversary of the Euregio is of particular importance. On the one hand, it is an opportunity to look back at the numerous initiatives taken so far, which have gradually increased awareness and appreciation among the citizens of the three regions. On the other hand, it allows us to look at the future with even greater enthusiasm and to think of what can be done. The new initiatives we will take will make the Euregio even more useful and concrete for people.”
During the Annual meeting of the EGTC, the 81st EGTC Euregio was founded, called “Connect”. It is the result of a cooperation between the Italian and Austrian tourism organisations of Tirolo, Alto Adige Südtirol and Trentino. Based on the jointly organised cycle race “Tour of the Alps”, this will be the platform for joint projects between Tyrol Advertising, IDM South Tyrol and Trentino Marketing in the fields of tourism and sport.
The European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC) is a legal instrument designed to facilitate and promote cross-border, transnational and interregional cooperation. It was introduced in 2006 through a European Union Regulation to enable public actors to establish an international entity under European law, and in that way simplify cross-border cooperation and cut red tape.
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.
With the newly founded EGTC Euregio Connect, there are now 81 EGTCs in the EU, with several more in the process of being set up. These EGTCs are established in 22 EU Member States and four non-EU countries, and they involve over 1,000 local and regional authorities, universities and other public bodies.
In a recent consultation commissioned 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.
During the CoR’s plenary in February 2021, members adopted an opinion on Cross-border Public Services drafted by Pavel Branda (CZ/ECR), Deputy Mayor of Rádlo in the Czech Republic. The press release on the opinion can be found here.