The European Union has been investing in cross-border cooperation for 25 years via Interreg, which is funded under the European Territorial Cooperation goal of the ESIF. Through these investments much has been achieved to enhance cooperation and alleviate border obstacles.
Commission's Communication "Boosting Growth and Cohesion in EU Border regions", foreseen for adoption in September 2017, is the result of two years of intensive research and dialogue with border stakeholders, national authorities of Member States and partner countries and regional/local authorities which took place from July 2015 to February 2017 thanks to DG REGIO initiative "Cross-Border Review".
The initiative had the objective to respond to the challenges still persisting in border regions, despite 25 years of funding through the Interreg programmes. Crossing borders to find employment, receive better healthcare, make use of public facilities or receive emergency support can still cause difficulties. Taxation or pension rights issues, non-recognition of rights or standards, impossibility to operate joint emergency services are still problems that exist today. Most of the remaining obstacles stem from diverging national legislations on either side of the border (national legislation is "border-blind"), incompatible administrative processes, or simply lack of common territorial planning.
The "Cross-Border Review" was structured around 3 pillars:
- A study, to provide an inventory of critical border obstacles together with examples of how these have been addressed on certain borders,
- A public consultation,
- Four workshops with key stakeholders
As part of the cross border review, the study “Easing legal and administrative obstacles in EU border regions” was launched in 2015 with the following objectives:
- to take stock of the concrete legal/administrative obstacles still prevailing at the EU internal land borders
- to describe the characteristics of these obstacles in a systematic manner;
- to find out how the concerned authorities are dealing with them in order to derive good practice; and
- to come forward with recommendations on how to ease these obstacles in the future.
It analysed three general categories of border obstacles emerging from local, regional national or EU legislation as well as from different administrative practices:
- legal obstacles caused by an absence of EU legislation in policy fields;
- legal obstacles caused by incoherent or inconsistent domestic laws of EU-Member States in policy fields where no or only a partial EU competence does exist;
- administrative obstacles caused by inadequate procedural and adverse behavioural aspects at the local, regional or national levels.
The study includes a final report, 15 thematic case studies and an inventory of border obstacles.
In particular, over 200 well-documented border obstacles impacting the daily life of cross-border citizens and businesses have been collected and analysed in the process of the study preparation. The collection of these border obstacles has been put together in an inventory, which is now accessible for consultation.
An online public consultation on overcoming obstacles in border regions ran from 21 September to 21 December 2015. Its main purpose was to collect experiences and opinions from citizens, key stakeholders and experts, in order to get a comprehensive overview of what obstacles persist and of their impact on the daily lives of people and businesses in border regions.
The consultation covered internal EU border regions, as well as border regions encompassing regions in EU countries and EFTA/EEA countries. In total 623 replies were received.
The conclusions of the public consultation can be found on the dedicated Inforegio page.
To accompany the study and the public consultation, four workshops with key stakeholders were held in Brussels from September 2015 to December 2016. Their objective was:
- mobilise the available knowledge on border obstacles and solutions;
- receive support from various border observation institutions;
- validate the work that was conducted on the study.
The outcome of the discussions have been used by the European Commission to prepare recommendations on border obstacles.
- Workshop 1 – 9 September 2015
- Workshop 2 – 28 January 2016
- Workshop 3 – 27 September 2016
- Workshop 4 – 15 December 2016