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.
Despite these developments, it appears clearly from exchanges with border regions and their representatives certain key local issues faced by citizens and businesses crossing borders on a daily basis need further reflections and actions. 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.
In order to respond to these challenges, DG REGIO has launched this Cross-Border Review, an initiative 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.
- An extensive public consultation.
- 4 workshops with key stakeholders
For the last 25 years, the European Union has been investing in cross-border cooperation through Interreg, a financing instrument for regional development across borders. Although much progress has been made, difficulties remain in many areas, such as:
- finding jobs
- accessing healthcare
- pension rights & taxation
- having qualifications recognised
- overcoming cultural & language differences
- accessing public facilities
Although Interreg has been an important part in alleviating border obstacles and enhancing a spirit of cooperation, Interreg funding is not the only answer. Many of these obstacles call for changes in laws and/or administrative procedures.
The European Commission's Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy (DG REGIO) therefore wants to examine what obstacles remain and how they affect people, organisations, businesses and public authorities in border regions. This analysis could in the future be used to assess whether the Commission can take further action, either on its own initiative or together with national and regional authorities.
The consultation covered both internal EU border regions, as well as border regions encompassing regions in EU countries and EFTA/EEA countries. It ran from 21 September to 21 December 2015.
The public consultation on overcoming obstacles in border regions is now closed. DG REGIO would like to thank everyone who has contributed to this consultation. In total 623 replies were received and the full results, as well as a summary report can be found here.
Cross-border Senior Management Roadshow
During September and October 2015, eleven senior managers from DG REGIO visited one border region each in Europe. This 'Senior Management Roadshow' was created in order to raise awareness around the public consultation on overcoming obstacles in border regions, launched by Commissioner Creţu in Vienna on 21 September 2015, as well as to celebrate 25 years of Interreg achievements. Each visit was tailored to fit regional specificities, but all of them contained three main elements: a press point, project visits and a roundtable with stakeholders. The following borders were visited: France-Belgium, Sweden-Denmark, Italy-Slovenia, Poland-Germany, Czech Republic-Germany, Greece-Bulgaria, Slovakia-Hungary, Romania-Bulgaria, Ireland-UK (Northern Ireland), Portugal-Spain and Estonia-Latvia. Click here to see how all the visits went!
To accompany the study and the public consultation, four workshops with key experts will be held at various stages of the process.
This in order to (1) mobilise the available knowledge on border obstacles and solutions, and receive support from various border observation institutions; and (2) validate the work that is being conducted in the study.
The second workshop was organised on 28 January 2016 again in Brussels. Participants were asked to focus their attention on two very specific questions :
- Can we list concrete obstacles on various EU internal borders, and classify them in the following categories (a) obstacles that are close to being resolved, (b) obstacles for which there is a good medium-term perspective for resolution and (c) obstacles that seem very complex and difficult to resolve.
- Can we identify the sectors of private and business life in which obstacles seem to appear most frequently ?
The third workshop was organised on 27 September 2016 in Brussels.
The workshop was split into two sessions: The objective of the morning session was to identify the main conclusions from the case studies, i.e. to try to identify how this case study has (tried to) find a solution to the problem on its border, what remains to be solved and how this could be done. The objective of the afternoon session was to put the discussion on a more general level and draw conclusions on first recommendations based upon the morning's discussions. Focus was on identifying recommendations that could relatively easily be transferred to different cross-border regions (hence, not too border specific).
For more photos from the event, please click here.
The fourth and last workshop took place on 15 December 2016 in Brussels:
The workshop was divided into two sessions: a morning session and an afternoon session. The morning session started with three roundtables, where the participants of the workshop were split into smaller groups. The roundtable session was followed by a reporting back session, where a designated rapporteur summarised the main conclusions of his roundtable group (please see the main points from this session here ). The afternoon session took place in the form of a plenary discussion, where the participants could present their feedback on the draft conclusions and recommendations paper.
For more photos from the event, please click here
The outcome of the discussions will be used by the European Commission to prepare its findings and recommendations on border obstacles.
A contract was signed in July 2015 with a European consortium led by the Austrian company METIS. In the process, over 200 well-documented border obstacles have been collected, impacting the daily life of cross-border citizens and businesses. The outcome of the study, the 2015 public consultation and the stakeholders' workshops held in 2015 and 2016 will help in the drafting of conclusions and recommendations on possible steps for actions at different levels of government.
The collection of documented border obstacles has been put together in an inventory, which is now accessible on this page.
In the beginning of 2017 it is foreseen to publish a selection of case studies on obstacles in EU border regions, which have been identified in the inventory.