The border closings due to the current coronavirus pandemic interrupt or dramatically affect the daily lives of millions of citizens in Europe. In doing so, these restrictions not only challenge the life of many people living in border regions, but also have far-reaching consequences for the entire population. Delays in deliveries of goods and medical equipment or the shortage of caregivers are just a few of many examples. Against this background, the European Commission’s practical guide to encourage cross-border healthcare cooperation is a striking example for the need to reduce administrative border obstacles.
However, legal and administrative border obstacles are not only an issue in times of crisis, but are permanent concerns, particularly for people and businesses in border regions.
Does cross-border cooperation affect prosperity in the Danube Region?
The short answer is: Yes, it does! The Danube Region includes 14 countries with a total area of over 801,000 km2. Over 40% of the Danube Region are border areas and include even capitals such as Bratislava or Zagreb and further larger cities. Hence, a large part of the population in this macro-region live in border regions. Consequently, many institutions and enterprises are operating close to country borders. Thus, the ability to cooperate as well as to overcome legal and administrative barriers are a key factor for prosperity in the region.
However, the situation gets even more complicated with the different border characteristics. Apart from the internal Schengen borders, the Danube Region has external Schengen borders, borders between EU accession countries and between EU neighbouring countries. This diversity creates even more complexity for legal or administrative collaboration and capacity development.
Even more so, these borders have been changed and replaced several times during the last century, thereby causing collective trauma and lack of trust.
Nevertheless, the recent decades showed that people in the Danube Region are willing to cooperate and share the perspective to reduce border obstacles to improve the quality of life in the macro-region. Further, the Danube Strategy reinforces this endeavour in its actions. DG Regio and ESPON addressed this challenge in different initiatives that provide valuable insights and possible ways forward to improve the quality of life in border regions.
Tackling legal and administrative border obstacles | b-solutions
If you are interested in legal and administrative border obstacles and possible legal solutions to overcome them, the b-solution initiative provides interesting insights from across Europe. So far, b-solution published 33 documented cases of legal obstacles including suggestions on how to tackle them. The so-called “Advice Cases” describe border obstacles from the following areas:
- Institutional cooperation
The b-solution initiative is promoted by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy (DG REGIO) and managed by the Association of European Border Regions (AEBR). Public authorities and border administrations have the chance to submit information about legal or administrative obstacles that they are facing during calls for proposals. Successful candidates get support from the European Commission to remove the difficulties, which hinder cooperation with the neighbouring country. The b-solution initiative plans four calls for proposals. After a call in 2018 and a call in 2019, two more calls will take place in the course of the initiative that will last until December 2021.
Enhancing public service provision across borders | ESPON CPS
Until 1990 only few cross-border public services existed. Since then, more and more public institutions implement service provision across borders. Some of these developments may have been amplified through the Interreg initiative. With the EU enlargement in 2004, cross-border service provision got yet another boost. In light of these developments, ESPON’s targeted Cross-border Public Services (CPS) analysis aimed to improve delivery practices. Additionally, the analysis should raise awareness about the benefits of cross-border service provision in general. The analysis provided a first comprehensive overview of cross-border public services across Europe. Thereby, the research explored territorial patterns and highlighted key factors of good practices. Consequently, the CPS analysis offers a better understanding of the legal basis, governance models, use of infrastructure, as well as needs and tasks.
- Danube Strategy | Priority Area 10 – Targets & Actions
- Central European Service for Cross-border Initiatives (CESCI)
- Association of European Border Regions (AEBR)
- ESPON CPS project
- Increasing prosperity in cross-border regions – Findings of the ESPON CPS Study, 14/01/2019
- EC Practical guide to encourage cross-border healthcare cooperation (C(2020) 2153 final)