President Karl-Heinz Lambertz: "The full potential of border regions remains untapped", after CoR adopts position presented by János Ádám Karácsony (HU/EPP)
Europe's local and regional governments called on the EU today to step up its efforts to overcome the obstacles that are holding back cooperation across border regions. Members of the European Committee of the Regions – the EU's assembly of local and regional governments – argued that investing in cross-border cooperation is an investment in the future of Europe and welcomed the European Commission's recent set of proposals to improve the situation. The report presented by János Ádám Karácsony (HU/EPP) and adopted unanimously highlights the untapped potential of the European border regions and the legal, administrative, physical and cultural obstacles which still need to be overcome. Border regions reflect, the Committee argues, the diversity and richness of the European Union and can be laboratories when it comes to the resolution of problems that effect citizens' daily lives.
Karl-Heinz Lambertz, President of the European Committee of the Regions and Senator of Belgium's German-speaking community, stressed that cross-border cooperation must be at the heart of the EU's work. He emphasised the achievements the EU had realised – such as building infrastructure, improving cross-border health services and creating employment opportunities using EU funds. "Coming from a border region of the German-speaking Community of Belgium, I believe we should promote the "Living Europe" concept – a Europe of real experiences and cooperation. Cities, towns and regions are in a particularly advantageous position to share knowledge, ideas and experiences whilst helping improve EU policy so its works on the ground. Together with our neighbours, my community has delivered many cross-border projects showing the added value EU funds play in creating a more fluid and united European Union", concluded President Lambertz.
The CoR's opinion drafted by
János Ádám Karácsony
(HU/EPP), Member of Tahitótfalu Council and which will formally be submitted to the other EU institutions, points out that financial support for
European Territorial Cooperation initiatives remains vital for the success of EU cohesion policy. "The EU's financial support for European Territorial Cooperation initiatives should be significantly increased in the next EU budget. It is therefore unacceptable that the current proposal is cutting amounts instead", stressed Mr Karácsony. European Territorial Cooperation offers extremely high added value in terms of economic growth and social cohesion, as well as in building a better European Union for its citizens. "The benefits of territorial and cross-border cooperation are evident not only in the EU-funded projects developed in those areas, but also the range of bodies at regional and local level including public authorities which learn to collaborate and work together", said Mr Karácsony.
The opinion includes a number of proposals for the improvement of current policies. For example, cross-border impacts should be taken into account more systematically at all decision-making levels. At project level, EU support must ensure that trust-building initiatives, the foundation of cross-border cooperation, are fully eligible for funding. Such initiatives include people-to-people contact, cultural and sporting events, as well as all other types of projects targeting citizens directly.
European Territorial Cooperation (ETC), better known as Interreg, is one of the two goals of cohesion policy and provides a framework for the implementation of joint actions and policy exchanges between national, regional and local actors from different Member States. The overarching objective of European Territorial Cooperation (ETC) is to promote a harmonious economic, social and territorial development of the Union as a whole. Interreg is built around three strands of cooperation: cross-border (Interreg A), transnational (Interreg B) and interregional (Interreg C). Five programming periods of Interreg have succeeded each other: INTERREG I (1990-1993) - INTERREG II (1994-1999) - INTERREG III (2000-2006) - INTERREG IV (2007-2013) - INTERREG V (2014-2020). For the next long-term EU budget 2021-2027, the Commission proposes to modernise cohesion policy, the EU's main investment policy and one of its most concrete expressions of solidarity. Interregional and cross-border cooperation will be facilitated by the new possibility for a region to use parts of its own allocation to fund projects anywhere in Europe jointly with other regions. The new generation of interregional and cross-border cooperation programmes will help Member States overcome cross-border obstacles and develop joint services. The Commission proposes a new instrument for border regions and Member States eager to harmonise their legal frameworks, the European Cross-Border Mechanism.
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