The members of the commission for territorial cohesion and EU budget (COTER) discussed the future of cross-border cooperation including their participation in the Cross Border Citizens' Alliance and adopted the draft opinion on cross-border public services prepared by rapporteur Pavel Branda (ECR/CZ). During their meeting members agreed that a minimum of cross-border cooperation needs to be guaranteed in times of crisis.
Close to one-third of EU citizens live and work in Europe's border regions. These borders have a direct and indirect impact on their lives. People living in border regions are often facing specific challenges, whether it is finding a job, accessing healthcare and other public services, as well as everyday commuting and overcoming administrative problems. The coronavirus pandemic with the sudden closure of EU internal borders was a stark reminder that European territorial cooperation cannot be taken for granted.
"Closing borders without coordinating and consulting neighbouring states and local and regional authorities in border regions had a devastating effect on the works and families living in these areas. This must not happen again. Cross-border cooperation is the expression of European solidarity. We therefore must ensure a basic minimum level of cross-border cooperation to be maintained especially in times of crisis to secure cross-border public services when they are needed the most", said Isabelle Boudineau (FR/PES), chair of the COTER commission.
For a successful, effective and more widespread delivery of cross-border public services, the EU should have an active leading role in providing three essential tools, namely a legal framework, structures and financing, says Pavel Branda (ECR/CZ), rapporteur of the draft opinion on "Cross-Border Public Services in Europe" and Deputy Mayor of Rádlo.
"Having more widely available cross-border public services could contribute to reducing negative border effects and increasing the quality of life of citizens living in these regions. The current frameworks and divergent national rules often impose overwhelming administrative burdens and costs. We need EU wide rules, permanent cross-border structures as well as funding to make these cross-border services more widespread. Here the EU could demonstrate its clear added value to millions of its citizens", said Pavel Branda.
The rapporteur further advocates for cross-border contact points in all European Commission DGs as well in member states so that new EU law and its implementation takes cross-border issues into consideration. He further supports the adoption by the Council of the European Cross-Border Mechanism (ECBM) as a voluntary bottom-up legal instrument for overcoming legal and administrative obstacles.
To draw lessons from the experiences of border regions the CoR will soon launch a public consultation on the future vision for long-term cross-border cooperation, targeting in particular citizens living in border regions, cross-border structures such as EGTCs and Euroregions, as well as local and regional authorities, NGOs and businesses from Europe's border Regions.
The CoR has also joined the European Cross-Border Citizens' Alliance launched by the Association of European Border Regions (AEBR), the Mission Operationelle Transfrontalière (MOT) and the Central European Service for Cross-border Initiatives (CESCI) in June 2020, following the experiences of the COVID-19 crisis. The Alliance invites all interested citizens living in border regions, as well as any citizen interested in the topic, to join the Alliance and sign the declaration, which will soon be available on the website of the European Committee of the Regions.
During the COTER meeting members furthermore exchanged views on the experiences and lessons learned by regions and cities during the Covid-19 crisis more broadly: cohesion must be the fundamental value to build recovery. They also focused on upcoming political priorities in the field of smart and sustainable transport policy in a discussion with Deputy Director-General of DG MOVE, Matthew Baldwin, as well as the participation of local and regional partners in the European Year of Rail 2021.
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