Missing links in border regions form part of a wider issue: lack of financing for the development of local and regional transport infrastructure. In view of the upcoming budgetary review there is a necessity to intensify the political effort to close the missing transport links in Europe's border region.
The own initiative opinion handles the missing links in the context of cross-border mobility and also to frame it in the wider context of reinforced cooperation with the EP and the European Commission.
The opinion assess the needs for closing the missing links of small scale infrastructures in Europe and to find ways for financing them in the future.
The objective of the opinion is to address the development of local and regional transport infrastructure in border regions.
The missing links initiative is a good example of the possible outcome of interinstitutional cooperation between the CoR, the European Parliament and the European Commission. The "missing links" problem was the main issue of discussion at the first joint meeting of EP TRAN Committee and the COTER Commission of the CoR taking place on 29 September 2016.
The work of the rapporteru was closely monitored and appreciated by the DG Move of the European Commission. The Commission representatives took aktive part in the CoR workshop devoted to the issue on 28 June 2016 and debated this problem with the representatives of the local and regional authorities. Mr Ruijters, the director of DG Move, was personally involved in several debates on the draft of the opinion.
The rapporteur was a speaker at the workshop "Mind the gap! Cross-border rail investment in EU border regions" organised 10 October 2016 by DG REGIO of the European Commission in Centre Borchette and the main points of the draft opinion were presented by COTER chair at the event "Funding sustainable TEN-T-related investments to improve regional competitiveness" that took place on 11th October 2016, at the Portuguese Permanent Representation to the European Union. The rapporteur was invited as a speaker to the event organised on 18 October 2016 in the European Parliament by the MEP Ines Ayala Sender (S&D, ES) and Eric Andrieu (S&D, FR) dealing with the missing links on the French-Spanish border and reopening of train connection Pau-Canfranc.
As the result of this political effort, the European Commission, DG MOVE, proposed an amendment to the CEF Transport Annual Work Programme 2016. The general envelope reserved €110 mn for projects on small cross border projects. The respective call for tender was announced on 18 October 2016, with the closing date for the call on 7 February 2017. The COTER chair was providing a statement for the Commission press release and on 29 November 2016 the CoR organised an information session that provided the opportunity to address the representatives from European Commission and the Innovation and Network Executive Agency (INEA) responsible for the call.
The 2016 missing link call was a success. The quality and expected impact of the selected projects led the executive to raise EU investment to €140mn. The CoR issued on 13 July the press stament welcoming increased funding for small-scale transport infrastructure serving cross-border communities
On 28 September 2017 was rapporteur Scheffer invited as a key note speaker to the event "Missing Links-any progress?" organised in the EP. Director Rujiters made a presentation on behalf of the DG MOVE. There were two important messages from Mr Ruijters:
There will be an allocation for missing links also in the CEF budget for 2017. It will allow the financing of the projects that were not ready for submission in 2016.
Mr Ruijters was very proud about the success of the 2016 call. He clearly stated that without the EP and the CoR the call would not happen.
THE EUROPEAN COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS
- points out that European integration can be seen first and foremost at borders;
- stresses that missing links in border regions are part of a broader issue, namely the lack of financial resources for developing local and regional infrastructure;
- underlines that the TEN-T network is crucial for the sustainable development of Europe's regions. The overwhelming majority of financial resources go to the key corridors of the TEN-T network, but links with local and regional comprehensive networks should not be forgotten. The European Commission's CEF call made in October 2016 specifically for cross-border links is greatly welcomed as a first step;
- notes that the review of the EU's multiannual financial framework at the end of 2016, and the discussions currently taking place regarding the design of cohesion policy after 2020, offer an excellent opportunity to bring forward some new proposals for EU support for building missing infrastructure in border regions. In accordance with the subsidiarity principle, the most appropriate solution would be to enable this infrastructure (including small-scale infrastructure) to be funded as part of the cross-border cooperation programmes (Interreg A) and to increase the resources allocated to it accordingly;
- underlines that Interreg can offer more than funding; it can also facilitate the better planning of cross-border infrastructure and facilities. Cooperation through Interreg A can play an important role in coordinating and solving cross-border mobility challenges;
- stresses that initiatives to integrate communities living in the border regions between EU Member States, and border regions of countries neighbouring the European Union, should be promoted and that supporting networks of transport links would contribute to better mutual understanding.