Supporting cooperation in EU cross-border regions creates high added value by creating economic growth and cohesion, as well as building a better EU for its citizens. This is one of the key messages of a draft opinion on ‘Boosting growth and cohesion in EU border regions’, which was debated today at the meeting of the Commission for Territorial Cohesion Policy and EU Budget (COTER) and presented by János Ádám Karácsony (HU/EPP), member of Tahitótfalu council.

The draft opinion comments on the 10 proposals outlined by the European Commission in a Communication on how to tackle the challenges faced by the EU’s border regions.

There are often legal, administrative, cultural and physical obstacles that need to be addressed in order to strengthen cooperation in EU border regions. Karácsony welcomes many of the Commission’s proposals, such as the establishment of an EU-wide online professional network, where border stakeholders can discuss legal and administrative cross-border problems and find solutions to these issues. However, the rapporteur notes that “improved cooperation and removing obstacles must not be limited to EU Member States but include neighbouring countries and regions as well.

Simpler regulations to facilitate take-up of European Territorial Cooperation projects

Karácsony defends a strong continued financial support for European Territorial Cooperation (ETC) initiatives in the next financial period and provides suggestions on how to simplify the implementation of these programmes. ETC projects are often smaller in scope and have an international dimension, which can increase their relative administrative burden. This, in turn, may put many potential beneficiaries off from applying for support, despite their excellent project ideas, the rapporteur regrets.

Karácsony also highlights the usefulness of the European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC) tool in carrying out crucial cross-border projects and puts forward suggestions on how to facilitate their application in the EU member states.

Assessing the cross-border impacts of EU legislation

The members of the COTER Commission welcome the Commission’s enhanced efforts to identify cross-border impacts of EU policies and to better involve border stakeholders in this process. The European Parliament and the Council should also systematically consider territorial impacts in their negotiations on legislative proposals. An intergroup on ETC would help the European Parliament keep up the momentum in this area, Karácsony believes.

Efforts also are needed to support EU Member States in applying Territorial Impact Assessment methodologies nationally and in coordinating the transposition of EU law into national law, in order to avoid cross-border problems at this stage.

Other issues specific to border regions addressed in the draft opinion include better cross-border accessibility and health services, language barriers as well as the importance of interoperability of public services and the availability of relevant and comparable territorial data for cross-border cooperation. Regarding measures to boost employment in border regions, special attention should be paid to the challenges faced by cross-border workers.

The draft opinion is due for adoption at the plenary session of the Committee of the Regions on 4-5 July 2018.

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