The lives of citizens living in border areas are daily affected by countless small or major, but nonetheless annoying problems of legal and administrative nature. These obstacles might leave determining traces, cause lifelong damage or even death for instance if the nearest hospital happens to be on the other side of the border and therefore impossible to reach.
Corina Creţu, Commissioner for Regional Policy in the European Commission who takes programmatic action against these kind of difficulties, launched an official consultation on 21 September in Vienna, aim of which is to draw up and solve the legal-administrative barriers hindering the existing cooperation between member states.
The consultation will last until the end of 2016 and will be conducted in three different forms. On the one hand, the Commission organised an on-line consultation addressing all EU citizens, who were requested to submit their opinion by 21 December 2015. Anyone could send in their experiences concerning everyday phenomena that caused difficulties on the other side of the border. Apart from this, the 11 principal advisors of the Commission collected these problems on 12 locations through workshops with local participants, to write a report for the Commissioner based on the acquired data.
The other form of the consultation is a research conducted by a consortium of experts. In the framework of this research, an inventory of obstacles faced by cross-border cooperation is established, which will contain the good practices that neighbouring governments have been able to find as a solution to specific problems. During the research, the experts went on 20 field trips with the aim of adding local experiences and information to the inventory related to the obstacles. Additionally, 15 case studies were written as a result of, again, the field trips and also the related literature. These case studies all identified specific, frequent problems that often come up (in the field of e.g. cross-border public transport, health care, emergency response, environmental protection, etc.) and formulated proposals for legislative amendment.
Moreover, the experts’ work is assisted by a stakeholder group consisting of 20 members, uniting stakeholders from the different border regions who either have experience on the problems standing in the way of cooperation or are just simply encountering them during their academic research or development work. Experts of the Nordic Council, the Benelux Office, the Association of European Border Regions (AEBR), the Region Pamina Eurodistrict, the Euro-Institut in Kehl, the French Mission Opérationnelle Transfrontalière, ISIG from Italy and CESCI from Hungary all got invited to take part in the group’s activities.
Prior to the EU consultation, CESCI contacted the Ministry of Justice with the idea of a project that is very similar in its thematic and methodology and which envisions reducing the number of administrative obstacles present today along the Hungarian border and thereby strenghten cross-border cooperation. The coincidence in time of the two initiatives allows for the results of the 8 month Hungarian research to be implemented into the documents created and the suggestions made in the framework of the EU consultation. The fact that the Association of European Border Regions (AEBR) is taking part in this project as a partner helps its European outlook.
Main goals of the project:
- identify and overcome the legal-administrative obstacles cross-border cooperation is facing;
- improve the life chances of citizens living in the border area and thereby help the often peripheral border regions to retain or increase their population;
- support cooperation between people from both sides of the border and decrease its divisive effect.
Main activities of the project:
Within the framework of the project, the following activities will be undertaken between January and August, 2016:
(1) Stakeholder workshops
Workshops are being organised along every border (9 in total, on the longer border sections 2 each) to which participants active in the cross-border cooperation of the border region are invited. During the course of the workshops we collect information on the difficulties experienced by local parties through round table discussions. The problems are determined on a territorial basis.
(2) Sectoral interviews
We make an inventory of the problems indicated by local participants and explore its legal-administrative aspects with the help of interviews with sectoral experts. We try to determine the (global) sectoral consequences of the difficulties expressed in the individual border sections through these interviews. So while the round tables are focusing on border segments, the interviews will be sector specific. During the interviews, we seek to address experts from across the border as well if necessary and possible.
(3) European outlook
To handle the problems outlined during the round tables and the interviews, we are looking for good practices which have already proven themselves by treating and/or solving the related issue. These examples can help restructuring the Hungarian legislation too.
(4) Legislation review
Concerning the difficulties established earlier, we are searching for the related legislation through desk research. Research is a complex task, as some sectoral questions might require the alteration of multiple legislative acts. We try to always relate back to EU legislation documents as well, if relevant. During the work phase, an inventory on the related legislation is also created.
(5) Set of recommendations
Based on the legislation inventory, a set of recommendations on the legislative amendments which recommend changes in the related legislation from a sectoral and – if necessary – territorial point of view. A part of the activity package is also to write a final report in which we summarize the results of the project.
(6) English version of the final report
The report presenting the project and its achievements is equally reproduced in English, as it aims to change the aspects hindering cooperation not only of the current Hungarian legislation, but also that of countries across the border. Simultaneously, we would like to use the experiences of the project to the benefit of the EU consultation process, which can again be achieved best by an English language summary.
Our project partner
AEBR was founded in 1971 in Gronau, in the seat of the first Euroregion. It has since become the largest professional advocacy group concerning border region matters, not just within the European Union but all over Europe. Moreover, the association also has professional projects in Africa and South-America. The prestigious group has more than 80 members, mostly associations representing cross-border cooperation, but Slovenia and Cyprus are also a member, as is CESCI.
The association has a great amount of experience concerning cross-border cooperation, regularly publishes professional background material, partakes in EU level consultations and organises significant international events about various topics.