CoR President Bresso urges 'upgrade' for EU cross-border cooperation

Publicated on: March 24, 2011

Regional and local authorities wishing to work together across national borders are still struggling with red tape, Committee of the Regions President Mercedes Bresso stressed today. Joining Hungarian Minister of State Erika Szabó at a conference in Gödöllő, President Bresso urged lawmakers to simplify the EU rules governing such cooperation, and open them up to social partners and non-EU countries.

The Hungarian Council Presidency invited policymakers and stakeholders to discuss the future of the European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC). Regional and local authorities can use this legal statute to work together across national borders, for instance to jointly manage a hospital. This EU statute was created in 2006 after intense campaigning by the Committee of the Regions (CoR). The possibility of setting up such bodies has made cross-border cooperation much easier, but some problems persist. The European Commission will review the current legal framework before the summer, providing a window of opportunity to simplify procedures even further.

Joining Hungarian Minister of State  Erika Szabó in Gödöllő today, Committee of the Regions (CoR) President Mercedes Bresso emphasised Hungary's leading role in promoting this new instrument, with 6 out of the 18 existing EGTCs being based in Hungary or having Hungarian partners: "In this regard, Hungary is an example for all the other Member States. It has put in place strong administrative support at national level and it has widely promoted the new legal instrument within the country, encouraging its local authorities to look beyond the borders and to establish EGTCs."

President Bresso summarised the Committee's proposals for improving the EGTC regulation. CoR President Bresso pushed for more openness towards economic and social partners, as well as partners from non-EU countries: "The 'second-generation' EGTC could become an attractive tool to foster cooperation in the Eastern Partnership, in the Mediterranean basin as well as across the accession countries in the Balkans. For that to happen, we have to revise the regulation and to facilitate the use of this statute within the EU's new neighbourhood policy as well as within pre-accession assistance."

President Bresso also underlined the potential of EGTCs for delivering European objectives on the ground: "EGTCs could also work to reduce cross-border barriers to the free movement of people or services. For that, we could provide rewards, particularly if the cross-border cooperation area goes beyond the goals set at EU level." The Committee has launched an EGTC Platform to follow up its proposals in the reform process. Its work was presented at the Gödöllő conference today by Michel Delebarre (FR/PES), Mayor of Dunkirk and President of the EGTC West-Vlaanderen / Flandre-Dunkerque-Côte d’Opale. To bring all stakeholders together once the legislative proposals are on the table, the Committee also proposed holding an inter-institutional conference by the end of 2011.