CoR pushes for simpler cross-border cooperation rules, launches EGTC support platform

Publicated on: January 28, 2011

Mayors and regional presidents urged EU lawmakers to simplify the rules for delivering cross-border infrastructures and public services to citizens. At the Committee of the Regions plenary session in Brussels, they set out ways to improve a key legal tool, the European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC). They also launched a platform for public authorities setting up and running such cross-border bodies.

Direct cooperation between regions and cities delivers concrete benefits for citizens, for instance the joint supply of utilities or services in border areas. The European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation, or EGTC, is an EU tool, a legal framework, to minimise the red tape of these cross-border projects. It is a unique statute under European law that was created in 2006 after intense campaigning by the Committee of the Regions (CoR). Since then, 16 cross-border areas have set up EGTCs, bringing together more than 320 public authorities from across Europe, with many more in the pipeline. The European Commission will propose to the European Parliament and the Council a review of the current legal framework before the summer, providing a window of opportunity to simplify procedures even further.

Committee of the Regions President Mercedes Bresso, who drafted a report on the issue in 2008, emphasised: "Regional and local authorities need efficient tools to deliver results for their citizens. National borders shouldn't be an issue anymore when two neighbouring regions want to run a hospital or a job centre together. The European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation simplified the day-to-day management of such projects, but some teething problems persist. Today we outlined how they could be overcome. While the ball is now in the court of the other EU institutions, the Committee remains committed to work together on the improvements needed."

Alberto Núńez Feijóo (EPP), President of the region of Galicia in Spain, who drafted the CoR own-initiative opinion which was adopted today, said: "The EGTC that we set up in my region together with Norte de Portugal is a good framework for cross-border projects. However, after some years and after sharing our experience with other EGTCs, we also have a good overview of its shortcomings. Some parts of the EGTC regulation are rather fuzzy, and the EU institutions must provide regional and local authorities with greater clarity."

The Committee of the Regions' proposals are based on an extensive consultation of existing EGTCs, regional and local authorities as well as other stakeholders. One of the key issues raised by the CoR is the lack of coordination that has dominated the past five years. This resulted in a patchwork of national implementing measures that are not necessarily compatible with each other. The Committee opinion therefore urges clearer guidance from the EU institutions on how to apply the concept in national law. Another obstacle is that national capitals often take a long time to process requests for setting up EGTCs, which the CoR wants to reduce.

Paradoxically, some EGTCs have reported problems when applying for EU funding. Sometimes their multinational nature is not recognised and projects are rejected on grounds of an insufficient number of nationalities represented, or on grounds of an unclear legal status. The Committee therefore urges that more information on the concept be made available to administrations at all levels, including the European Commission. The CoR also repeats its call for a specific EU funding programme to support fledgling EGTCs.

To follow up its proposals and to feed practical experience back to Brussels, the CoR launched an EGTC Platform, which was welcomed by the Hungarian Presidency of the EU, represented by the Secretary of State for Public Administration and Justice Bence Rétvári. Presented at a conference in Lille (France) and Brussels, this new body will bring together all experts and stakeholders. Its work will be coordinated by the President of the CoR's Commission for territorial cohesion (COTER), at present Michel Delebarre (PES), Mayor of the French city of Dunkirk and President of the EGTC West-Vlaanderen / Flandre-Dunkerque-Côte d’Opale.

Detailed information about the EGTC is available at