Building cross-border territories: Europe for citizens

December 2017

Building cross-border territories: Europe for citizens

On the occasion of its 20th anniversary, on 30 November and 1 December in Brussels the MOT organised a European conference on the topic “Building cross-border territories: Europe for citizens”, which brought together more than 230 participants: attendance figures reflecting the importance of the issues!

Hosted by the Committee of the Regions, the conference was organised around three round tables, addressing the place of civil society in border territories, presenting the achievements of cross-border initiatives, and also looking ahead to the perspectives on post-2020.

Michel Delebarre, President of the MOT, opened the conference by setting out the issues of the debate: “continuing to foster harmonious living together in cross-border communities for a tangible Europe at the service of citizens”.

Anne Sander, MEP and Vice-President of the MOT, reminded participants that if 20% of barriers were lifted in border regions, their GDP would rise by 2%. She also addressed the preparation of the upcoming budget programming.

The first round table focussed on the place of the citizen, and more widely of civil society, in cross-border territories and in the European integration process, through accounts from stakeholders on French borders. They revealed the importance of carrying out tangible projects, in order to create veritable “shared living areas”, as highlighted by Kotte Ecenarro, Mayor of Hendaye (FR-ES) and Loïc Delhuvenne, Director of the Lille-Kortrijk-Tournai Eurometropolis (FR-BE). Efforts to improve knowledge of the neighbouring language and culture are also necessary. Patrice Harster, Director of PAMINA (FR-DE) illustrated the issue of financing these projects with the example of support mechanisms for microprojects.

The second round table allowed the presentation of tangible projects on French borders, such as the tramline linking Strasbourg and Kehl, the Cerdanya cross-border hospital and the integrated development of the Espace Mont-Blanc, as well as on other European borders, notably around Hungary. Finally, support for cross-border projects with financial instruments was illustrated by Marc Abadie, Director of the Network and Local Development at the Caisse des Dépôts.
In closing the first day, Christine Moro, Ambassador, Delegate for the External Action of Local Government at the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, spoke about local and regional government diplomacy, and action at different levels for overcoming obstacles. 

On the second day, the final round table enabled Christian Dupessey and Mathieu Bergé, representing Greater Geneva and the Working Community of the Pyrenees respectively, to express their expectations for European policy after 2020.
Hugo Bevort, Director of Territorial Strategies at the CGET (General Commissariat for Territorial Equality), developed the perspectives of the French government in matters of cross-border policy: cross-border strategy and local pacts.

Marc Lemaître, Director-General of DG REGIO, presented the propositions of the European Commission’s 20 September Communication.

Concluding the conference, Camille Gira, Secretary of State for Sustainable Development and Infrastructure of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, restated the importance of developing the “European Cross-Border Convention” (ECBC) tool proposed by the Intergovernmental working group on innovative solutions to cross-border obstacles.

Jacques Mézard, the French Minister for Territorial Cohesion, underlined the necessity for experimentation, for “overcoming regulatory and administrative borders” and establishing interministerial coordination on cross-border issues.

Throughout these exchanges, moderation was provided by the journalist Véronique Auger.

The first day concluded with a festive evening celebrating the 20th anniversary of the MOT, held at the Belgian Comic Strip Centre, in the presence of Michel Delebarre, Karl-Heintz Lambertz, President of the Committee of the Regions, Roland Ries, Mayor of Strasbourg and first President of the MOT, and the Walloon Government – the evening’s hosts – represented by Ariane Fradcourt, member of the Cabinet of Willy Borsus, Minister-President of Wallonia.

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