MOT Annual Conference: "Borders: a 'resource' for the inhabitants of border regions"June 2016
The Annual Conference of the MOT brought together 150 participants on 24 May 2016 in the Palais de la Porte Dorée, home of the French National Museum of the History of Immigration, in conjunction with the exhibition “Frontières” (“Borders”) currently on view.
With 2 million cross-border workers in Europe, freedom of movement – a major objective of the European Union – is an everyday reality in cross-border regions. However, the re-establishment of numerous border controls is creating difficulties in these regions where borders are crossed regularly, forming part of everyday life.
In opening the conference, Hélène Orain, Director-General of the Établissement public du Palais de la Porte Dorée, emphasised what is at stake: "The utopia of a world without borders, which came to its apogee with the fall of the Berlin Wall, has collided with another reality, at once economic, migratory, and human, which is today threatening the Schengen Area". But as the MOT's President, Michel Delebarre, emphasised in introducing the roundtables: "Faced with all of the current crises, Europe's open borders are a source of hope and solidarity and are part of the solution!"
In the first roundtable, reports from the French-Swiss, French-Belgian, French-Italian and Swedish-Danish borders on the reality in cross-border territories following the reinstatement of border controls illustrated that this daily experience of borders is a resource but that its equilibrium is very fragile*.
The second round table focused on the role of regional, national and EU policy. Edouard Jacque, member of the Grand Est regional council, in charge of cross-border workers, noted that 20 to 25% of inhabitants in this region are affected by cross-border issues. He underlined the exasperation of a section of the population that feels abandoned with regard to cross-border problems in daily life, often concerning mobility.
The testimonial of the German-Dutch border gave the example of an open border where the very high degree of integration seems to go hand in hand with a sentiment of security and shared trust within the population.
According to Anne-Laure Amilhat Szary, professor at Université Grenoble Alpes, who co-moderated the two round tables: “for cross-border regions, the more they cooperate, the safer they are”. “The main question is knowing how to mobilise the inherent resources belonging to each border, in order to aim for a positive equilibrium between “barrier effects” and “necessary openness”. In this context, “the role of public authorities is first of all to ensure that the border does not become a place that generates inequalities”.
Jiri Burianek, Secretary-General of the Committee of the Regions, highlighted that cross-border cooperation is today at a crucial stage in its history. Aside from current events that have pushed the topic of borders to centre stage, progress at the European level in developing cooperation is considerable*.
In his closing address to the conference, Marc Abadie, Director of Network and Territories at the Caisse des Dépôts (France), highlighted his group’s commitment to supporting cooperation and Marie-Caroline Bonnet-Galzy, General Commissioner for Territorial Equality (CGET, France) confirmed this national commitment: “the risk of widening inequalities on our borders is real. Creating communities of interest and building Europe upon our border territories is indispensable”.
Walter Deffaa, Director-General of Regional and Urban Policy at the European Commission, concluded with this wish: “I hope that these regions will demonstrate that it is neither in turning in upon ourselves, nor in closing ourselves off that we will find the future of Europe, but rather that it is in this strengthened cooperation that all of our futures lie.” A fine challenge for our cross-border regions, which the MOT will continue to represent and promote!
* More info in the press release: click here.
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