Identifying and removing obstacles

Towards a coordinated process for the removal of obstacles to cross-border cooperation

These different approaches form a template for a potential coordinated process across the different levels of governance.

At the level of each border

Numerous obstacles can be overcome at the level of each border, notably those of an administrative nature or resulting from a lack of knowledge, of concertation, or of cross-border coordination, between local/regional actors (local and regional authorities, decentralised government departments,…) on either side of the border.
On a given border, the removal of an obstacle can require changes in the law of one or both (or more) of the countries concerned, or even an inter-state agreement; in this case, at the central level the national governments (or federated state governments) concerned will need to be involved.
It would be desirable to transpose to each border the approach undertaken by the French-Belgian parliamentary group, enabling actors to deal with what they can at the local level while bringing remaining obstacles to the attention of the superior level of governance.

At the national level

At the national level, it is important to ensure inter-ministerial steering of cross-border cooperation, enabling the necessary regulatory and legislative modifications to be dealt with, as well as the possible negotiation of inter-state accords.

In France this steering is undertaken by the CGET (General Commissariat for Territorial Equality). This body is planning to set up a national working group to give structure to dialogue between ministries on cross-border issues, in order to respond to the needs expressed by territories1, contribute to establishing a general overview, and feed into the group of European experts.
An assessment framework for obstacles at the national level could easily be appropriated and transposed in other European states.

At the European level

Certain obstacles can be overcome by intervention at the European level.
At the European level, the removal of obstacles to cooperation can involve:

  • a change in EU legislation (for example, the abolition of roaming charges from June 2017)
  • the creation of specific tools, such as the EGTC or that proposed by Luxembourg
  • the facilitation of a process at the European Commission that is cross-cutting (inter-service group) and inter-institutional (Committee of the Regions, European Parliament [Working group on cross-border cooperation],…)
  • general steering on a larger scale via Cohesion policy (sharing of good practice).

The role of the MOT

Due to its multi-level positioning, the MOT is well placed to take action at these different levels:

  • Taking action at each border in support of local / regional players (as in the French-Belgian process).
  • Mutualising between several borders the removal of obstacles overcome on one border, via the sharing of experience: the MOT is planning to set up a forum for the members of its network.
  • Bringing attention to the remaining obstacles at higher levels of governance, in France (ministries and French parliament) and in neighbouring States; supporting the national level in the removal of obstacles; facilitating concertation between France and its neighbouring countries.
  • Supporting the intergovernmental process: the MOT provides the secretariat for the European Working Group on Innovative Solutions to Cross-border Obstacles.
  • Supporting the European level: contribution to the Cross-Border Review, in common with the network of CECICN (Conference of European Cross-border and Interregional City Networks), of which it is a founding member, and in cooperation with AEBR; participating in the experts’ group launched by the European Commission,...

Perspectives and coordination with other actors at the European scale

Coordination of the type undertaken by the MOT exists or is emerging in several parts of Europe, in the context of processes of very different natures, while having the potential for coordination with each other:

  • Long-established intergovernmental organisations taking charge of dealing with cross-border obstacles: Benelux, Nordic Council
  • MOT-type structures: CESCI (Hungarian borders and Balkans)
  • Institutes or Universities: TEIN, ITEM, etc.

In the future, the approaches of these different organisations could be made inter-operable and coordinated at the European level.

  1. Cf. Letter from Philippe Richert to François Hollande, 15 March 2016 [in French]: click here.