Cross-border conurbations

Cross-border conurbations within regional, national and European planning and strategies

At regional level

The planning of towns should be coordinated with that of the regions; the same goes for cross-border conurbations: approaches to cross-border cooperation concerning conurbations should be linked with those conducted at the Euroregional level. Given the difficulties specific to cross-border cooperation, as well as the potential they represent for European integration, it is important to encourage the structuring of cross-border conurbations, by making sure that their existence is taken into account within the programmes financed within the framework of the territorial cooperation objective of the European cohesion policy.

- Partnership with local authorities in the programming

- Financing of statistical monitoring and territorial engineering, promotion of the EGTC as a tool, EU technical assistance...

In addition, the regional programmes of border areas should be encouraged to take into account cross-border conurbations in their regional strategies and funding of projects. Given the measures involved, it is the regional programmes (and national policies) which are intended to finance larger projects (e.g. cross-border infrastructures). Example : the Alzette-Belval ecocity.
EU Regulations for the period 2014-2020 offer interesting tools in this regard: the proposed tools for territorial development – Integrated territorial investments (ITI) and Community-led local development (CLLD) – are explicitly mentioned by the ETC regulation, which mentions that EGTCs or equivalent structures may support such projects.

More information on the report published in 2015 on “Integrated Territorial Investments” (ITI).

At national or federal level

Cross-border conurbations have long suffered from a lack of consideration within national strategies for development and planning. The situation is changing in favour of cities, metropolitan hubs or metropolitan areas (in France, Germany and Switzerland) of which some are cross-border in nature. For example, the “Greater Geneva” site benefits from the Swiss Confederation’s conurbation programme for the financing of certain infrastructure, including on French soil.

These examples demonstrate the importance of encouraging the inclusion of cross-border conurbations within different national development strategies.

Coordination between national authorities on either side of the border, taking into account cross-border conurbations improves the synergy between policies (sectoral or territorial) involved (e.g. see for example the work of the Franco-Belgian parliamentary working group in 2006, and updated with the aid of the MOT, which led to the creation of the Lille-Kortrijk-Tournai EGTC). Such coordination promotes the harmonisation of national legislations.

At European level

The specificity of cross-border cooperation is that it is local in nature. Proximity (or more specifically, accessibility, which combines the parameters of copresence (density) and good transport connections) plays a crucial role: it is the very foundation of the urban phenomenon. Now all planning policy prioritises the urban, from small towns structuring the countryside to cities driving the globalised economy, while promoting cooperation with rural areas (rural/urban partnership).

Within Member States of the European Union, several policies in favour of metropolitan areas have been implemented (‘Metropolregionen’ in Germany; “Coopération  métropolitaine” in France). Insofar as several European cities are of a cross-border nature (Lille, Geneva, Copenhagen-Malmö, Vienna-Bratislava, etc.), they should be identified as a matter of common European interest. The EU’s different sectoral policies (transport, environment...) have a significant impact on territories. As the ESDP (1999) and the Territorial Agenda 20201 (2011) both affirm, sectoral policies need to be coordinated systematically, while taking into account their territorial impact, including that on cross-border conurbations. It is a question of increasing coordination between the EU and the different Member States concerned, in favour of cross-border conurbations.
The 2015 Luxembourg Presidency of the Council of the European Union underlined the important role of cross-border urban networks in the strengthening of European territorial cohesion.

This identification of cross-border conurbations as a European issue needs to result in it being taken into account at EU level:

- within EU information tools (Urban Audit (as is already the case for Geneva), ESPON, METROBORDER)
- within European strategic approaches (Territorial Agenda, strategic monitoring of cohesion policy)
- by establishing a European network of these sites, forming a network of cross-border conurbations like those present in the CECICN network of networks bringing together 500 European cities involved in cooperation.

  1. See in particular parts III.3 (Territorial integration in cross-border and transnational functional regions) and IV.2 (Contributing to territorial cohesion at cross-border, transnational, and inter-regional level).