Public Services

Pooling the provision of cross-border public services

Many services to the public are provided by the public authorities, but national and regional systems of services take insufficient account of the possibility of benefiting from services from the other side of the border, or indeed of coordinating their design and implementation within a cross-border framework.
France is currently characterised by a fragmentation of competences between the different local and national authorities. The establishment in each region of territorial conferences on public action by the current draft legislation on the modernisation of territorial public action and affirmation of conurbations is intended to enable a clarification of the different roles and competences. The conferences will notably be charged with drawing up a territorial governance pact composed of organisational master plans elaborated by the region and the departments for each of their areas of competence, which include objectives with respect to the rationalisation of public intervention and determine the delegation of competences between regional and local authorities, the creation of common services and procedures for the coordination, simplification and clarification of regional and local authorities’ financial interventions.
In border regions, these conferences could address the issues relating to cross-border cooperation in the area of public services.

Because at present, the overlapping of structures gives rise to practical difficulties regarding cooperation. For example, the ability of an EPCI (public inter-municipality cooperation entity – établissement public de coopération intercommunale) to belong to a cross-border joint association of local authorities for part of its territory only is limited. Such a scenario is only possible by virtue of a derogation from common law, which normally obliges the EPCI to belong fully to the joint association. This derogation is restricted to specific areas of competence (water, waste processing, etc.)1; in all other areas, the border municipality has to persuade the member municipalities of the EPCI, which may be further away from the border and as a result less inclined to cooperate, to join the joint association of local authorities.
And yet the potential for cooperation is great and the countries across the border are often open to the pooling of their services with those of neighbouring countries.