Regional cooperation in Europe

16.05.2017 - Article

The development of closer links in Europe is particularly apparent in border regions – at political and economic, as well as at social and cultural level.

Overcoming borders and experiencing Europe in everyday life

According to the European Commission, more than a third of Europe’s citizens live in border regions. In the Schengen area, it is particularly easy for citizens to live and work on both sides of a border. When asked in a survey about the persistence of barriers that restrict cross-border cooperation, some 40 percent of the inhabitants of border regions considered socio-economic and legal and administrative differences to be a hurdle. For further information click here: Flash Eurobarometer 422, 2015 http://ec.europa.eu

Railway bridge over the river Oder
Railway bridge over the river Oder© picture alliance / ZB

The Federal Government and the European Commission are therefore supporting integration and connectivity on both sides of the EU’s internal borders. Cross-border exchange allows hitherto unused potential to be tapped into in regions that are often at a structural disadvantage. Some 6.6 billion euros have been set aside from the EU budget for border regions for the 2014‑2020 period (in the context of Interreg projects). Although their budgets are relatively small, the projects that are supported achieve numerous tangible results for citizens – be it the development of transport links, cooperative partnerships in the education sector, healthcare, environmental protection or the creation of jobs.

Cross-border cooperation between Germany and France

The Franco-German border region shows how diverse and advantageous cooperation can be on issues that have a direct impact on citizens in border regions. The dismantlement of systematic border controls and freedoms of the single market have given rise to manifold opportunities, particularly in border regions, that yield benefits for the population on both sides of the border.

The Franco-German border region is continuing to develop thanks to projects and initiatives while links between the two countries are being enhanced. The border region is a kind of laboratory for interregional cooperation elsewhere.

Click here for the speech held by Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth at the third conference on Franco-German cross-border cooperation in Hambach in April 2017:

Speech, Hambach, 06 April 2017

Crossing the Rhine by taxi or tram

There are tangible advantages for citizens on both sides of the Franco-German border. For instance, as part of the Initiative on electromobility and the digital age, a joint project that was launched in September 2016, a cross‑border testing ground is currently being set up in the Saarland/Metz region for self-driving and connected vehicles.

Building bridges between Germany and France From the spring of 2017, a tram will connect Strasbourg in Alsace with Kehl in Baden.
Building bridges between Germany and France From the spring of 2017, a tram will connect Strasbourg in Alsace with Kehl in Baden.© picture alliance / dpa

In April 2017, the tramway line that connects the city of Strasbourg in Alsace and Kehl in Baden, Germany, was officially inaugurated. The Strasbourg tram now runs across the River Rhine, all the way to Kehl train station. Work to extend this line to Kehl town hall should be completed by 2018. Thanks to the new, faster connection, the regions on both sides of the Rhine are becoming increasingly economically and culturally interlinked. The tramway is also reducing the amount of car traffic crossing the Rhine. Preliminary planning and construction of the bridge over the Rhine were co‑financed with EU funds from the Interreg programme. Germany and France shared the remaining costs for the construction of the bridge.

In addition, the two countries are cooperating closely in the environmental sphere. For example, the project GREATER GREEN, which was established in September 2016, bundles existing environmental technology clusters in the border region.

Click here for more information: Meta-Cluster-GREATER-GREEN

There are multiple forms of cooperation in the higher education sector between Germany, France and also Switzerland at regional level. This is helping to interconnect training and research beyond national borders. Young people are being offered new training opportunities and research institutes are able to reap the benefits of cooperative partnerships. One example is the trilateral academic alliance European Campus – EUCOR, founded in May 2016, which consists of the universities of Basel, Freiburg, Haute‑Alsace and Strasbourg, as well as the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. The European Campus brings together approximately 115,000 students in three countries.

The first Franco-German employment agency in Kehl, Land Baden‑Württemberg, has for several years been successfully providing employment information and matching job‑seekers with jobs on both sides of the border. Employees of the German and French employment authority work alongside each other in Kehl. Cooperation between the French employment authority (Pôle emploi) and the German Federal Employment Agency has not only been increased, but has meanwhile been expanded to five new locations. Moreover, in February 2016, the employment ministers of Germany and France, Andrea Nahles and Myriam El Khomri, presented an action plan for Franco‑German vocational mobility. For further information click here:

Macro-regional cooperation – a regional approach to policing in the EU

An approach that works well in the German‑French‑Swiss border region can also serve as model for other regions in the European Union. The EU is promoting the development of what are known as European macro‑regions – major supranational areas in which several regions or countries cooperate. These are therefore an example of enhanced cooperation on a geographical basis and pursue a regional approach in the implementation of EU policies. There are four macro-regional strategies at EU level, three of which Germany is involved in: the Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region of 2009, the Strategy for the Danube Region of 2011 and the new Strategy for the Alpine Region, which was adopted in 2016. The basic principle is that no additional funds, laws or new institutions are required for these strategies. This approach is based on cooperation between the partners involved.

Cooperation in the Alpine region

Cooperation in the energy sector is a focus of the EU Alpine Region Strategy, which seeks to make the Alps a model region for energy efficiency and renewable energy.
Cooperation in the energy sector is a focus of the EU Alpine Region Strategy, which seeks to make the Alps a model region for energy efficiency and renewable energy.© picture alliance / dpa

The most recent of the four strategies is intended to promote cooperation in the Alpine region. This geographical area is home to approximately 80 million people living in 48 regions of seven countries – in Germany, France, Italy, Austria and Slovenia, as well as Liechtenstein and Switzerland. The strategy comprises the pillars Economic Growth and Innovation, Mobility and Connectivity and Environment and Energy. Efforts to implement this initiative have been under way since the beginning of 2016. In early 2017, Bavaria assumed the presidency on Germany’s behalf, which rotates on an annual basis, following this year’s host country Slovenia.

The Strategy for the Alpine Region seeks to support sectors in the region such as agriculture and forestry, tourism, energy, healthcare and high technology. Another aim is to turn the area into a model region for energy efficiency and renewable energies.

Click here to find out more about further strategies that Germany is involved in:

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