Corina Crețu, the EU Commissioner for Regional Policy, supports the possibility for two member states working on cross-border cooperation projects to voluntarily choose the legislation from one of the two countries.
After a General Affairs Council meeting on Cohesion on Thursday (12 April), Crețu visited the ESPON EGTC (a European grouping on territorial cooperation) in Luxembourg and praised the Luxembourg EU Presidency for presenting the European Crossborder Convention (ECBC) back in 2015.
The ECBC is a bottom-up legal tool available to local and regional authorities and stakeholders that would allow, after validation by the competent national authority, to apply the administrative or legal rules of another country in a defined area of application along the border.
She gave the example of Germany and France, saying that “today it is easier to do projects between Germany and Poland than Belgium and France because although they have the same language, they have different legislation”.
As Luxembourg’s state secretary for sustainable development and infrastructure, Camille Gira explained, this tool is an effort to move regulatory barriers, giving the example of the tram connection between Strasbourg and Kehl, (that has been operating since 2017).
According to Gira, “the municipality of Strasburg decided to have one line of the tram going to Germany, over the bridge that crosses the Rhine, but unfortunately the regulations for trams in Germany are totally different to the ones in France and it costs a lot of time, money and energy to adapt from one place to the other”.
“The idea with the European Crossborder Convention (ECBC)” said Gira, “is that the authority responsible for regulating trams in Germany would say ‘we agree that just for the lane that comes from Strasbourg the French regulations will apply and not the German ones’”.
The same model could apply to cross-border infrastructures but also to waste management, services and investments.
“European Territorial Cooperation Programmes should be promoted also in the framework of the mainstream programmes”, underlined Ilona Raugze, director of the ESPON EGTC, “as places become increasingly interconnected and interdependent and one single administrative territory cannot address contemporary challenges efficiently”.
100.000 projects might be at risk
Asked by EURACTIV, Commissioner Crețu underlined once more – in line with the results of the General Affairs Meeting of the Council on Cohesion Policy – the importance of smooth transition between the current and the next programming period.
She said “it is very important to start implementation on 1 January 2021. If we do not have an agreement about the EU budget in late 2019, more than 100.000 projects are in danger of not having EU money”.
Crețu also said that almost all member states are in favour of the first scenario for the EU Cohesion Policy, which envisages all regions to remain eligible for Cohesion funds.
“But for this, of course, we need some fresh money” she added. “Most of the countries showed the willingness to contribute more to the budget in order to have a very mature and substantial budget”.
Despite the Commissioner’s positive mood, the results of the General Affairs Meeting do not mention anywhere that all regions should be covered by cohesion policy.
Moreover, as it is clearly stated, “these Council Conclusions do not prejudge the outcome either of the negotiations on the future EU Multiannual Financial Framework or of future discussions of cohesion policy post-2020” – a statement that puts into question whether the member states will manage to agree on the upcoming Commission proposal in May.
On top of all this, a tweet from the European Commission’s account on Friday set up a poll with three options for cohesion policy, where the two options for reducing the funds were described as “saving”, with the option of maintaining the same budget level described as “cost”.
We have various options for our #CohesionPolicy in long term #EUBudget
▶If we maintain same level of support, it will cost €370 bn
🔽If we end support for regions in transitions, we will save €95 bn
⏬If we limit support further, we will save €124 bn
What would you opt for?
— European Commission 🇪🇺 (@EU_Commission) April 12, 2018