b-solutions aims at tackling legal and administrative border obstacles along EU internal borders. To do so, a second call for proposals offered practitioners and policy-makers the possibility to inform the European Commission and the Association of the European Border Regions (AEBR) about obstacles identified while cooperating with their neighbours.
The call has been structured along the 8 thematic areas defined in the communication “Boosting Growth and Cohesion in European Border Regions” adopted by the EU Commission on 20th September 2017, namely: eGovernment, Employment, Evidence and Data, Health, Information Services, Institutional Cooperation, Multi-lingualism, Transport.
From 30 January to 12 April 2019, public bodies and cross-border structures had the occasion to submit a proposal for a case to identify and document a legal obstacle hidering the cooperation with the neighbouring countries.
Fifteen European countries participated in the call and obstacles have been detected on twenty-one different internal borders and two EFTA countries, stretching from Portugal to the eastern borders of the Union, from Norway to Italy and Greece.
After the quality assessment performance made by the Association of European Border Regions (AEBR) and the EU Commission’s DG REGIO, among the 44 applications received, 33 cases have been selected. These will receive the support of a legal expert with knowledge of cross-border instances, who will cooperate with them in structuring the definition of the obstacle identified in a clear and systematic way, as well as to elaborate a solution and outline a legal framework from which to proceed.
The findings of the analysis will be made public in Autumn 2019 to inform other stakeholders and to increase the knowledge on cross-border issues.
The 33 awarded cases:
In the thematic area of „Institutional cooperation“:
Making EGTCs more powerful: legal certainty for provision of personnel to the EGTC
Eucor-The European Campus
The aim of the EGTC is the coordination of the scientific and the administrative collaboration between the member universities. In order to activate as much as possible the inhouse competencies of the member universities for the collaborative projects, the personnel is delegated directly from the academic institutions (provision of personnel). However, the legal classification of the VAT payment in this matter needs to be clarified.
Cross border tourism package
QuattroPole e.V. - Luxembourg, Metz, Saarbrücken, Trier
The European Union Directive 2015/2302 has recently been translated into the respective national legislation and these new regulations have especially tightened the information requirements and increased the liability risks for travel agencies and tour operators that are now impossibilitated to keep selling the cross-border tourism package created by QuattroPole.
Cooperation protocol aimed at simplifying LT-PL cross-border institutional cooperation in emergency management
Vilkaviskis District Municipality Administration
When an accident occurs on the Lithuanian side of the border, it would take only 15 minutes for the fire-rescue team based in the close Polish town of Wizajny to reach the area. Nevertheless, the absence of legal basis and administrative procedures on this field prevents the team to do it and, therefore, limit the empowerment of a joint border emergencies management plan.
Simplifying cross-border mobility of minors to carry out cultural or educational exchanges
EGTC Galicia-Norte de Portugal
In the territories / towns close to the border of the Euroregion Galicia North Portugal one of the biggest obstacles for a smooth cross border relationship is related to the regulation for carrying out school exchanges of minors (travelling without their parents / guardians) between the two states. Nowadays, the bureaucratic requirements for a child going from Cerveira to Tomiño, two towns.
Administrative common barriers blocking real implementation of environmental management system
Axencia Galega da Calidade Alimentaria – AGACAL
While implementing the project WETWINE, AGACAL found some remarkable obstacles, namely some limitations posed by a group of legal and political regulations that are not unified between territories and that block a correct transfer and applicability of the real results to the wine sector, which has a significant economic impact throughout the territory of the South-West Europe
Cross-border share of municipal management services
The Grouping is implementing a project (called ’Builcogreen’) that aims to enhance institutionalised cooperation between the urban service provider companies and institutions (such as municipalities, NGOs, etc.) of the border region. Theoretically, the machines used for different purposes (e.g. to cut down larger trees, to shift snow, baling, etc.) can be rented from each other by using an online database. However, it is not clear if the trucks and other larger vehicles and special tools having the necessary technical approvals in Hungary can use public roads in Slovakia and vice versa.
Improvement of cross-border communication and care for cross-border children and young people
Different systems of child and adolescent care and contrasting administrative procedures prevent an effective management of difficult cases involving vulnerable youngsters and families. This becomes a major problem when children live on one side of the border and go to school on the other side. Incidents and problems are not reported or recorded and are not addressed in a coordinated way since there is no clear division of tasks and responsabilities.
Cross-border transport of CO2 as a resource for industrial processes
North Sea Port and companies located in the area have some severe problems concerning obstacles hindering improvement of sustainability policy/circular economy. In particular, there are confusing laws and requirements concerning the construction of cross-border pipelines, the usage of the existing ones, the nature itself of CO2 as a waste product and a lack of information on national designated environmental areas and strategic spatial planning.
Consolidation of the circular economy concerning the WEEE
Diputación de Pontevedra
The absence of unified environmental management criteria concerning the waste of electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) on both sides of the border prevents the Diputacion de Pontevedra to efficiently implement its project “Sustainable cross-border strategy for WEEE” aiming at the creation of a secondary raw materials market. The creation of a harmonized market and a full adoption of a circular economy system in the area would lead to an increase of job opportunities and would encurage innovation on both sides of the border.
Bulgarian-Romanian Institutional Cooperation Constraint - BRICC
University of Ruse “Angel Kanchev”, repreasented by BRIE
Since 2002, in line with the adoption of standards of Bologna process in Bulgaria and Romania, BRIE has been providing joint 2-year master programmes for international students, who have been admitted on the grounds of jointly agreed prerequisites. However, changes in national legislations of the two States concerning the higher education systems, have posed several obstacles in terms of recognition of the prior learning experiences of the applicants, limiting their recruitment and an incisive joint implementation of the academic activites.
Shared cross-border public services: French-German crèches
European Grouping for Territorial Cooperation Eurodistrict SaarMoselle
Several problems occurred while trying to develop public crèches at a cross-border between France and Germany. Differences in national legislations that prevent the creation of these kind of structures were found in the following matters: cofinancing, tax implications (property tax, VAT…), staff qualification and safety rules. The abscence of harmonised management systems, therefore, results in the impossibility of implementing quickly and effectively public services.
Joint to Protect Children
Município de Elvas
The recurring movement of families across the border leads to a difficult management of the social services in support to to vulnerable children, since there is not a joint Spanish-Portuguese system. When this happens, the national social and youth protection services of the families are in complete lack of information, which, in many cases, worsens the child/youth endangerment situation. Furthermore, there are many cases of duplication of social allowances intended to support families with economical dependency. This translates into an over expenditure of government resources between the two countries.
In the thematic area of “Employment”:
183 days rule obstructing cross-border mobility
The so-called 183 days rule has both financial and administrative downsides for the employers and the employees working in the North Sea Port. When employees cross the border for more than 183 days a year, they are considered cross-border workers. This results in a confusing double tax declaration and social security contributions.
Juridical obstacles in establishment and financing of trans-national business incubator
Lazdijai District Municipality
In the LT and PL legislations, there is no indication on how to proceed for establishing a business incubator to reinforce the cross-border market and employment opportunities. The current practices envisage the principle “what is not allowed is forbidden”, which definitely prevents to undertake further steps towards cooperation.
Dutch-German cross-border employment of students originally from outside the EU
The Economic Board Arnhem-Nijmegen
Due to differences in legislation, International students from outside the EU cannot apply for internships and jobs just across the border. This is hampering the implementation of a full CB labour market, especially in sectors where more technical, English-speaking, professionals are needed.
Cross-border work for non-EU citizens
Non-EU citizens need a variety of permits and need to fulfill different criteria to qualify for cross-border work. As long as the worker has a Schengen permit, he/she would need in addition a work permit. However, since it is the employer who needs to apply for it, most of them shy away from the effort of filing the complex application.
Current social and health insurance regulations as problem for borderland inhabitants working on both sides of border at the same time
Borderland Association "Nasza Suwalszczyzna"
Professionals knowing Polish and Lithuanian usually spend 2-3 days they in one country and rest of the week in the another. However, this leads to overlapping insurance payments by the employers, who have to bear these costs in both countries and that are so prevented to send their employees abroad.
Double personality is a single reality: working in Portugal and paying taxes in Spain due to legal and/or administrative impediments
European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation Duero-Douro
The EGTC is located in Spain, therefore, its CIF presents a Spanish format and, as such, Portuguese systems do not recognize it. Hiring workers in Portugal, with the Portuguese social security and quota system is impossible, while doing it through the Spanish system is not attractive to the Portuguese professionals, leading to an unbalance of nationalities within the EGTC.
In the thematic area of “Transport”:
MOBITRANS – Boosting Minho River Cross–Border Mobility
EGTC Rio Minho
The creation and the operation of a joint cross-border public transportation service is prevented by the presence of two different legal frameworks and the neglect of regional and cross-border transportation instances at a national level. To establish a joint operation of an international service and a domestic concession, the elaboration of a multilevel protocol at local, regional and national level would be needed.
European solution for a vignette for air pollution control
EGTC Eurodistrict Strasbourg-Ortenau
European Countries are entitled to define and implement their own measures against air pollution and also to develop vignettes based on Euro classes. However, there is not mutual recognition of the national vignettes and therefore, this results in the absence of coordination concerning the environmental politics especially in cross-border areas where regulations affect negatively the citizens crossing the border with their own vehicles.
SeaFlix_Cross Border Mobility
French Riviera Chamber of Commerce
The French Riviera Chamber of Commerce & Industry as a manager of different ports of the area, intends to set up maritime shuttles that would connect the main cities of the region to the port of Monaco at a very competitive price. However, the differences existing in the 3 national legislations, especially concerning balancing subsidy support, act as an obstacle that hinder the establishment and the oparation of this cross-border alternative mode of transport.
Tackling cross-border obstacles regarding E-bike sharing infrastructure
Ministry of the German-speaking Community
Cross-border municipalities were interested in further developing cycling in the area. In this context, the German-speaking Community already exchanged with Velocity (an operator of E-bike sharing stations in Germany, Aachen) to discuss the possibilities to implement their infrastructure in Belgium, where E-Bike stations are not available yet. However, differences in legal regulations and tax law management have to be overcome in order to setup the facilities.
Cross border rail connectivity for the Port of Strasbourg
Port autonome de Strasbourg
The development of cross-border freight trains from the Port of Strasbourg to Germany and the other way round suffers from administrative hindrances due to difficulties in the rail interoperability between the German and French railway network. These difficulties result in additional costs. The obstacles concern mainly the different requirements concerning drivers, engines, security, language and the logistic requirements.
Trilateral bridge in Euroregion Neisse-Nisa-Nysa
Czech Republic - Germany - Poland
The river Nisa crosses 3 border towns Hrádek nad Nisou (CZ), Zittau (D) and Bogatynia (PL) and limits the unification of the three cycling paths already existing in the three municipalities. The idea is to build a trilateral cross-border bridge, but it is unclear how to proceed since the 3 states have individual specific building requirements. Furthermore, there are three different Interreg Programmes in the area but they don’t enable to finance trilateral projects with partners from 3 countries.
Launch of a regular passenger transport, with cabotage, between Chaves and Verín
Municipality of Chaves and Municipality of Verín
The European grouping of territorial cooperation Eurocidade Chaves-Verín intends to carry out a regular passenger transport service with cabotage. However, the national entities with competence on internationa/cross-border passenger transport do not include in their authorizations the transport service with cabotage, contrary to what is provided for in REGULATION (EC) No 1073/2009 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 21 October 2009 on common rules for access to the international market for coach and bus services, and amending Regulation (EC) No 561/2006.
In the thematic area of “Health”:
Ambulances without Borders: towards sustainable cooperation between emergency services
Municipality of Woensdrecht
Obstacles related to reimbursement issues, discrepancies concerning lights and sirens and differences in education of the personnel employed, prevent the cross-border cooperation in emergency services management. Although the nearest available ambulance is just a few kilometers away – on Belgian soil – inhabitants of the Dutch town Putte have to wait for the Dutch ambulance services coming from an hospital which is almost 20 kilometers away.
Cross-border health care between twin cities Valga - Valka
At the moment medical services are not financed across Estonian-Latvian border, so patients from Latvia cannot be treated in an Estonian hospital.Differences between national healthcare systems (i.e. restrictive or inadequate domestic legislation, different organisation of insurance systems and of cost reimbursement) hamper the access of persons not being cross-border workers to health care services on the other side of the border.
Speedy mutual recognition of qualifications for heathcare professionals
EGTC Hospital of Cerdanya
The Cerdanya Hospital is the only bi-national, public hospital existing in Europe, meaning that its mission is to provide specialised healthcare for both French and Spanish people thanks to bi-national teams of professionals. However, the absence of a standardised method of mutual recognition of qualifications prevents the creation of stable cross-border teams, limiting the effectivness of the services provided.
Development of trans-border water supply network
Kalvarija Municipality Administration
Current Lithuanian and Polish laws don’t describe how to get permission to build and finance a cross-border water supply network. Furthermore, according to the law practice of both Countries, local government should act following the principle: “what is not allowed is forbidden”. Therefore, it seems that it is not possible to create such a network, despite the municipalities located on the cross-border area would widely benefit of this kind of service.
Cross-border Emergency Medical Services
French Regional Health Agency
The France-Belgium Convention on Cross-border emergency medical services (EMS) was signed in 2007. Despite an operational level that works very well, some regulatory obstacles keep hindering the cooperation between the two countries. In particular: it is not possible for some Belgian ambulances (112-authorized) to cross the border in order to refer patients to a healthcare facility. Furthermore, depending on the type of vehicle used for patients transportation, financial compensation cannot always be provided to the patients and is limited to the interventions of the French SMURs (Service Mobile d'Urgence et de Réanimation), meaning that the financial burden occurring would weigh directly on the patients.
Cross-border health care
In Šluknov tip (the most northern edge of the Czech Republic), surrounded by Germany on 3 sides, does exist only one hospital which has big financial problems and faces a potential shut down. However, despite there are two hospitals very close to border on the German side, these facilities cannot be used by Czech patients due to legislative obstacles concerning the health insurances management and the medical emergencies rescue services.
In the thematic area of “eGovernment”:
Different transpositions of the Directive 2014/24/EU at a national level in Italy and Slovenia have obliged the EGTC GO to publish its own procedures or in the Italian or in the Slovenian e-procurement platforms, providing access only to the economic operators of one or the other side of the border. This is hindering a fair competition among the economic actors and service providers within the implementation of the two ITI projects whose the EGTC is beneficiary and whose actions impact both sides of the border.
In the thematic area of “Multi-lingualism”:
Stop geo-blocking! Overcoming discrimination and developing intercultural competences by providing access to online content across borders
EGTC Euregio Meuse-Rhine
Netherlands-Germany; Belgium-Netherlands; Belgium-Germany
The practice of geo-blocking sets up new borders to citizens and professionals to get access to audio-visual content in an increasing digital market due to their geographical location. The issue becomes crucial for citizens and professionals in the Euregio Meuse-Rhine not only to develop a common understanding and acquire important cultural and linguistic skills but also to access and consult these services in their native language as they might live or work on the other side of the border.
For updates on the implementation of the advice cases, follow the online platform Boosting EU border regions.