Cross-border Impact Assessment 2019
Dossier 5: Cross-border data
The entire dossier is available here in Dutch and English.
Data collection for cross-border monitoring has been a much-debated topic in recent years. This dossier problematises how data collection is focused on the national level and it often ends at the border. In contrast to the other dossiers of this year’s Cross-Border Impact Assessment, this dossier is an exploratory study. Rather than providing a full-fledged impact assessment of concrete effects, it critically reviews the increasing market for cross-border data, investigates the limits and possibilities of contemporary data provision and pleas for more (support for) transnational cooperation for making cross-border data broadly and publicly available.
Johan van der Valk
Cross-border monitoring and cross-border impact assessment are difficult tasks because enough detailed quantitative information is lacking. Cross-border data is needed for all kinds of users on a structural basis. Users and stakeholders of cross-border information are extremely diverse of nature with their own scope. They are looking for information that is specific for their respective purpose. Meanwhile, they all benefit from harmonised data that is consistent within and across countries. For national and international users this is straightforward. But also, for local, regional and – notably – euregional users this is extremely helpful.
Appropriately scaled data allow them to show on which aspects they are unique. What is the specific situation in their region compared to others? It allows identification of opportunities. With this kind of information, they can for instance investigate which possibilities for smart specialisation their region has. This allows also to see which obstacles are more persistent compared to other regions. Finally, it allows border regions to learn from each other. If a measure is effective in a specific region it will show in the cross-border indicators. Subsequently, another region can benefit from this evidence. After all, measuring effectiveness is key for evidence-based policy-making. It requires the definition of appropriate indicators and the application of concrete benchmarks, particularly when aiming at longitudinal assessment and comparison. Consequently, a lack of consistency in methodology (e.g. changing indicators) as well as in the (quality of) data provision (e.g. insufficient regional detail) affects especially border regions negatively.
Producers of statistics are united in the European Statistical System (ESS). They are able and willing to work in this field to fill this gap of cross-border data. We argue that additionally there is a need to set up a network of statistical institutes that develop methods for producing cross-border statistics and disseminate them. They can organise this in a cost-effective and sustainable way by making optimal use of existing (inter)national sources, methods and infrastructures. Such a network should provide the data that is required for cross-border monitoring for all types of users on all regional, national and international level. Furthermore, it should develop tools to transform the data into practical information through visualisation tools. This should all be carried out involving all relevant European institutional support, like Eurostat and ESPON. Interestingly, France and Germany recently took the initiative to set up a network on cross-border monitoring. It makes perfectly sense to link up with this bilateral initiative. Hence, we recommend that the parties concerned join forces.
A key requirement to set up this network and carry out the work involved is to ensure the allocation of enough resources. We argue that it is primarily a national task to ensure that cross-border data become available, instead of it being a regional issue or an EU-responsibility. It is imperative that national governments realise that data across their border matter. It is crucial that statistical institutes stop to depict their country as ‘an island’. In reality people, businesses and institutions cross the borders in their actions. Therefore, the situation across the border is relevant. Furthermore, it is important to measure for which policy areas crossing the border is more frequent than other areas. Translating this into statistics means that from a national perspective it is relevant for all themes to know about the situation across the border and to what extent crossing the border is happening. Statistical institutes ought to lead this discussion within their countries about expanding their mandate in this direction.
In addition, one could think of the EC to support and facilitate the network on cross-border monitoring by assuring the coordinating tasks through allocating funds for this. We suggest to cover this under the actions to improve the Governance in the next programming period of Interreg.