Cross-border Impact Assessment 2020
Dossier 1: The impact of the Corona crisis on cross-border regions
The entire dossier is available here in English.
An ex-post assessment of cross-border coordination, or non-coordination, of crisis response
Joint research collaboration with the Transfrontier Euro-Institut Network (TEIN)
Martin Unfried (ed.)
Dr. Nina Büttgen (ed.)
The (continued) impact of the COVID-19 pandemic can hardly be overstated. As the virus spread (during the first wave), entire regions and countries were quarantined, and borders were closed overnight. This dossier focuses on what impact early crisis management has had on (cross-)border regions. To gain insights into how that impact was felt in different regions across Europe, the research has been conducted in close collaboration with several TEIN- partners.
The Dossier provides an ex post impact assessment of the various “Corona-measures” on cross-border regions, when the virus first ‘hit’ the European continent. Specific regard is had to the (non-) coordination of crisis management measures and border controls. To what extent did the focus on national figures, national capacities in healthcare and national measures influence the situation? How intensive was the cross-border coordination and what consequences did it have for the development and combating of the crisis? Such questions are key in reflecting on the extraordinary impact that the “Corona-crisis” has had on selected cross-border regions, when many basic European principles and freedoms seemed virtually thrown overboard from one day to the next.
Besides studying the effects on the cross-border region between Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands (Euregio Meuse-Rhine / EMR), this ITEM Cross-Border Impact Assessment will – for the first time – investigate the border effects on several European regions simultaneously. The COVID-19 research project is a collaboration between ITEM and various partners of the Transfrontier Euro-Institut Network (TEIN), a unique network consisting of universities, research institutions and training centres dedicated to cross-border cooperation in Europe. This Dossier showcases the results of this fruitful cooperation between ITEM and the following TEIN-members: the Euro-Institut (Upper Rhine region covering the cross-border region between Germany, France and Switzerland), the Centre for Cross Border Studies/CCBS (the cross-border region between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland/the United Kingdom (UK)) and the B/ORDERS IN MOTION Research Centre from European University Viadrina Frankfurt Oder (the German-Polish border region and the Twin Towns Frankfurt Oder Słubice). In the following, each regional report will provide a more elaborate definition of the respective cross-border area outlining the geographical scope of the particular investigation.
This joint research initiative between ITEM and the TEIN-partners provides a welcome opportunity to apply the Cross-Border Impact Assessment-method, as developed by ITEM since 2016, in a broader setting for the first time. Hence, this Dossier serves to test the method’s applicability in other cross-border regions across Europe. Still, given its pilot character, the research collaboration has been kept deliberately limited to a small selection of cross-border regions. Meanwhile the unprecedented scale and impact of the Coronavirus crisis forms a very apt and intriguing subject for conducting Cross-Border Impact Assessment research in such a broad setting – especially, considering the great variations in the gravity of the pandemic’s impact throughout the EU. In fact, the European Commission has already informally expressed its appreciations for this type of joint research initiative, and encouraged the organisation to further such joint work to investigate pan-European cross-border issues within the context of the TEIN-network in the future.
The wide geographical scope and the relative recent effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have important consequences for the data collection. For practical reasons, the period for data collection has been set from 1 March to 30 June 2020. However, not all data necessary for assessing the impact of the COVID-19-pandemic may have been published by the time of writing (July 2020). Based on the experience of the ITEM Cross-Border Impact Assessment of previous years, difficulties in data collection – particularly at the lower level or to highlight specific cross-border ‘flows’ – have been anticipated from the start. The authors will signal the specific limitations of data collection per region.
On the one hand because of these expected constraints regarding quantitative data but, on the other, also to test qualitative indicators, ITEM and its TEIN-partners agreed to acquire further relevant information through ‘background talks’ with stakeholders in their respective regions. This conversational evidence has been used to finetune the analysis and narrative of each research report. This approach, too, pays respect to potential (political) sensitivities pertaining to the problems discussed, highlighting that the informality of the provided information time and again lies in the interest of the respondent.
Summary Thematic Approach
The multifaceted nature of this topic is reflected in the fact that all three central research themes – European integration, socioeconomic/sustainable development and Euregional cohesion – are covered extensively.
In light of the theme of European integration, the assessment focuses on the existence and duration of border controls and travel bans; considering the consequences for frontier workers, businesses, students and others. The impact the crisis has had on EU citizens’ basic freedoms of movement will be analysed and, thus especially, on daily life in a cross-border region.
In respect of the socioeconomic/sustainable development of these regions, following the Corona-induced lockdown measures one of the greatest recessions since World War II is facing Europe (and the world). Hence, it will be examined to what extent the Corona measures can be linked to a reduction of cross-border economic activities by companies or to worse economic difficulties. What has (lack of) coordination of these measures meant for the trade and economy in the selected cross-border territories? Possible repercussions for cross-border regions’ economic development in the future will also be considered.
More critical questions arise when approaching the topic from the perspective of Euregional cohesion: if and how did cross-border cooperation function during the crisis? Were national measures coordinated in a way to avoid frictions for the border regions? How was cooperation in the health sector structured and how can it be structured in the future? What was the impact of the closing of borders on the perception of citizens with respect to the cohesion of the cross-border territory? Accordingly, the analysis will focus on what lessons can be drawn for European/cross-border crisis-management in the future and for dealing with the recovery from the Corona-crisis. In the following, the main findings of each regional report will be summarised.