Anouk Bollen

Celebrating 10 years of expertise at ITEM: advancing cross-border cooperation

A decade ago, we embarked on a journey to foster collaboration and address challenges across the inner borders of the European Union. As we mark our 10-year anniversary, we reflect on our accomplishments, milestones, and impactful contributions to cross-border cooperation and assessments. Founded with a vision to foster collaboration and address challenges across internal borders of the European Union, particularly within the Benelux and Germany, ITEM has emerged as a pivotal player in promoting regional integration and cooperation across borders.

Strenghtening cross-border cooperation
Since its inception, ITEM has been at the forefront of cross-border cooperation, focusing on facilitating smooth interactions and assessments along the internal borders of the EU. In the new Schakelpunt Grensbelemmeringen Vlaanderen-Nederland (coordination point) initiative, a collaborative Interreg project, we serve as a key partner alongside the Flemish government, the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (BZK) the province of Zeeland and Hasselt University. The aim is to enhance cooperation between all levels of government and knowledge institutions in Flanders and the Netherlands to tackle practical border obstacles in the Flemish-Dutch border regions, serving as a vital link, streamlining processes and enhancing connectivity across borders. It is a perfect follow-up of ITEM’s work of years of casuistic analyses via its Cross-Border Portal.

It goes without saying that we also remain actively engaged in public service, offering the well-known annual ITEM Cross-border Impact Assessments and ITEM Opportunity Analyses. Through our innovative border effects methodology, we address societal issues and contribute to projects aimed at strengthening the development of border regions on various themes. Our work extends beyond research, as we continuously provide valuable insights to policymakers, governors, and political leaders. Next to being involved in the Dutch border impact assessment via trainings and evaluations, we will also follow up in this year’s publication with exploring an ITEM Cross-Border Impact Assessment on EU level.

Border regions and the EU political agenda
At ITEM, collaboration is key. We maintain intensive partnerships with numerous project partners at European, national, and regional levels. Together, we strive to develop solutions that promote cohesion and prosperity in border regions. This is of great importance especially now that the recent ITEM reflection on EP elections, in which we reflect on the dimension of border regions and cross-border cooperation, shows that border regions and adequate funding of cross-border projects (Interreg) are insufficiently included in the party manifestos. That is why we are dedicated to supporting the new regulation Facilitating Cross-border Solutions. This initiative is particularly crucial in light of the upcoming European Parliament elections, in order to put the needs of border regions higher on the political agendas. We urge citizens to consider the unique challenges and opportunities facing border regions and to make their voices heard through active participation in European elections.

Bridges, not barriers
As we celebrate a decade of knowledge dissemination, expertise and collaboration, we reaffirm our commitment to advancing the cause of cross-border cooperation and building a more cohesive and prosperous Europe for generations to come. In the coming years, we will keep our focus on Cross-border Impact Assessments, advocating for increased attention to border regions in European cohesion policy, and promoting instruments to strengthen industrial competitiveness while considering the geographic context of border regions. Together, let us continue to build bridges and foster prosperity across the internal borders of the European Union.