On 29 April 2024, the Next ITEM: European Elections and Border Regions event took place at EIPA Maastricht. During this event, ITEM experts Martin Unfried and Pim Mertens explained the findings of their ITEM Reflection: European Elections 2024 and Border Regions with regard to cross-border perspectives in European party manifestos. European Parliament candidates Karin Jacobs (D66), Fabiènne Hendricks (VVD), Teun Janssen (VOLT) and MEP Jeroen Lenaers (CDA) were invited to talk about the main conclusion, namely that border regions are not in the picture. The event was opened by Maastricht alderman Frans Bastiaens. Frans Bastiaens emphasized the need for strong attention for border regions, where Europe is as strong as its regions are. 

ITEM reflection
Ahead of the elections, ITEM analysed the European Manifestos of the different political groups in the European Parliament. Also fueled with data from national programmes, we reflect on the dimension of border regions and cross-border cooperation. With major cross-border developments and future reforms ahead regarding cohesion policy, the cross-border regions in Europe are at crossroads. The main outcomes of the ITEM reflection, such as the European cohesion policy, strengthening of border regions, the importance of the role of Interreg programmes, and the internal market led to a lively discussion with the panelists and the public.  

Internal market
Our internal market is essential in regions where people cross borders on a daily basis for work, study, living, shopping and more. However, there are still too many obstacles (such as fiscal obstacles) limiting the development of border areas. Border regions are looked upon as the ‘living labs’ of European integration. Nevertheless, there is still the paradox that European integration has not led to the favorable situation as would be expected. It is therefore surprising that border regions are not considered a separate category in the European manifestos and that there is no mention of border regions and their specific requirements and approach. “Especially the Euregion Meuse-Rhine is a best practice, a kind of living lab for new EU policies focused on education, health and other topics” says Karin Jacobs. Therein also lies an instrumental role for Interreg that, with its projects focused on e.g. cross-border healthcare, has a significant role to play in the development of the internal market and Europe’s internal borders. Or, as Fabiènne Hendricks puts it; “Interreg is a very important funding mechanism for the cross border region on all types of projects”.  

Cross-border assessments
So if we want to make life in border regions easier, and really want to see border regions as living labs for European integration, we should not only look at Europe but also at national governments and national policy and what it means for border regions. “ITEM does a great job with doing these cross-border Impact assessments” says Jeroen Lenaers. “this is something maybe we should do at the European level more often also to make it more insightful what the added value could be of doing issues in a cross border fashion”. Involving and uniting citizens across borders to talk about cross-border issues can open up horizons. “It is a cultural change of thinking that you act and you organize democracy in a cross-border way” according to Teun Janssen. 

ITEM director Anouk Bollen closed the event by noting that cooperation between all of us and involvement of EU citizens is key to success in strengthening the border regions in Europe. The analysis and discussion is clear, cross-border regions are essential living labs in Europe but their situation and development need specific attention and investments. 

The cross-border regions in Europe are at crossroads, the future of the development of border regions in EU policy will also be central during the ITEM/HNP event on 11 September. The discussion will be continued, save the date!

ITEM Reflection European Elections 2024 and border regions






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Next ITEM EP 2024 elections collage