The European Committee of the Regions (CoR) held the 142nd plenary session on 3-4 February 2021. In this session, recommendations were proposed to develop cross-border public services (CPS), especially with regards to cross-border cooperation in the event of crises.
The CoR stressed the need for an EU legal framework to allow for the efficient management of CPS which would address the needs of citizens in cross-border areas. It therefore strongly supports the European cross-border mechanism (ECBM) proposal which is currently blocked in the Council of the European Union.
Some CPS are not financed in a sustainable way in the long-term through EU funding. The CoR therefore recommended that member states should look into additional ways of financing such as national or regional sources or public-private partnerships.
Coordination between member states, regions and other administrative bodies also needs to be strengthened. The CoR proposed cross-border contact points which would exchange experiences and discuss challenges in order to work on the systematic removal of border obstacles. Additionally, it recommended that member states allocate part of their remaining resources within the REACT-EU initiative to cross-border cooperation programmes in which they participate, thus enabling an efficient restart of cross-border cooperation following the COVID-19 crisis.
The CoR also reiterated opportunities that had been missed during the COVID-19 pandemic when member states unilaterally closed borders without thinking of combining efforts at the EU internal borders and providing healthcare and emergency services for citizens living in the bordering regions. This incident proves the need to define a basic minimum level of cross-border cooperation to be maintained even in times of crisis. The CoR underlined that, despite border closures, many border regions found ways of cooperating and sharing resources during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The CoR plans to request legislation that would guarantee minimal standards for cross-border cooperation in the event of crises, guaranteeing the uninterrupted functioning of the Single Market.