b-solutions – overcoming cross-border obstacles

European Border regions face obstacles in diverse domains, hampering cross-border interactions and development. b-solutions provides an innovative way to support border regions in identifying the root causes of obstacles and devising solutions pathways in two ways:
i) how public support is provided: a legal expert working directly with the beneficiary on a obstacle (i.e. no red tape+cost effectiveness)
ii) on each different solutions (legal revision proposals; agreements; revised procedures)

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

The aim of the initiative is to tackle legal and administrative obstacles hindering cooperation in border regions along EU internal land borders through the adoption of sustainable and replicable solutions.

b-solutions was part of a set of new and concrete actions to enhance cohesion in cross-border areas included in the Boosting Growth and Cohesion in European Border Regions (COM(2017)534) communication adopted by the European Commission (EC) in 2017.

Border regions constitute the EU Cohesion Policy major landmark and after 30 years since the establishment of the Interreg funding programme, thousands of projects have successfully received financial support to better exploit the potential of these territories.

Nevertheless, obstacles of legal or administrative nature continue to have a negative impact on the stakeholders and citizens living and operating across borders. Research indicates that solving one fifth of existing border obstacles could lead to an increase of 2% GDP in border regions, corresponding to 1 million new jobs.

The initiative is managed by the Association of European Border Regions (AEBR) on behalf of the EC’s DG REGIO. In short: public authorities at different levels (e.g., municipalities) apply to calls for proposals by submitting an identified obstacle that hampers interaction across the border. Those selected are attributed support in the form of legal/technical expertise. A lawyer is assigned to work with the beneficiary – and its peers across the border – in order to assess the root causes of the obstacles. Additionally the expert works with the beneficiary to identify a possible pathway for a solution.

The innovation in the process is double:
I) innovative process to provide support to border regions but without a grant or a tender. There is no financial transfers to the beneficiaries. Instead legal experts are hired directly by AEBR (using a grant it receives from the European Commission) and assigned to provide their services to the beneficiaries. This significantly simplifies the procedure by reducing the red tape to nearly zero. Also, it increased cost effectiveness by centralising the contractualisation of the legal expertise.
ii) innovative solutions tailored to each case – including legislative amendment proposals; bilateral agreements; new administrative procedures; revised management systems, etc. (see examples in the compendium annex). Furthermore, there is a strong sharing element. Being implemented at European level, the initiative increases the visibility of the solutions identified for each case. Therefore, experiences from one border become useful for entities in other borders experiencing similar obstacles.

90 different obstacles were selected under the initiative. 4 calls for proposals permitted identifying those obstacles (one in 2018, one in 2019, two in 2020). The cases covered 27 cross-border regions in 21 Member States and tackled obstacles mainly in employment, public transport, healthcare and institutional cooperation.

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