CPS development is both bottom-up and top-down initiative

Until 1990 only a few CPS were established. Since the beginning of the 21st century, CPS establishment has accelerated. The development since the 1990s may be linked to the introduction of the Interreg Community Initiative. The anewed increase since the early 2000s' corresponds to the EU enlargements and consequently the development of CPS along borders of Eastern European countries.

CPS address common challenges of neighbouring border regions and their need to generate benefits for the general public or a specific target group in the border area. These services contribute to reducing adverse border effects, better connections, raising awareness of cross-border possibilities and to supporting cross-border flows of people. 

Many of the border regions are perceived as peripheral in the national context, they may experience a shortage of domestic public services. CPS can address such gap in domestic service provision and help European border regions to integrate better. Additionally, cooperation and coordination with the neighbouring areas may increase service demand or may allow sharing costs among more stakeholders, making public service provision less costly.

The ESPON project CPS has identified 579 CPS; it is the first comprehensive overview of CPS in Europe. CPS data includes, among other things, information on the location and service area covered, governance and legal structures used for CPS implementation, target groups addressed and CPS development over time.

The territorial distribution of CPS provision remains uneven with a concentration along borders of some Western and Northern European countries. The concentration is the highest at the Benelux, French and German borders and along the borders of the Nordic countries. Long cooperation traditions in these areas and existing cooperation agreement mirroring these traditions may explain this concentration. But increasing awareness on the benefits of CPS in other border areas and a continued trend of new CPS developments along Eastern European borders may balance this pattern in the future.

More CPS on healthcare, spatial planning, tourism and culture in the future

Currently, most CPS are in the fields of civil protection, environmental protection and transport. But project results indicate a particular interest to explore CPS in the future additionally in the areas of spatial planning, tourism and culture. The case study research also showed an interest in healthcare-related CPS. In view of the COVID-19 crisis, this finding needs additional attention. 

Varying degrees of complexity and the availability of relevant (national) legal frameworks affect the time required to implement these foreseen CPS. It is therefore important that the EGTC regulation provided an essential legal framework for overcoming some of the main challenges of CPS development. The new European cross-border mechanism, proposed for the 2021-2027 European Structural and Investment Funds legislation is another promising instrument supporting CPS development.

As a conclusion, it is both bottom-up and top-down initiative that drive CPS development. Local and regional stakeholders in border areas who are aware of the benefits of CPS and willing to explore their options initiate actions on the ground. The EU and national levels support top-down through legislative action and funding options. Continuing this twofold approach facilitates the integration of European border regions.

More information

Article edited by Nikos Lampropoulos, Project Expert Press and Media Activities