cross-border public services in border towns -case studies

Border towns and twin cities provide a unique environment for cross-border public service provision (CPS). Due to close vicinity border towns function in many ways as a single functional area, for example as a single labour market or service area for leisure. Different examples illustrate the variety of policy fields for which CPS could be provided in these specific territories.
The ESPON project Cross-border Public Services identified some interesting and dynamic cross-border initiatives between border towns in Europe among the almost 600 cases of CPS provision that the project mapped around Europe. Those examples show that border towns can benefit from CPS in various policy fields. Moreover, the examples illustrate different motivations for CPS development in these border areas.

Besides identity building, supporting cross-border flows or coordinating service provision, the examples illustrate a means to decrease competition between neighbouring territories and embracing territorial integration. They show the advantages of providing the service ones in close proximity rather than multiple times in different domestic settings. This also includes building comparative advantages on both sides of the borders and making service provision less costly.

Cities working together

The border towns of Tui (Spain) and Valença (Portugal), as well as the Eurocity Verin-Chaves in the border area of Galicia-Norte de Portugal, host many CPS. Public authorities of Tui and Valença support a tourist train and a swimming pool. The Eurocity Verin-Chave supports a bus service between the two cities, a musical and dance school and coordinates health care services. The main driver for these initiatives is to improve the common identity of the border towns.

Another example of CPS provision in border towns is located in the Finnish-Swedish border region of the Bothnian Arc. The towns of Haparanda (Sweden) and Tornio (Finland) provide a joint ice stadium, swimming pool tourist office, elementary school, sewage water treatment, and district heating. In addition, agreements support cross-border ambulance services and education between the two towns. In particular, the physical proximity of the towns, as well as their cultural and historical similarities, supported the development of CPS provision. In addition, different international, national bilateral and local and regional cooperation agreements support joint service provision in Haparanda and Tornio.

Similarly motivated examples of CPS provision can also be found in border villages, even if their variety is much more limited to fewer functions. The border villages of Nieuw-Namen (the Netherlands) and Kieldrecht (Belgium) in the Euregio Scheldemond have established a joint fire station. Fire stations in the adjacent places were challenged by a lack of a sufficient number of volunteer firefighters to equip the stations, in particular during night shifts. Merging the fire stations allowed to exploit a larger pool of volunteers.

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