Final Conference of ARPAF CrossBorder
After two years of working towards improving cross-border mobility in the Alpine Region, the ARPAF project CrossBorder is coming to an end. Within the 3rd EUSALP Annual Forum, the project partners SAB (EUSALP AG5 Co-Leader), CIPRA, and AdTL (EUSALP AG4 Co-Leader) organized the final conference of CrossBorder to summarize what has been achieved and to set forth a path to capitalize on the project’s results in the future.
The ARPAF CrossBorder Logic: Know the Status Quo, Find Potential Solutions, and Test them in the Hotspots
Among the EU’s 2 Mio. daily cross-border commuters, 600.000 cross a national border in the Alpine Region every day; clearly, economic relations with Switzerland are one central factor here. The negative consequences of these massive traffic volumes include CO2 emissions, air and noise pollution as well as congested roads, since most commuters use the car due to a lack of public transport coordination, infrastructure and services across borders. Thus, the narrow national perspective on transport planning exacerbate the situation. To summarize these and other seminal insights from the project, a Compendium on cross-border mobility in the Alpine Region has been compiled and is available online in all Alpine languages.
Thus, according to the CrossBorder project logic of first taking stock of the status quo of cross-border mobility networks and cooperation models; then, exploring potential measures to improve the situation; and, on this basis, formulating political recommendations as well as going to the ground and discussing needs, demands, and potentials with local stakeholders in hotspot workshops, the conference proceeded with experiences from example hotspots, also as a basis for the subsequent panel discussion of the CrossBorder political recommendations.
Local Experiences from Cross-Border Commuting Hotspots
At the final event, Esther Jennings (Euregio Inntal) explained the biggest challenges in her CrossBorder hotspot Kufstein–Rosenheim: This hotspot with roughly 600.000 inhabitants is also home to several large companies, thus big employers causing considerable volumes of cross-border commuter traffic. Additionally, 2.5 Mio trucks that pass the region on their way along the Brenner motorway as well as heavy touristic traffic reinforce congestion. Therefore, the Euregio Inntal aims at further developing public transport in the region. The Euregio Inntal took advantage of the opportunity of CrossBorder hosting two local workshops to bring together the relevant stakeholders including public authorities, big companies, tourist associations, and political representatives. Acommitment to further develop cross-border public transport, not only for commuters but also tourists, to harmonize transport fees across borders, and potentially to set up an EGTC on climate, mobility, and tourism to take the issues to the political level for the Euregio Inntal are among the major outcomes.
Representing the Jurassic Arc, Jaques Fleurey presented this hotspot, where 32.000 people commute between France and Switzerland every day. The hotspot is characterized by a strong manufacturing sector and a quite low population density, especially on the French side. Consequently, efficient public transport is a major challenge and high volumes of individual traffic with all the negative consequences burden this cross-border commuting hotspot. Accordingly, the hotspot’s main issues and challenges were discussed in workshops resulting in the realization that this heterogenous hotspot needs targeted solutions, strong cooperation, and financial support to improve cross-border mobility. Therefore, the CrossBorder workshops not only helped to raise the visibility of the rather remote hotspot Jurassic Arc but also to create and maintain the dialogue on cross-border mobility.
Local workshops were also held in hotspots of varying types – the Basel cross-border region (CH-FR-DE), Lake Constance (CH-F-AT-DE), Terra Raetica (AT-CH-IT) and Ticino (CH-IT). Efforts will continue in all selected hotspots to improve sustainable mobility solutions for cross-border commuters.
Feeding CrossBorder into the Policy Cycle
Taking all the CrossBorder findings into consideration, the most important task now is to capitalize on these results. The following CrossBorder recommendations for local authorities, employers, and commuters are also included in the project Compendium:
R1-2 Cross-Border Mobility Database and Dialogue in the Alpine Region
The collected data is a major added value of CrossBorder, especially in light of the nationally different data collection methodologies. The goal now must be to harmonize Alpine mobility data and to aim for comprehensive data collection as necessary basis for political decisions. Here, the involved stakeholders should partner up with EUROSTAT as well as the national statistical offices.
Next to the data, having brought together all relevant stakeholders to enter into a dialogue is the next major achievement of CrossBorder. Now, it is critical to perpetuate this dialogue on all relevant levels, especially the EUSALP, regions, hotspots, Swiss agglomerations, as well as the states, and the EU. Thus, the AG4 will take up an activity within its new Work Plan to continue this dialogue among regions, states, and civil society and to take it to the political level.
R3-5 Improve Infrastructure, Services, and Regulatory Frameworks
While dialogue is important, infrastructure, too, has an important part to play in improving cross-border mobility. However, one great obstacle to cross-border mobility is that infrastructure has always been planned from an exclusively national perspective. Therefore, the presentation of CrossBorder at the DG REGIO conference on Boosting Cross-Border Regions through better Transport in Brussels was one important step to raise awareness for such issues. In fact, DG REGIO and DG MOVE already published a joint study on missing rail links including many funding programme specific recommendations and, on the basis of the identified missing links, aims to develop EU funding schemes towards integrating these issues. Accordingly, the Interreg programme has just recently taken up infrastructure as one financing goal. Moreover, the Connecting Europe Facility contains sustainable transport aims.
Regarding the recommendation to install a cross-border focal point to improve cross-border mobility services, DG REGIO’s unit “Interreg, Cross-Border Cooperation, Internal Borders (REGIO.DDG.D.2)” functions as just that – an intersection to coordinate initiatives in boosting cross-border transport.
To improve the heterogeneous landscape of rules and regulations in cross-border mobility, and to harmonize the legal framework for cross border projects where possible, not only the already mentioned funding opportunities must be mentioned. What is more, the European Commission has recently presented a proposal for a European Cross-Border Mechanism to overcome the legal and administrative obstacles that constitute one of the main challenges to cross-border cooperation.
R6 Spatial Planning and Mobility Management
For a comprehensive approach towards cross-border mobility, mobility planning and management must be integrated into spatial planning. Importantly, effective spatial planning must adopt a territorial perspective across borders. In fact, acknowledging that spatial planning is indeed is key, the European Commission is currently proposing to introduce a territorial approach into the ERDF funds in addition to the traditional approach along topics. After all the multiple challenges in our complex world call for sophisticated approaches and solutions. Especially the EUSALP hotspots are very heterogenous; thus, a bottom up approach from the respective territories should point the direction.
R7-9 Digitalization, Awareness Raising, and Behaviour Change
Unfortunately, the potential of digitalization of reducing commuter flows by switching to remote work has proved to be less than expected, not least since many commuters are employed in the manufacturing sector. However, the relevance of awareness raising through CrossBorder can hardly be underestimated. Here, also addressing the general population can help to build up pressure on politics and big companies to tackle the issue. Finally, informing the public of available alternatives is crucial also in progression towards behaviour change. Thus, it is imperative to seize the current window of opportunity and take advantage of the enthusiasm for the mobility topic in national governments and the European Commission.
Further Paving the Way for Cross-Border Mobility in the Alpine Region
Summing up, project leader Thomas Egger (SAB) reiterated at the final event that the AG4 will take up an activity to install an Alpine dialogue on mobility in its upcoming Work Plan. Likewise, the project partners will continue to work towards integrating the CrossBorder recommendations in the policy cycle; especially, now that there is a window of opportunity to promote cross-border mobility in the Alpine Region. The Managing Authority complimented CrossBorder by pointing out that it is one of the best practice examples of ARPAF projects showcasing a hands-on and easy-to-grasp approach to the broadly relevant topic of cross-border mobility in the Alpine Region.
The final project Compendium summarises the main project results. All project outputs are available online:
PALAZZO LOMBARDIA, MILAN, sala n.34, settore arancione, 3° piano