European outlook

The European Union is going through its most serious crisis which is in addition fundamentally connected to the issue of free cross-border movement. It is not the same whether this crisis will result in solutions hampering or facilitating free movement.

In parallel with the crisis, several policy debates at EU level are in progress which strongly belong to the topic of the Legal accessibility initiative. In February, 2015 CESCI submitted its first application for funding to the call of the DG Justice. The project aimed at carrying out a comprehensive research in the Central European region on the persisting legal and administrative obstacles and drafting recommendations on solutions – based on Western European best practices. The partnership included research institutes from the neighbouring countries, the ISIG from Gorizia, Italy and the Paris-based MOT. Due to the failure of the project proposal we addressed the Hungarian Ministry of Justice with a similar proposal taking into account that the topic of the removal of legal obstacles became (perhaps not out of the blue) one of the core topics of European discourse.

On the one hand, the project Cross-border Review launched by the Commissioner Ms Corina Creţu focussed the attention to the necessity of tackling legal and administrative problems. The project started in the summer of 2015. In the first round, the experts carried out an on-line survey by which their requested the opinion of local stakeholders on the obstacles. More than 600 answers arrived in total from across Europe (from Hungary, 12). The compilation of the study (including several case studies) started based on these answers, the inputs of 11 councillors’ seminars and the feedback of the participants of the expert group set also in that summer. Our association delegated an expert to the expert group and we drafted a contribution paper on the topic of territorial data processing.

In addition to the Cross-Border Review project coordinated by DG Regio it is worth mentioning the developments related to the new legal solution launched by the Luxemburg presidency in 2015. The proposal of the Luxemburg presidency targets the voluntary introduction of a legal tool (European Cross-Border Convention: ECBC) which would create an (extra-)territorial exception for the resolution of a problem in a given border region. In order to guaranteeing the cross-border availability of a service in a border area, the tool would make possible to apply the legislations of the neighbouring country – with a temporal and territorial limitation. Cerdanya Hospital is considered as such exceptional example but also in the case of a cross-border tramway line there are numerous technical, financial and administrative rules to be taken into consideration preventing the initiators from the opening of the tramway line. Regardless of the intention and the need, as well as the financial stability for the operation, the legal background of the two neighbouring countries must be amended in so many points (at national level) that the project will not be implemented. ECBC would allow the introduction of exceptional legal solutions providing answer to the concrete problem in a particular border region. Our association has been taking part in the work of the expert group facilitating the elaboration of the proposal on the ECBC from the beginning.

During the recent years, the French Mission Opérationnelle Transfrontalière (MOT) has drawn the attention at several professional events on the shortages of territorial statistics making cross-border cooperation and developments difficult. Eurostat gathers data at NUTS III (sometimes at NUTS II) level only which are irrelevant in terms of direct cross-border interventions involving mainly local and sub-regional actors. Our association has joined this consultation process with the organisation of a seminar in September, 2014. In 2016, European Commission initiated the cooperation of national statistical offices in order to tackle the problem. Within the framework of the PILOT project, institutions of 11 member countries took part and worked together on a methodology on how to measure cross-border labour mobility.

The European Union is not the only actor dealing with the problem of obstacles. In 2014, Council of Europe contracted the Institute of International Sociology of Gorizia (ISIG) to unfold the most frequent cross-border legal and administrative obstacles in Europe, to compile best practices giving solutions thereto and to make the information available by a portal. The portal was launched in 2015 with a permanently growing data base – thanks to its users.

In 2014, the governments of the Nordic Council established the Freedom of Movemenet Council which (with the support of experts and the Secretariat operating in Copenhagen) identifies every year 5 obstacles hindering free movement among the countries the elimination of which is targeted by the governments with a deadline of 3 years. The Secretariat is permanently surveying and evaluating the steps already taken and the results of the harmonisation process.

In France, the MOT started to tackle the existing obstacles in 2011 when supporting the work of a parliamentary ad-hoc committee. Later on, the experts of the association has developed a permanently growing base of information and in 2017 they initiated the establishment of an interministerial working group and a nation-wide stakeholder platform facilitating the share of information on obstacles and solutions. (Besides, MOT played a desicive role in the elaboration of the proposal of the Luxemburg presidency.)