The eight workshop within the Legal Accessibility project was held in Szentgotthárd, at the Refectory of the Common Municipality Offices, to which stakeholders active in cross-border cooperation in the Austro-Slovenian-Hungarian border region were invited. In the form of a round table discussion, two associates of CESCI were collecting information on the legal obstacles, deficiencies and best practices experienced by local actors.
The meeting was held on the 16th of February 2016 and attended by 9 participants in the following sectors and fields:
- diplomacy: Szentgotthárd Consulate General of the Republic of Slovenia;
- health care: West Transdanubian Regional Rescue Organisation of the National Ambulance Service;
- law enforcement: Vas County Police Department;
- local government sector: Municipality of Szentgotthárd;
- rural development: Vas County Offices of the Hungarian National Rural Network
- tourism: Szentgotthárd TDM;
- media: Gotthárd TV.
Participants of the Szentgotthárd workshop have experience related to two border sections that are in general significantly more favourable compared to the country’s other borders. Both neighbouring countries are EU members and part of the Schengen Zone. Formal and spontaneous interactions are frequent and have a history that goes back years and years. Apart from institutional cooperation, private initiatives are also common in the border area. Due to the best practices of this cooperation, participants did not mention many legal obstacles fundamentally hindering these projects.
The most important legal obstacle that came up during the workshop was mentioned by the Ambulance Service representatives. Cross-border relationships work well in the field of joined training and rescue programmes, but several legal barriers have occurred during their everyday operative work. Relevant organisations have already discussed specific obstacles of cooperation in the framework of several forums, but are yet to find a solution. During the meeting, it was mentioned that even though Hungarian ambulances cannot cross the border carrying a patient, their Austrian colleagues often take action on the other side of the border without informing Hungarian authorities.
According to attendees of the workshop, there are also legal obstacles of the neighbouring countries’ public service providers helping each other at times of heavy snowfall. Special vehicles from the other side of the border cannot cross for legal reasons, sometimes in both directions, to help conquer physical barriers together. Participants reported that relevant institutions would gladly cooperate in these cases.
The police forces representative gave account of the existing good relationships maintained with the related neighbouring countries and their fruitful cooperation which also applies to daily, operative cooperation.