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Database on border regions highlights specific challenges of maritime borders

In November 2016, the European Commission published a study aiming at collecting evidence to assess the needs of border regions, in the perspective of design of future Interreg cross-border programmes. This study and the database on which it is based distinguish maritime borders from land borders, therefore recognizing the maritime borders as specific borders with their own needs; a chance to have a look to the key features of European straits’ maritime borders.

In total, 25 cross-border indicators have been informed, based on data available at NUTS3 level. The database provides information at the scale of a border territory large of 25 km across the border, including a relativity of the data at the level of all EU borders (average obstacle, less obstacle or more obstacle than the EU borders’ average). Among the proposed indicators, many offer an evaluation of the perception of different types of obstacles, which provides good grounds to assess the need for reinforced cross-border cooperation levers in those areas.

On the 62 border regions studied, 17 maritime border regions are included, 7 of which are maritime border regions of a strait included in the European Straits Initiative:

  • Belgium/United-Kingdom (Dover Strait)
  • France/United-Kingdom (Dover Strait)
  • Germany/Denmark (Fehmarnbelt)
  • Estonia/Finland (Gulf of Finland)
  • Greece/Italy (Strait of Otranto)
  • Finland/Sweden (Kvarken)
  • France/Italy (Strait of Bonifacio and Corsica Channel)

For 4 of these maritime border regions of straits, difficulty in physical accessibility is perceived as being more an obstacle to cross-border cooperation than it is in average (GR-IT, FI-SE, FR-IT, FR-UK), while it is perceived as less an obstacle to cross-border cooperation than in average for maritime border regions Finland-Estonia and Belgium-United-Kingdom.

Socio-economic disparities are perceived as being more an obstacle to cross-border cooperation for 4 maritime border regions (EE-FI, GR-IT, FR-IT, FR-UK), while being perceived as less an obstacle for the 3 others (BE-UK, DE-DK, FI-SE).

Language barrier is perceived as being more an obstacle to cross-border cooperation than it is in average on 3 maritime borders (FI-SE, FR-IT, FR-UK). Cultural differences in general are perceived as more an obstacle to cross-border cooperation across the maritime borders between Germany and Denmark, Greece and Italy, France and United-Kingdom. In 4 maritime border regions, lack of trust in people on the other side of the border is more an obstacle (DE-DK, EE-FI, GR-IT, FR-UK) while it is on the contrary less an obstacle for the maritime border region France-Italy.

Legal and administrative barriers are perceived as more an obstacle to cooperation for Estonia-Finland, Greece-Italy, France-Italy and France-United-Kingdom, while less an obstacle to cooperation between Belgium and United-Kingdom as well as between Finland and Sweden.

Other indicators available include competitiveness potential, market integration potential, human and social capital, shared management of natural resources and key demographic, economic, physical and institutional information on border regions.

The study also proposes several maps highlighting the different features of maritime border regions across the EU. All this enables to consider the variety of situations of in straits areas, from highly populated regions to low-density regions, with a high competitiveness potential or not, with cultural obstacles perceived as very important or, on the contrary, not so much important obstacles for cooperation compared to EU border average.

Downloads

The full study and database can be downloaded on the European commission’s website.

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