Resilience of cross-border regions

Beyond Borders

More than one third of the citizens of the European Union live and work in border regions. Besides challenges such as administrative hurdles, diverging responsibilities, different languages, or legal and fiscal issues, converging labour markets, cross-border infrastructures, and the close neighbourly exchange between residents on both sides of national borders provide great opportunities. In the cross-border context, the pitfalls and potentials of the special situation are well known. However, specifics of border regions were less in the general social and political focus of attention – until 2020. In this context the Covid-19 pandemic can be understood as a caesura and as a key driver at the same time: The increased border controls and partial border closures impressively showed how strongly the EU of open internal borders has become an integral part of today's cross-border realities. At the same time, it became apparent how little this major crisis could be faced with coordinated action, to which extent existing competences no longer appeared to be adequate, and at which points further coordination and action appear opportune or even unavoidable. The Covid-19 pandemic can thus be taken as the starting point to identify perspectives for the future development of intertwined cross-border regions with special regard to the question of greater resilience.

We have pursued this topic in several research projects since the beginning of the pandemic. As of 2022, the research will be continued in a working group within the Hesse/Rhineland-Palatinate/Saarland Regional Working Group (LAG) of the Academy for Territorial Development in the Leibniz Association (Akademie für Raumentwicklung in der Leibnitz-Gemeinschaft) in a cross-border cooperation with the Baden-Württemberg working group. The working group "Beyond borders – on the crisis resistance of cross-border interlinked areas" focuses in particular on aspects of cross-border multi-level governance, spatial planning, spatial development and realities of life.

Management team:

Resilience of cross-border cooperation in Europe – a comparative analysis of German-Polish and German-French border areas

In shaping Germany's and Poland's bilateral relations and the EU's eastward enlargement, the Franco-German reconciliation after the Second World War has been invoked time and again since the 1990s. It is, however, important to refrain from simple transferability at the national level due to specific historical developments and other factors that continue to influence politics today. At the local level, on the other hand, cross-border cooperations emerged which, against the backdrop of different traditions and various far-reaching forms of institutionalisation, function as laboratories for European integration and thus in favour of a “Europeanisation bottom-up”. With the Covid-19 pandemic from spring 2020 onwards, border regions in the EU faced a caesura with enhanced border controls and in some cases border closures which had long been considered unthinkable, having drastic negative effects: Border commuters were restricted, shopping in the neighbouring country was temporarily prevented, families and friends were separated. At the same time, it became apparent, as if through a magnifying glass, how closely border regions are already connected and thus can be regarded as interconnected. This comparative research project aims to examine differences and similarities between a German-Polish border region and a German-French border region in light of different European development paths. The project thus belongs to the thematic focus “Europeanisation processes”. The Covid crisis forms the basis for this study, which seeks to understand how border regions responded to this shock event, what regional consequences there have been, and what adaptation strategies were developed. The project thus contributes to the scientific analysis of resilience. At the same time, it is situated in the theoretical contexts of border studies and cross-border multi-level governance, since local and regional upheavals are embedded in the national and European context. The regional focus lies on the Euroregion Pro Europa Viadrina (border region Brandenburg-Lubuskie) in comparison with the Eurodistrict SaarMoselle (border region Saarland-département Moselle). It is our goal to compare ad-hoc crisis reactions and factors in favour of a future “crisis resistance” in similarly populated intertwined areas with a comparably long time since their founding (Euroregion or Eurodistrict) in the 1990s. We use a mixed-method approach consisting of a document analysis from March 2020 (declarations of intent, petitions, resolutions, etc. in the regional context) and a content-analytical evaluation of interviews with actors of cross-border cooperation in the multi-level network of political governance. In addition to scientific publications, a policy paper will be developed as a handbook for regional actors in cross-border cooperation. Based on the Polish-German-French comparison, the project seeks to make an analytical and practical contribution to the future resilience of border regions, where European integration is being lived in daily practice.



  • Project leadership: Jun.-Prof. Dr. Florian Weber, M.A. Julia Dittel (Saarland University) and Prof. Dr. Elżbieta Opiłowska (Wrocław University, Poland)
  • Duration: 01/07/2022-31/12/2023
  • Funded by: Deutsch-Polnische Wissenschaftsstiftung - Project number: 2022-05