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News & Press: News

Boosting Growth and Cohesion in EU Border Regions

02 October 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Heather Smith
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Cross-border Healthcare

In July 2017, EUREGHA started a new policy cycle on Cross-border Healthcare. The six months’ policy cycles aim to give more focus on one issue area, chosen by our members, to gain more knowledge and foster collaboration inthe specificfield.
Commission Communication “Boosting Growth and Cohesion in EU Border Regions”

On the 20th of September 2017 the European Commission adopted its Communication “Boosting Growth and Cohesion in EU Border Regions”.
The European Union has 40 internal land border regions, which represent 40% of the Union’s territory and close to 30% of the EU population, 150 million people. However, evidence gathered by the Commission demonstrates that border regions generally perform less well economically than other regions within a Member State. Access to public services such as hospitals is generally lower in border regions. The Interreg funding programmes are highlighted in the Communication as important support to encourage cross-border cooperation programmes along EU border regions. However, there are still obstacles that need to be reduced in order to improve public services and healthcare in border regions. Navigating between different administrative and legal system is often still complex and costly. Different structures and principles for the reimbursement of cross-border healthcare resulting in e.g. different and complex procedures for the prior authorization of healthcare services and payment/reimbursements, an administrative burden for patients and lack of accessible information. Emergency and rescue services are also sometimes impeded in carrying out cross-border interventions.

The Communication aims to highlight ways in which the EU, Member States and regions can reduce the complexity, length and costs of cross-border interaction and promote cooperation in services along internal borders.
The Communication marks cross-border healthcare as a crucial field for cooperation to improve life of border region citizens. Inthe Communication document, the Commission proposes a set of actions to be implemented in this area. Theseactions will be facilitated by the creation of a “Border Focal Point” within the Commission consisting of Commission experts in cross-border issues, which will offer advice to national and regional authorities to tackle legal and administrative border obstacles.

The Commission’s actions to promote cross-border healthcare in 2018:
  • Conduct a comprehensive mapping of cross-border health cooperation across the EU in order to identify good practices and analyze future challenges. The mapping will be available and shared with stakeholders via the Border Focal Point in 2018.
  • Organize a strategic event to highlight good practices of cross-border health cooperation and explore ways in which this can be further developed throughout the Union.
  • Support the implementation of digital public services in regional/local authorities by actively promoting existing e-solutions among border stakeholders and public authorities.

Communication Launch Event 20- 21 September 2017

To mark the adoption of the Communication, a launch event took place on the 20-21 September in Brussels with high level speakers such as the EU Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Crețu and the President of the European Committee of the Regions, Mr Karl-Heinz Lambertz.

Duringthe Conference, the Commission outlined their findings on persisting legal and administrative obstacles to border interaction.During the Keynote Speech, EU Commissioner for Regional Policy MsCrețu put forward examples of what can be done to remove hurdles that obstruct growth, healthcare and labour mobility in border regions The Commissioner emphasized the many common challenges the border regions faces in terms of providing functional and effective infrastructure over the borders, as well as healthcare and public services among others. Ms Crețu also addressed the single market and the digital single market as important structures for the improvement of cross-border services.

The Commissioner also mentioned that in late 2017, the Commission will launch a call for projects related to reduce border obstacles. These calls will primarily focus on the health sector and transport issues which the Commissioner finds especially important in these regions. The call for projects will also focus on putting public services together in border regions to reduce obstacles for workers in these regions.

The President of the Committee of the Regions, Mr Karl-Heinz Lambertz, spoke of the importance of the people-to-people approach in relation to cross-border issues. Mr Lambertz stressed that it’s important that the border regions citizens feel that they are a part of Europe, in order to succeed in creating dynamic and functional cross-border services. To give added value to citizens in these regions should be our main priority when working on these issues, according to Mr Lambertz.

During the second part of the conference, the Director of Health systems, medical products and innovation at DG Sante, Mr Andrzej Jan Rys, expressed the complexity of putting 28 different health systems in Europe together. Mr Rys addressed the difference in medical culture, the role of doctors, payment systems, overall approach and language as examples of barriers that can complicate cross-border healthcare. Around 80% of the systems don’t match, according to the Director. However, he stressed that health systems that are different can complement each other and create greater opportunities than obstacles. As a conclusion, Mr Rys argued that we need to “increase knowledge travel instead of patient travel”, meaning that our aim should be to share and increase knowledge in the medical sector and reduce the travels of patients.

Mr Henri Lewalle, expert on Franco-Belgian Agreements on cross-border healthcare, presented the healthcare cooperation, emergency medical care and the medico-social cooperation being implemented along the Franco-Belgian border. The cooperation can be seen as an example on how two health systems can use their differences to complement each other, share knowledge and ultimately improve the healthcare for their border region citizens. The project started under a Interreg program where a first inter-hospital agreement was sealed. The purpose of the agreement was to exchange and share information on the organizational, operational and financial models of their healthcare systems. Today, the Franco-Belgian border regions exist of organised zones for cross-border access to healthcare (ZOAST),which are cross-border healthcare districts where the borders are removed for the purpose of close access to healthcare for the citizens.

Please find the study “European Cross-border Cooperation on Health: Theory and Practice” here.

Brochure: “Overcoming obstacles in border regions”

Events on Cross-border Healthcare
28 September EUREGHA Briefing on Cross-border healthcare Brussels
1 December CoR IRGHW meeting: Cross-border healthcare Brussels
(TBC) December EUREGHA High Level Conference on Cross-border healthcare Brussels