Having watched -with horror- the fire last Monday, which seemed to destroy one of the most famous icons of European art history, Notre Dame of Paris, I was at the same time impressed by the many signs of solidarity and support for France and the French people coming from all over the world but specifically also from many European countries, their leaders and people. These direct signs of support in such a dark moment, give hope that in moments of severe crisis, people are willing to stand together and give as much help as possible.

Rebuilding and restoring Notre Dame with the support of so many can be seen as a positive sign of solidarity and it certainly will lead to strong cooperation across borders in the years to come. Financial support will have to be given but also many different disciplines of craftsmen, art historians, architects and many other disciplines will have to work together during the restauration process. Only joint efforts across borders will make it possible to rebuilt Notre Dame. 

During the intense political discussions in the last months, we were so concentrated on BREXIT, and the many problems the European Union is facing in light of BREXIT and the positions taken by some Member States and politicians to fundamental rights questions and the European idea in general, spontaneous solidarity between Member States was often difficult to find. Sometimes it seemed the beginning of the end for any form of cooperation, solidarity and support for the European project.

How will all these problems influence the European Parliament elections in May? Will the people of Europe be willing to elect parliamentarians supportive to the European project? Will anti-European voices get a platform and have influence to disrupt any form of European cooperation?  I strongly hope that this will not be the case! Only with solidarity and close cooperation between the Member States and their people, we will be able to face the challenges of the future. Therefore, I hope that the electorate is willing to accept and support that only with more cooperation within the European  Union the challenges we are facing can be managed in the coming decades.

My believe is therefore that the road of stronger cooperation is the way to go, especially when looking at things from a  border region perspective. With 30% of the population of the European Union, we, the ones living in a border region, will be noticing the effects whatever path is choosen the most. For us the choice for better chances is clear: increasing cross border cooperation and building platforms is our answer to the Eurosceptics.

ITEM has seen many projects where cross border projects have contributed to the welfare of a region and even literally saved lives. I am thinking e.g of EMRIC (Euregion Meuse-Rhine incident control and Crisis management) and the Euregional Paediatric Surgical Centre. This type of crossborder cooperation is essential for the wellbeing of the people living in these regions. These type of projects need support of the governments involved, a good structure, well developed platforms to operate and the necessary legislative or administrative tools to make the functioning of this cooperation projects easier.

Following this path, ITEM is proud to announce its cooperation with the University of Hasselt which will be officially launched on May 8th. ITEM is furthermore proud of its cooperation with the province of Overijssel in organising ITEM’s annual conference on 22 November 2019 in Enschede. Of course the ITEM annual conference will be about building platforms for cross-border cooperation. We are standing at a cross-road and it is up to us to choose the path which will benefit strong cooperation the most.

SAVE THE DATE: ITEM annual conference 2019, 22 november in Enschede.

We invite you all to participate in this annual conference but also in our many other activities. We hope that these activities contribute to the further development of cross border cooperation, the exchange of best practices and the spirit of solidarity.

Furthermore, we do hope that you all will participate in the coming European Parliament elections. These elections are of enormous importance for the future of Europe and the wellbeing of our societies. The intense political discussions in the framework of the BREXIT negotiations have shown clearly how disruptive such a process can be. We need a positive spirit to cooperate and show solidarity across the European Union. Coming back to the Notre Dame of Paris, as her restauration can only take place with the help and support of many different actors who will work together in close cooperation, the European project is also dependent of our constant support and our willingness to cooperate.