The Euregio Meuse-Rhine (EMR) provides the basis for cross-border cooperation across three countries and three languages. Fostering more cooperation particularly in the area of employment is considered vital, as the region is facing fundamental challenges of demographic and structural changes. Therefore, the INTERREG-V-A project youRegion pursues two overarching objectives: to create a euregional cross-border labour market and create a culture of welcoming new international talent. ITEM is active in this project, in two workpackages.
A three-year project (2018-2021)
On the one hand, the intention is to develop and align services in the area of employment and job placement within the EMR. This includes assessing the regional offer in the field of employment advice across the national borders and develop the cooperation between placement and cross-border information services. Not only is this to stimulate successful job matchings and help businesses recruit qualified staff notwithstanding formal frontiers. It should also help create a common (information) base for viewing labour demand and supply across the Euregio.
On the other hand, in particular the region’s academic institutions and tech sectors attract a lot of international talent. The youRegion project builds on the desire to increase this attractiveness and to motivate foreign professionals to stay and settle in the EMR with their families. The aim is to foster a euregional “culture of welcome” (Willkommenskultur) – amongst others by setting up common welcome centres – for international professionals already here and those newly arrived.
In total, sixteen project partners cooperate to make this euregional labour market a reality. They range from local government over employment services and university departments to a private association of self-employed professionals. These partners collaborate towards realising these objectives of a joint labour market and a welcoming culture for newcomers – in a joint effort of developing a sense of youRegional belonging and successful employment.
Academic expertise to bolster the joint cooperation efforts
ITEM supports the youRegion project in several ways. With a view to developing a euregional labour market, the project also seeks to build up a network and expertise of cross-border information services for self-employed professionals. ITEM supports the partners’ joint efforts of establishing targeted counselling services in cooperation with the Cross-Border Information Point (GrensInfoPunt/ GIP) in Maastricht and organising regular information and network events.
It will also prepare a working module to help enhance the cross-border information services for atypical workers who pursue a combination of flexible jobs/self-employed activities in two or more Member States.
Regarding the objective of attracting international talent, ITEM provides the groundwork for mapping the range of welcome and information services for highly-skilled newcomers across the EMR. This analysis has already highlighted the extent of and factors for lacking cooperation between these organisations.
ITEM will furthermore support the partners’ cooperation in fostering a euregional welcoming culture empirically. It will collect and analyse newcomers’ experiences and satisfaction with these euregional services. As this feedback will be analysed to render the welcoming services more targeted and needs-based, this study will contribute to ensuring the project’s success and sustainability.
A euregional economic development agenda
This project focuses on increasing cross-border cooperation of already existing services. With its aims of fostering a euregional labour market and effectively mitigating (upcoming) shortages of skilled workers in the region, it fits perfectly with recent developments at municipal level. Among the association of the MAHHL-cities (Maastricht, Aachen, Hasselt, Heerlen, Liège), endeavours contemplating a euregional development agenda have arisen.
With the endorsement of the Dutch Minister of Interior Affairs, a “Euregional work conference” was organised at the seat of the Provincial Government of Dutch Limburg on 19 June 2019 in Maastricht. Here, the mayors of the cities of Maastricht, Aachen, Hasselt, Liège, Genk and Sittard-Geleen pledged their commitment to expand and intensify the cross-border cooperation at municipal level. With the help of a “Euregional agenda”, they seek to jointly reap the advantages of agglomeration effects for successful economic development.
In this context, the youRegion project will help to establish the EMR as an attractive place to work and live, with excellent research and employment opportunities, in order to keep people in the region for the long term. These factors will also make the euregional market more attractive for companies to invest and grow in, while ensuring their enduring and social value in the Euregional communities.