10 September 2020

PANDEMRIC explores the benefits of Euregional cooperation during (health) crises

At the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, it became apparent that the majority of crisis policy was being implemented at a national level. Discoordination caused numerous bottlenecks in the border regions, which proved to have negative effects on Euregional cooperation. The PANDEMRIC project, aimed at promoting Euroregional cooperation in the field of health care, may offer opportunities for optimal cross-border crisis management. Together with four other projects, PANDEMRIC was awarded on 15 July 2020 by Interreg Euregio Meuse-Rhine, amounting to a total grant of €4.55 million. With EMRIC as the main partner of the project, the expertise centre ITEM is closely involved.

EMRIC (Euregio Maas-Rijn Incidentenbestrijding en Crisisbeheersing) is a unique partnership of government services responsible for emergency response care, such as the fire brigade, technical assistance, emergency care, disaster response and crisis management in their area. Many activities are arranged through cooperation agreements and arrangements, providing these fall within the regional competencies of all partners. However, during the COVID-19 crisis, it became clear that in the face of a pandemic, such an agreement was not in place. Given the central coordination by national and/or federal authorities, which often took political and medical measures, there was limited access to the benefits of existing cross-border structures. Euregional cooperation was suddenly no longer self-evident, while the need for it remained. As such, this calls for a different approach within EMRIC and for new arrangements at the Euregional level. This mainly concerns the exchange of information at administrative and operational level, the capacity distribution at Intensive Care Units (ICUs), COVID-19 testing in neighbouring countries, as well as the acquisition of personal and professional protective equipment.

Therefore, the aim of the PANDEMRIC project is to be able to benefit from the advantages of the Euregion Meuse-Rhine, even during such major (health) crises. Research will be done on the effects of the measures and their impact on the euregion  and (the health of) its citizens in order to improve the Euregional information exchange and to broaden the cooperation between hospitals. Within the scope of this project, a study will also examine the legal aspects of cross-border ambulance transport. In addition, there is a need for an Early Warning System, to which some of the existing tools for information exchange will be adapted and improved. Furthermore, there is a plan to set up a euregional center for the joint procurement of reliable protective equipment and euregional testing capabilities.

Within PANDEMRIC, the Institute for Transnational and Euregional cooperation and mobility / ITEM carries out a number of studies on a wide range of subjects. In particular, these include: outbreak research, legal consequences of ambulance transport, the limitations of cross-border procurement in times of crisis and the collaboration opportunities between the ICUs of hospitals in Dutch Limburg, Belgian Limburg, the Aachen City Region and the Province of Liège.

The project, aimed at promoting Euroregional cooperation in the fields of health care and public safety, was the result of a special call for projects launched by Interreg EMR in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. PANDEMRIC has a duration of 1 year and runs up until February 2021.