Province of Limburg supports ITEM with 3 million euro
The province of Limburg will support expertise centre ITEM with a grant of 3 million euros over the next 5 years. According to the province, ITEM contributes to the economic strengthening of Limburg and to a better business climate for the Euregion. The expertise centre was established in 2015 to contribute to the development of a well-functioning transnational society on a scientific level. "ITEM has, more than expected, gained a place in the field of cross-border mobility. Our work is appreciated at local level, but also in The Hague and Brussels", says ITEM Director Prof. Hildegard Schneider. ITEM director Prof. Dr. Anouk Bollen explains how ITEM does this.
Why was ITEM established?
Anouk Bollen: "Before ITEM was set up, there was hardly any attention for cross-border cooperation at the Ministry of the Interior, for example. After all, the government is usually not located in a border area, so policy officers don't know about it. What does a border actually mean? What happens when you cross a border? And by that I mean on a daily basis, not just for going on holiday".
What has changed since ITEM was set up five years ago?
Anouk Bollen: "At first there was only a response to problems, but now we see that there are more meetings about cooperation between neighbouring countries and that there is a focus on actually preventing problems".
What kind of problems are there in the border regions, then?
Anouk Bollen: "Suppose a new law is introduced in the Netherlands, then it is useful that the Germans or Belgians are consulted as to whether this law is feasible. It can happen that you live in Belgium, but work in the Netherlands. So then, you are confronted with several legal systems. For example with the new Dutch Civil Service Act, which comes into force on 1 January. This has consequences for many employees of universities and hospitals in the border regions and their social security".
What does ITEM do to solve these problems?
Anouk Bollen: "The most important thing is that we have created more awareness. We are now working with the Ministry of the Interior and parties in Brussels, so that is going in the right direction. There are also more and more parliamentary questions on the subject. We notice, for example, that in the Netherlands ‘the Randstad’ is no longer seen as the only place of growth, but that the border regions can flourish as well. If there were no borders, the Meuse Rhine Euroregion, between Hasselt, Aachen and Liège, would be much more a centre of activity than the Randstad. But if we want to achieve that, much more cooperation is needed. The next step is that awareness of border effects has an influence before the creation of policy and not only afterwards."
The Institute for Transnational and Euregional cross border cooperation and Mobility (ITEM) operates at the convergence of research, counselling, knowledge exchange, and training activities in the domain of cross-border mobility and cooperation. The countries of the European Union are confronted with great challenges following the increasing globalisation of the economy and the internationalisation of the current and future society. ITEM is an interdisciplinary institute which was initiated by Maastricht University (UM) in cooperation with Zuyd Hogeschool, NEIMED, the (Dutch) province of Limburg, the city of Maastricht and the Meuse-Rhine Euregion.