I was in Luxembourg today to participate to the conferece celebrating the 25th anniversary of Interreg, co-organised by the Luxembourgish Presidency of the Council of the European Union and the European Commission. For 25 years now, border regions have been working together to find joint solutions to common challenges. Interreg provided them with the financial means to boost this cooperation.
Whether it has been around for 25 years or for a shorter period, we can proudly say that Interreg is a true European success story. The projects have reached hundreds of thousands of citizens in all corners of Europe. Interreg has ensured that shared problems are solved together, it has created a real sense of belonging and solidarity in many regions, and it has helped us heal the scars of recent history.
However, we know that funding from Interreg is not enough to solve all the remaining challenges. In border communities, citizens and businesses still face many obstacles, often of a legal or administrative nature, when they engage in cross border activities.
For the first time, my services have conducted a Eurobarometer survey on Cross-border Cooperation in the EU to collect feedback on the perceptions of citizens living in our border regions.
The study also confirms the need to demonstrate more what we are doing as only one third of the population living in border regions is aware of EU-funded cross-border cooperation activities. The recent Eurobarometer survey about "Citizens' awareness and perceptions of EU Regional Policy", which came out last week, found out that only a fifth of all citizens (including those not living in border regions) were aware that EU regional funding is invested in this field. The results show that there is more work to be done to promote Interreg.
As Commissioner for Regional Policy, I am therefore keen to explore what more can be done to remove the obstacles for border communities across Europe. To this effect, I will be launching an online public consultation on 21 September. It will be open to all European citizens, giving everyone ample time to inform me about their personal obstacles and their concrete problems.
I hope I can count on many of you not only to take part in the consultation but also to spread the word and encourage as many border citizens, associations or businesses to respond.
Lastly, I want to congratulate the many individuals who have understood over the years that working with each other across borders makes us stronger. I want to say thank you to all those who, either with Interreg or through other cooperation initiatives, have contributed to a more united Europe, where differences are respected and where diversity is turned into an asset.
Happy birthday Interreg!