At the invitation of the Members of the European Parliament Tiemo Wölken (SPD), Michael Cramer (Bündis 90/Die Grünen), Wim van de Camp (CDA) and Matthijs van Miltenburg (D66) a breakfast meeting of the northern German-Dutch border region took place on Tuesday 10 October 2018 in the European Parliament in Brussels. During the meeting the four German and Dutch hosts spoke with 45 governmental executives and senior officials from Europa as well as the border region. The northern border region presented itself as Living Lab for mobility innovation and energy transition.
„A strong Europe needs border regions, that work together despite national boarders“, underlined Tiemo Wölken (SPD) member of the European Parliament in his introduction. „Our focus is on connecting networks and projects that add value to both the Northern (Border) Region as well as to the whole of Europe. Our goal is to connect people, companies and services and thus enhance socio-economic development.“
Provincial Executive Member Fleur Gräper – Van Koolwijk (the Province of Groningen) emphasizes among other things why the northern German-Dutch border region is so important for Europe. “The Northern Netherlands – home to almost two million people – has a lot to offer. Add the Dutch Province of Overijssel and the German Lower Saxony border region, and one has a region, which can be used to enhance the core network. The diversity in this area is perfectly suited for testing innovative mobility solutions in a real-life environment: a Living Lab“, says the Provincial Executive Member. The ambition here is to jointly contribute to the Paris Climate Agreement and be at the forefront of the implementation of the EU’s Clean Power for Transport Directive. “With catalyst cross-border projects such as the Wunderline and hydrogen fuelled transportation, these ambitions can be achieved”, Thomas Lux from Lower Saxony noted.
Provincial Executive Member Henk Brink (province of Drenthe) added in this context the joint ambition to upgrade the railway connection Emmen – Rheine for passenger transportation. Just as is the case with the Wunderline, a substantial increase in traveller numbers is expected. He also mentioned that since yesterday Groningen Airport Eelde is the first airport where drones are allowed to fly. This offers opportunities for marketing the region as “Drone Hub”. He also stated how delighted he was with the positive commitment of all present.
Provincial Executive Member Sietske Poepjes (province of Frisia) highlighted the city of Leeuwarden, designated as European Capital of Culture 2018. In this context the entire border region appears in more than one way to be a “Living Lab”, due to – inter alia – the piloting of a hydrogen train between the cities of Groningen and Zuidhorn as an alternative form of transportation. Also in the field of culture, art, mobility, technology and cross-border collaboration many region-wide innovative projects are planned for 2018.
Innovating and widening the locks in Kornwerderzand is important for the shipbuilding industry in the region. These sluices are also an important cross-border waterway connection with the rest of Europa as well as a means of combining water and road freight traffic.
After the discussion led by the Member of the European Parliament Michael Cramer the conclusion was drawn that the Northern Netherlands and Lower Saxony have jointly decided to push for more funding from Europe for the underlying network in this region. The four abovementioned Members of the European Parliament, seeing that the northern border region has been making good progress in this context, have therefore offered their continuing support – wherever required – to all initiatives within the region.