The Institute for Transnational and Euregional Cross Border Cooperation and Mobility (ITEM) seeks to contribute to the promotion of cross-border mobility and the removal of obstacles to mobility. As a hub of research, consultancy, knowledge exchange, and training activities, ITEM focuses on cross-border labour mobility, international services, and improving the investment and business climate in Limburg. ITEM is supported by Maastricht University, the Province of Limburg, NEIMED (Hogeschool Zuyd), the Municipality of Maastricht, and EMR (Meuse-Rhine Euregion).
Cross-Border 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. Cross-border work mobility, the international provision of services and the improvement of the investment and business climate hence are high priorities of the European Union and within the Benelux in particular. To accept these challenges, international and regional cross-border cooperation is crucial.
Solving Problems: Public cross-border cooperation is often difficult because of different rules and jurisdictions. Also employees (in particular cross-border workers) and companies experience difficulties when they engage in international and cross-border activities. The complaints of migrant workers that the European Commission receives on a yearly basis prove that there are still many obstacles that stand the optimal use of cross-border rights and possibilities in the way. Differences in tax law and social security law, slow procedures in recognising professional qualifications, differences in the implementation of European guidelines, division of competences and government structures result in extra administrative burdens and hence also hinder the economic growth. Furthermore, the demographic development in the Euregion insists on good and inviting settlements in order to attract international knowledge workers and their families. Also, the supply and demand in the work environment need to be brought together. Good information exchange between the different governments and private persons hence is essential.
Tackling Bottlenecks: To stimulate the economic growth in the Euregion, these problems need to be examined, solutions need to be developed and bottlenecks need to be tackled. The fragmented knowledge and provision of services need to be united in one expertise centre. An expertise centre where the parties concerned determinedly are guided to the correct information, where all partners learn from each other and where constantly new and relevant knowledge is acquired.
Coordinated Approach: In the Euregion, already a variety of advisory bodies for cross-border problems with a proven track-record exists. All this expertise, however, is too fragmented and parties concerned are too often sent from pillar to post or their questions are not addressed at all. According to the Meuse–Rhine Euregion, a coordinated approach within the Euregion is needed to better connect supply and demand on the labour market, to better exploit the schooling and educational capacity and to reduce and where possible abolish (EMR2020) the differences in tax law, social security and pension plans. Also in the field of cross-border health care, environment, spatial planning and culture often big problems arise that urgently seek for solutions.
Impact without boundaries: ITEM does not only contribute to the solution of cross-border issues on an Euregional level but also in the international arena. ITEM hence will also become member of international networks in the field of border studies. The Expertise Centre initiates the creation of a ‘region without borders’ that will facilitate and attract private persons, companies and authorities to invest in this region. Solving cross-border issues will lead to effects from which not only the individual migrant worker will profit but also and in particular authorities, the business world, education and research institutions and with that the economy and the society as a whole. This also has an effect on the Meuse-Rhine Euregion. The services of ITEM will furthermore have a beneficial impact on the Benelux and neighbouring countries. In short: the focus of the Expertise Centre is on regional problems and international solutions.
- Expertise Centre: ITEM is established as a pivot of research, counselling, knowledge exchange and training activities with regard to cross-border mobility and cooperation.
- Stimulate and Support: ITEM is established to support and stimulate the cross-border and international functioning of the Euregional society. In the first place, this means the support of the development of a well-functioning cross-border agglomeration. In addition, it concerns the reinforcement of the international functioning of the Euregion in a globalising economy.
- Contribute to Economic Development: In view of the ambitions of the Meuse–Rhine Euregion, its partner regions and the Benelux in cooperation with North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), ITEM contributes to the development of an international and cross-border labour market. The development and further expansion of the Euregional cooperation call for a transparent and attractive Euregional labour market with as few border barriers as possible.
The activities of ITEM concentrate on the simplification of cross-border mobility and cooperation from a legal, economic, cultural and administrative approach. ITEM’s strength is the scientific and interdisciplinary approach that brings concrete practical solutions. To this end, ITEM will develop the following activities:
- Analyse border effects and the further development of the Euregional labour market (in cooperation with the Benelux and the Meuse–Rhine Euregion)
- Provide (permanent) counselling and information exchange with existing border information points, expat desks, The Bureaus for Belgian and German Affairs of the Sociale Verzekeringsbank (the organization that implements national insurance schemes in the Netherlands) and other institutions, companies and advisory bodies
- Organise conferences, training sessions and workshops to bring together the local, regional and international partners
- Create a database with information on regulations, jurisprudence and best practices
- Conduct (fundamental and applied) research on current themes
- Execute test cases to make a concrete contribution to the abolishment of impediments caused by borders
- Stimulate the international scientific and political discussion on cross-border issues by providing a factual context and solution propositions.
ITEM is an initiative of Maastricht University (UM), the Dutch Centre of Expertise and Innovation on Demographic Changes (NEIMED; a joint initiative of Zuyd University of Applied Sciences, and the Open University in the Netherlands), the Gemeente Maastricht (City of Maastricht), the Meuse–Rhine Euregion (EMR) and the (Dutch) Province of Limburg. Initially, the Expertise Centre ITEM is set up from the Faculty of Law of Maastricht University. In the field of research, the faculties of Arts and Social Sciences (FASoS), Humanities and Sciences (FHS; specifically the School of Governance/UNU- Merit) and the School of Business and Economics (SBE; specifically the Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA)) collaborate. This cooperation warrants the interdisciplinarity of ITEM.
Furthermore, the researchers of Maastricht University participate in large international research networks. They particularly cooperate within the framework of big EU research projects in the field of migration, work mobility and social security, citizenship and security. The partner institutions are universities, research institutes and think tanks within the Euregion and the EU but also in Asia, Africa, Australia, Canada and the United States. These international and regional contacts can be applied in the set-up and development of ITEM as an expertise centre. Also the close collaboration with the Benelux and the German public bodies is crucial for the efficiency and future of ITEM. Besides its partners, ITEM has a number of organisations with which it actively collaborates on the basis of specific knowledge and expertise. Among others, ITEM will be collaborating with the Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek (CBS) (Statistics Netherlands).
ITEM builds on the activities of MACIMIDE, the inter-faculty Maastricht Centre for Citizenship, Migration and Development of Maastricht University. Within the scope of MACIMIDE researchers of various faculties collaborate closely in the research fields of migration and development issues, citizenship, nationality and integration, international family relationships, European and international immigration law and right of asylum, work mobility, social security, tax law and pensions.
On the basis of the existing experience that was built over the years in the various concerned faculties of Maastricht University and at NEIMED, the Expertise Centre can take off immediately by setting up concrete topical research projects, by creating and filling the database, by strengthening the contacts with knowledge institutions in the Euregion and the public authorities in the Benelux and Germany/NRW and with other interested parties such as companies, information points, expat centres and advisory bodies.