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Looking for new ways to finance transport infrastructure projects in cross-border regions

Written by Mihalis Kritikos,

asphalted road on white. Isolated 3D image

© Ilin Sergey / Shutterstock

Meeting large infrastructure needs – including proper maintenance and operation – is and will remain a major challenge for the European Union (EU) in the coming years, requiring targeted innovative financing mechanisms. A range of mechanisms to finance transport infrastructure projects in cross-border regions, and the strategic role that the European Groupings of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC) could play in the planning and implementation of cross-border investments, notably for small-scale projects, were the focus of the STOA (Science and Technology Options Assessment) study entitled ‘New ways of financing transport infrastructure projects in Europe’, published last week.

The study was requested by Paul Rübig, (EPP, Austria), First Vice-Chair of the STOA Panel, Boguslaw Liberadzski (S&D, Poland) and Claudia Schmidt (EPP, Austria), and carried out by (Consultores em Transportes Inovação e Sistemas), under Scientific Foresight Unit (STOA) management.

This study assessed a range of mechanisms to finance transport infrastructure projects in cross-border regions, and analysed the strategic role that the European Groupings of Territorial Cohesion (EGTC) could play in the planning and implementation of cross-border investments. Special attention was paid to often neglected small-scale projects that have an investment ceiling of €1 million. Building on an in-depth literature review, and supported by interviews with various regional cooperation structures, the study analysed the current situation regarding the availability of financing tools for new technologies that enhance transport infrastructure in cross-border regions. It also outlined sources of financial support that could meet investment needs and assessed technological challenges and trends in the intelligent transport systems field, with a focus on regional interoperability.

As part of this project, STOA organised a workshop on 6 June 2017, chaired by Claudia Schmidt. The workshop provided additional input for the study and served as a forum between policy-makers, experts and the public, focusing on the discussion of possible approaches to improve the financing of new technologies that could enhance transport infrastructure in border areas. Key expert speakers shared their views on the changes that are needed to enhance the role of cross-border financing, with stakeholders being invited to share their own experiences.

The study reveals several categories of missing cross-border links, including those related to transport networks, operations or services and technology. The authors identified the main reasons for the presence of missing links in cross-border regions. These concern the scarcity of data on cross-border mobility patterns; the low political visibility of local and regional authorities at the political decision-making centres; the excessive EU focus on specific corridors; cultural differences; the adjustment of financing mechanisms and regulations to the specificities of large-scale projects; the limited attractiveness of small-scale cross-border investment (SSCBI) projects for private investors; and the technological focus on cities and other densely populated regions, rather than on cross border regions.

The study puts forward a number of policy options for facilitating and accelerating cross border transport infrastructure projects, including the need to establish an EU observatory on cross-border transport and mobility dynamics that could overcome several data-collection limitations; raising the political visibility of small-scale cross-border projects at the EU level; developing new project assessment and evaluation guidelines for small-scale cross-border projects; establishing new funding mechanisms that are tailored to small-scale cross-border projects; strengthening the INTERREG programme as the chief financing instrument for cross-border regions; drafting new legislation that could facilitate the implementation of cross-border projects; and creating a new instrument to finance technological solutions for tackling small-scale missing links. The policy options are summarised in the Options Brief.

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About Scientific Foresight (STOA)

The Scientific Foresight Unit (STOA) carries out interdisciplinary research and provides strategic advice in the field of science and technology options assessment and scientific foresight. It undertakes in-depth studies and organises workshops on developments in these fields, and it hosts the European Science-Media Hub (ESMH), a platform to promote networking, training and knowledge sharing between the EP, the scientific community and the media. All this work is carried out under the guidance of the Panel for the Future of Science and Technology (STOA), composed of 27 MEPs nominated by 11 EP Committees. The STOA Panel forms an integral part of the structure of the EP.

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