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North Rhine-Westphalia: a highly dynamic and innovative region

In 2008, the governments of the Benelux countries and the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) decided to forge a closer partnership (joint political declaration). The challenges faced by both regions in terms of safety, climate and economic growth are the same. The seaports and inland ports in the region are among the most important in Europe. The entire region constitutes a highly urbanised and densely populated area with great dynamism and innovative power.

A new chapter in cross-border cooperation

At the Benelux summit in Luxembourg in April 2019, the heads of government of the Benelux countries and North Rhine-Westphalia agreed to deepen their existing partnership. Ten years after its initial signing, the heads of government renewed their political declaration with the aim of revitalising their cooperation, shifting their focusing to new areas and further developing their strategic cooperation. In doing so, the partners opened a new chapter in cross-border cooperation to strengthen the sense of regional solidarity and send a strong message against rising nationalism and populism in Europe.

Finding common solutions

Believing that even closer cooperation across borders will help deliver common solutions to concrete problems in everyday life, the Benelux countries want to make even better use of existing opportunities in the field of:

NRW is also set to contribute to the exploration of new topics. At the same time, cooperation on ongoing projects will continue.

Supporting climate protection

In the field of energy and climate, NRW is represented in the Benelux network of energy experts by the North Rhine-Westphalian agency Energy4Climate. In terms of climate protection, cooperation between the Benelux countries and NRW is set to continue within the framework of the Benelux climate platform established during COP25 in Madrid. As far as industrial competitiveness is concerned, the highly industrialised Benelux countries and NRW are exploring strategies and tools to support the economy in this innovation process. On hydrogen, best practice is being exchanged to develop cross-border infrastructure.

Inspiring sustainable mobility

In the field of transport and logistics, NRW has been involved in strategic consultations for several years. Many coordinated exchanges are in place to support sustainable mobility, including in the field of cross-border infrastructure for fast cycling routes or environmental zones, for example. The Mobility as a Service (MaaS) project evaluates the joint potential of using digital technologies for interoperability across borders in the mobility sector. The decarbonisation of heavy goods transport, which will require adapted infrastructure, is another theme on which the regions are cooperating.

Further digitalisation

NRW is also involved in document-free inland navigation and smart shipping pilot projects. These initiatives aim to make inland navigation on smaller vessels and waterways economically viable.

More specifically, in the area of trade and digitalisation, NRW is involved in negotiations on appropriate measures to combat the illegal use of fireworks and precursors. As for artificial intelligence, NRW brings significant know-how to the table for certain sectors such as transport and logistics, healthcare and agriculture. The same applies to the circular economy.

Good police cooperation between the Benelux countries and North Rhine-Westphalia is an important prerequisite for fighting regular and organised cross-border crime. For that reason, NRW has been specifically involved in police cooperation initiatives for several years. These include joint training and the development of a common protocol between the Benelux and NRW for control rooms in the context of cross-border operations. Combating cybercrime and drugs are other important topics on which the regions are cooperating.

In the field of crisis management, NRW is a member of the strategic consultation body. It actively participates in structural and operational cooperation between crisis centres to exchange information in real time during incidents, disasters or crises. NRW also contributes to the cross-border deployment of rescue services, cross-border risk analysis, and emergency response to fire and personal injury. Finally, NRW participates in the exchange of information and experience on topics related to the management of major disruptive situations (power cuts, etc.), floods and pandemics.

When it comes to the fight against fraud, NRW is involved in a multidisciplinary approach (tax, customs and veterinary authorities) to combat tax fraud in the elite horse trade.

Health and environmental protection

On food safety, including animal medicines and animal feed, NRW (and the German federal government) is working closely with the Benelux countries to improve safety for citizens.

In the field of hunting, the threat of African swine fever remains a priority that requires continuous exchange and coordination of measures between partners.

In combating air pollution, the relationship between air quality and public health plays an important role, not only in urban areas, but also with regard to the broader layer of polluted air over the Benelux and NRW — hence the need for cross-border cooperation.

Simplifying our cross-border work

To remove the remaining obstacles to creating a cross-border labour market, the partners must coordinate the implementation of concrete measures. NRW has been actively contributing to this as a member of the strategic consultations on labour mobility for some time. Transferability and comparison of professional qualifications and provision of comparable labour market data as a basis for labour market analysis in the border region are just some of the areas the partners have been exploring. Finally, the optimisation of personalised and digital services, and the provision of information to border commuters should also yield concrete results.