• Meuse-Rhine Gazette

Cross-border crisis management during COVID-19 pandemic

NRW Minister for European Affairs Dr. Stephan Holthoff-Pförtner and Mayor of the city of Aachen Marcel Philipp met with representatives of border municipalities and crisis management teams in Aachen today to discuss the cross-border response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was agreed that border closures are not an effective tool against COVID-19. It is now necessary to ensure that borders remain open, despite the increase in the number of infections.

For those responsible in the border communities, tackling the COVID-19 regulations is a particular challenge. The requirements of each municipality must be aligned with those of neighbouring municipalities so that people on both sides of the border suffer as little additional disruption as possible.

The Mayor of Aachen, Marcel Philipp, the Minister for European Affairs of North Rhine-Westphalia, Dr Stephan Holthoff-Pförtner, had invited the Mayor of Aachen to the meeting to highlight these special tasks and how they should be carried out. Philipp hopes that the practical examples will influence future decisions of the North Rhine-Westphalia government on crisis management.

Petra Dassen-Housen from Kerkrade, Christoph von den Driesch from Herzogenrath and Luc Frank from Kelmis represented the mayors of the border municipalities with their experiences. The Prime Minister of the German-speaking Community, Oliver Paasch, Städteregionsrat Tim Grüttemeier, the head of Aachen's public order department, Annekathrin Grehling, and the head of Aachen's professional fire brigade, Jürgen Wolff, contributed their experiences from the crisis teams. Above all, however, they made it clear with concrete examples that the sometimes very creative but always legally correct solutions to both large and small problems were only possible because communication between them was open and two-way.

EMR Director Michael Dejozé introduced the discussion by pointing out the instruments with which the EMR is institutionalising this exchange. Much has gone very well, but there are still areas for learning and improvement.

Dejozé sees the fact that those in charge in the region know how to find each other well and that there is therefore rapid communication as a guarantee for successful crisis management. One of the results of the meeting is the wish that the short lines of communication between the actors continue to exist after the local elections in NRW. That is why personal meetings should be held as soon as possible and on a regular basis. Michael Dejozé and Stephan Holthoff-Pförtner immediately took up this suggestion.

The meeting also resulted in a joint statement:

"Border closures are not an effective remedy against COVID-19. The lesson we should have learned from the last few months is that border closures are the wrong way to go. Now it is important to ensure that borders remain open, despite the increase in the number of infections. We are confident that we will find a solution in the interests of the border region. After all, we have seen, particularly in recent months, how important cross-border networks are for residents' daily lives."

Photo: © Stad Aken / Andreas Herrmann

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