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Tourism at borders under debate in Brussels



Satu Mare County Intercommunity Development Association takes part in a meeting with European Institutions to boost tourism at border regions.

Brussels, 5th November 2019. – Tourism represents more than 10% of EU GDP. A sustained growth of 3.2% per year in number of visitors and revenues, in 2017, of 342 billion euros, according to the 2018 report of the World Tourism Organization, makes it one of the main economic engines of the European Union, not only of the main European capitals, but also of the peripheral territories. These territories are also, in many cases, cross-border, which gives added value to their tourism offer that usually has a differentiating profile based on heritage, culture, nature and oenology.

However, this tourism encounters several problems that hinder its development. Although limitations on tourism such as roaming have already been solved, connectivity or logistics problems, such as the rental of a vehicle in one country and its return in another, persist; as well as difficulties in the conservation of heritage and its promotion as a tourist destination, are still pending solution.

Current dynamics prioritize quantity over quality. Thus, governments’ strategy is based on promoting the great traditional destinations to be able to present large numbers, relegating the strategic commitment to other territories that would allow diversifying the positive impact of tourism and reducing its negative impact already experienced by some European cities such as Lisbon, Barcelona or Venice, among others, for the tourist massification.

In the last 3 years, Satu Mare County Intercommunity Development Association has participated in the EPICAH project, financed within Interreg Europe programme. In this context, a team of experts coming from 8 European border regions have analysed problems and opportunities for the development in the field of tourism at border regions.

Two of the main conclusions of the work done are:

1 – Europe needs a Framework Programme for Tourism, placing especial attention to a possible subprogramme about Tourism in Border Regions.

2 – Europe needs policies to protect and promote natural and cultural heritage. Now, the absence of a European heritage policy is camouflaged under the UNESCO policies that promote the protection of heritage, but which has no powers to prevent its deterioration or the consequences of aggressive urban planning.

Therefore, after the previous debate that took place at the Forum of European Border Tourism, held in May in Braga, in morning of 5th November 2019 the Eixo Atlantico convened a meeting at the Committee of the Regions premises in Brussels, a meeting attended by representatives of the 8 regions involved in the EPICAH project, 16 MEPs from these regions, a member of the unit in charge of tourism at DG GROW (Internal Market and Entrepreneurship), members of the Permanent Representations ahead EU from the countries concerned and member of the Committee of the Regions.

At this meeting, MEPs were asked to assume and defend the idea of creating a real tourism policy for the EU, boosting the protection of natural and cultural heritage.

During the meeting, issues such as the revision of the Air Safety Directive at airports have been raised regarding liquids that seriously harm local markets since it prevents travellers, almost all of them with cabin baggage due to companies’ imperative, which obliges them, practically, to consume in the duty free of the airports due to the impossibility of carrying in their hand luggage liquids of more than 100 ml. This situation implies a strong damage to the products of the traditional markets of Europe such as wines and spirits, oils, jams or cosmetic products, among others. The Schengen regulations hinder the cross-border tourism and development of thematic routes.

The Satu Mare County Intercommunity Development Association was represented by its president Pataki Csaba, Nicoleta Laşan- the executive manager,  Paul  Dancu–assistant project coordinator within the project, Cristina Ilieş- project local financial officer and Bogdan Georgescu-member of the local stakeholders group.

The meeting was attended by Romanian MEPs Marian Jean Marinescu and Iuliu Winkler.

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The European tourism needs financing, and the SMEs in the field need the simplifying of procedures for accessing the European funds, was the message transmitted by Mr. Iuliu Winkler. Mr.Pataki Csaba, expressed the hope that in the future MFF cross-border cooperation programs will receive consistent funding: “I hope that in the post MFF 2021, if we do not have a separate focus for tourism, we will still have more resources for cross-border programs so that the border regions can better value their natural and built heritage. Europe is the first tourist destination in the world, but the most important thing is that European tourism policy has the gift of bringing citizens closer to the EU.”

The project EPICAH aims to promote the improvement of the policy instruments for crossborder natural and cultural heritage protection and development, through the exchange of experiences and good practices between partners with large experience in developing strategies, projects and actions in this field based on crossborder cooperation processes. Within this project, the policy makers and technicians responsible for protection and promotion of natural and cultural heritage in the Satu Mare County have the possibility to participate in exchanges of experience in the field of preservation, protection, promotion and development of natural and cultural heritage and to learn new methods to approach for a more efficient management process of crossborder natural and cultural heritage. The project is financed through the Interreg  Europe Programme with a total budget  of 1.707.360 EUR of which benefits a grant in value of 1.451.256 EUR from the European Regional Development Fund and has a implementation period of 5 years.