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Services in western EU border areas hardest hit by COVID restrictions - study

Trans-frontier measures are beneficial say ESPON researchers

(ANSA) - BRUSSELS, JUN 27 - Many European States temporarily closed their borders to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and imposed restrictive measures on passenger traffic, only allowing commuters through.
    As a result, the residents of frontier areas found themselves suddenly unable to access a series of retail, educational, health and cultural facilities on the other side of the border.
    The was a shock for suppliers of services, who saw demand for their products and services plummet.
    Not all of Europe's border areas, however, were hit in the same way by the frontier closures and the restrictive measures.
    According to a study by the ESPON research programme specialising in regional-policy analysis, the border regions of the Benelux countries, of Germany, those on the east of Austria and those along the Spanish- Portuguese border experienced the biggest impacts.
    The intensity of the effects in central-eastern Europe and among the Baltic States was different, although sporadically so.
    There was almost no impact, on the other hand, between the Nordic countries, and along the borders in the Alps and the Pyrenees.
    According to the researchers, the impact of the restrictive measures depended on various factors, such as the number of border crossings, the quality of the road network and the distribution (and sometimes asymmetry) of the service facilities in the border areas.
    Furthermore, the whole of these factors generated different perceptions of the border closures among the peoples on either side of the frontier.
    There are border areas in Europe that depend to a large degree on the structures on the other side, the researchers observed, recommending political decision-makers to see crossings and services as strategic elements, especially for these frontier zones.
    On this front, trans-frontier measures could contribute in a significant way to guaranteeing these services, for example, under the form of cross-border public services, in order to make them accessible to users on the other side in all circumstances.
    The researchers concluded that greater permeability between borders in relation to services of general interest would benefit the interested countries.
    On one hand, it would increase (potential) demand and, in the cases of public structures such as schools. nurseries and hospitals, it could also generate economies of scale and contribute to ensuring long-term provision.
    On the other hand, it would improve the accessibility of the services and, therefore, supply. (ANSA).
   

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