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The Bottom-Up Approach: Experiences with the Impact Assessment of EU and National Legislation in the German, Dutch and Belgian Cross-Border Regions

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Considering the myriad cross-border regions that the EU counts, it is impossible for the European Commission to map detailed territorial cross-border effects in all of the EU’s border regions for the impact assessments it conducts. National governments also face obstacles when seeking to cohesively integrate cross-border impact assessments in the existing frameworks that they use to assess the impact of new legislative, policy and enforcement measures. Even border regions or cross-border entities themselves face challenges in implementing impact assessments in their own territories. Despite the need for structural analyses of the border effects of newly adopted legislation and legislation under review, in terms of policy and enforcement, there are issues regarding the availability of academic resources, relevant tools and know-how. For the last couple of years, researchers from Maastricht University have been assessing as a bottom up exercise the potential effects of legislative proposals on the specific Dutch/German and Dutch/Belgium cross-border territories. This article presents the methodology used and the experiences gained from 2016 to 2019 by highlighting a number of interesting cases. It also offers future ideas for conducting similar “bottom-up” regulatory territorial impact assessments in cross-border regions.


  • Territorial impact assessment
  • Cross-border impacts
  • Legislative scrutiny
  • Border regions
  • Euro-regions
  • Germany/Netherlands/Belgium

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-54502-4_6
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  1. 1.

    The Institute for Transnational and Euregional cross border cooperation and Mobility was established at Maastricht University in 2015.

  2. 2.

    In this chapter, we will use the term cross-border region or cross-border territory. As shown in the section on methodology, the idea is not to conduct impact assessments for ‘border regions’ but for ‘cross-border’ regions or territories. The term ‘border region’ refers to a national perspective, whereas effects on cross-border regions transcend individual national views.

  3. 3.

    Whereas the European Commission’s ‘Better regulation for better results – An EU agenda’ Communication, COM(2015) 215 final of 19 May 2015 does not explicitly mention the territorial dimension, it is described in Chapter III of the Guidelines on impact assessment on page 31. See: As part of the Impact Assessment toolbox, the European Commission has described how to assess territorial impacts under ‘tool 33’. The toolbox can be found here: All pages last accessed on 22 July 2019.

  4. 4.

    This definition can be found on DG Regio’s homepage under the heading ‘Territorial Impact Assessment’: (last accessed on 22 July 2019)

  5. 5.

    Directive 2013/55/EU as amended by Directive 2005/36/EC.

  6. 6.

    The full list of obligations can be found on the homepage of the Ministry of Justice and Security,

  7. 7.

    As early as 2015, the Dutch Minister of Interior and Kingdom Relations promised the Dutch Parliament (Tweede Kamer) that he would investigate the necessity of establishing an interdepartmental cross-border impact assessment (Brief van de Minister van Binnenlandse Zaken en Koningrijkrelaties aan de Voorzitter van de Tweede Kamer der Staten-Generaal, Den Haag, 3 February 2015).

  8. 8.

    In 2019, the Ministry of Interior and Kingdom Relations asked Maastricht University (ITEM) to produce certain guidelines for a regulatory impact assessment of effects on the Dutch border regions.

  9. 9.

    The Dutch Province of Limburg shares a longer border with neighbouring countries Germany and Belgium than it does with the rest of the Netherlands.

  10. 10.

    For summaries of the annual ITEM Cross-border Impact Assessments and the final reports of the individual dossiers, visit the ITEM website:

  11. 11.

    The Dutch coalition agreement was presented on 10 October 2017.

  12. 12.

    A closer look suggests that even the ‘indisputable’ objective of economic growth could be called into question in light of sustainable development and climate change. The question of whether the expansion of airports and air traffic is a positive or negative development is a case in point.

  13. 13.

    The Transfrontier Euro-Institut Network (TEIN), formed in 2010, brings together 15 partners from 9 border regions in Europe. Its unique feature is that it consists of universities, research institutes and training centres which are dedicated to the practical business of cross-border cooperation in Europe. See: A TEIN workshop on 10 October 2019 is dedicated to cross-border impact assessment.


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Correspondence to Martin Unfried .

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Unfried, M., Kortese, L., Bollen-Vandenboorn, A. (2020). The Bottom-Up Approach: Experiences with the Impact Assessment of EU and National Legislation in the German, Dutch and Belgian Cross-Border Regions. In: Medeiros, E. (eds) Territorial Impact Assessment . Advances in Spatial Science. Springer, Cham.

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