Establishing cross-border co-operation between professional organizations

Published on
July 15, 2014


Princen, S., Geuijen, K., Candel, J., Folgerts, O. & Hooijer, R. (2014). Establishing cross-border co-operation between professional organizations: police, fire brigades and emergency health services in Dutch border regions. European Urban and Regional Studies (ONLINE FIRST).


This article explores the conditions under which local and regional governments will establish and sustain cross-border co-operation in the fields of police, fire fighting and emergency health services. It argues that understanding this type of cross-border co-operation requires a focus on the way in which professionals define and apply their professional standards in cross-border contexts. Moreover, it requires a focus on individual organizations and professionals working in them, rather than ‘government’ or ‘the state’ as a whole, since cross-border co-operation in these areas typically develops as a result of disparate and unconnected initiatives taken by governmental actors in a given border region.

Based on four studies of cross-border co-operation in Dutch border regions, we argue that differences in legal, organizational and cultural backgrounds between the participating countries can be and are overcome by street-level professionals and their organizations, who act as ‘regionauts’ in exploring opportunities for cross-border co-operation. In this type of ‘bottom-up’ cross-border co-operation, motivation among participants is the key to establishing co- operation, and solutions to differences between work routines will be developed along the way.

As a result, the establishment of cross-border co-operation often is an experimental, pragmatic enterprise, which is greatly affected by local intra- and inter-organizational dynamics. This opens the potential for pragmatic, flexible and creative solutions. Yet, at the same time it also runs the risk of producing unaccountable cross-border arrangements that are insufficiently embedded in legal and professional safeguards against error and abuse.