Cross-border cooperation and governance


How to organize cooperation

Decentralized government agencies are increasingly cooperating across borders. When municipalities or regions have shared ambitions or encounter the same issues, cross-border cooperation is certainly needed in the search for solutions. The priorities of the European Commission – for instance ‘A European Green Deal’ and ‘A Europe Fit For The Digital Age’ – also require cross-border cooperation.

Government bodies are therefore facing the challenge of how best to organize this cooperation. After all, the local context and legal frameworks in which municipalities and regions operate on different sides of a border may vary considerably. Not just in terms of language and culture, but also because there are fewer opportunities to meet when you do not work in the same country.

Creating public value together

To help you meet these challenges, Berenschot supports and guides joint vision and strategy programmes to realize public value across borders. We also help you to design and structure appropriate governance processes for collaborative projects and to implement them in practice. We see cooperation not as an end, but a means to achieve substantive goals (public value). While the Public Value model developed by Mark Moore (Harvard) illustrates the dimensions of public value, it does not provide any clarity on how you should operate as a government agency. The how is at the core of our service provision: advice on how you can jointly define the desired public value outcome and the organizational structures and steering needed to achieve cross-border cooperation.

Current issues


Governance Green Deal

By definition, climate change is a cross-border challenge which cannot be solved solely at national or local levels. A coordinated approach is needed to achieve the climate goals set for 2030 and 2050. For instance, to try to make the energy transition both effective and affordable. At this time, the full scope of the specific policy measures envisaged by the European Commission is not yet clear. What is clear is that they want to promote smart infrastructure and cross-border cooperation on energy issues, such as the development of a European hydrogen network.

Berenschot can support you in setting up cross-border cooperation and governance in the framework of the Green Deal and to structure this efficiently and effectively. Naturally, this includes a focus on the legitimacy of the governance and consensus from the direct stakeholders and the general public.

Governance and cross-border infrastructure

The blurring of borders when it comes to the labour market, housing market, culture and healthcare creates opportunities to make much better use of the economic potential of border regions. Cross-border infrastructure is essential to achieve this and, in turn, requires effective collaboration between regional and national governments and clear governance.

Berenschot can help you to design and structure cooperation and governance processes to realize a range of cross-border projects, including infrastructure. As an illustration: we are currently leading the research phase to develop a cross-border rail project in the North Sea Port area between Ghent and Terneuzen. This is a joint assignment from a Dutch-Belgian port and regional partners from Belgium and the Netherlands with European co-funding. We have designed a cross-border project structure in which the Dutch and Belgian regions and municipalities work together. A binational steering group and core team manage the substantive aspects, the agreements related to joint funding and concerted decision-making processes; Berenschot acts as project lead.

The assignment is leading

Governments are increasingly feeling the need to take a concerted and integrated approach when working on assignments whose scope goes beyond their own policy and geographical boundaries. Effective cooperation calls for approaches which prioritize the collective nature of the assignment over individual tasks and responsibilities. On cooperative cross-border projects it is especially important for all parties to speak the same language on the substance of the project.

Berenschot can help you to put the assignment first when working on cross-border initiatives. For instance, in late 2019 we developed an approach and methodology for the Dutch province of Noord-Brabant to ensure that multiple actors can work together using a common language when it comes to substance, and that steering is driven by public value. To do so, we jointly defined the desired public value, the assignment(s) and the corresponding goals, results, and activities.

Partners and team

Berenschot can draw on an extensive network of trusted partners including IFOK (Germany) and the RAND Corporation  (United Kingdom and Brussels). We also work with various academic institutions including the University of Groningen and TIAS Management School (Tilburg).

We also have substantial in-house experience and expertise available from our many governance specialists and content experts.

Would you like to know more?

If your municipality or region faces a cross-border challenge and you would like to know more about the best ways to design cooperation and governance, please contact

They will be happy to give you further information.

Jeroen Boot_klein

Jeroen Boot

Managing consultant
+31 (0) 657 59 52 49
j.boot@berenschot.nl