CBS has worked on the setting up of cross-border statistics since 2014. By teaming up with the statistical office in the German state of North Rhine Westphalia, for example, a joint labour market survey was carried out in the Dutch-German border region last year. In addition, CBS cooperates with euPrevent and municipal health service (GGD) of South Limburg in the joint production of health and welfare statistics in the Meuse-Rhine Euregion. This region encompasses the southern part of Limburg province in the Netherlands, the German region of Aachen and the Belgian provinces of Limburg and Liège. Another joint publication is due in the near future with regional data on the labour market in the northern Dutch-German border region, produced by CBS in partnership with the statistical office of Lower Saxony.
Van der Valk: ‘The compilation of statistics does not stop at the border. The lack of data can be a significant bottleneck in studies on transboundary issues. We observed this at the institute which was set up last year for this particular purpose, the Maastricht Institute for Transnational and Euregional cross-border cooperation and Mobility (ITEM). We know from the first border impact assessment by ITEM that there are very few data in a number of areas, including economy, education, transport, tourism, etc. This is why CBS and ITEM together with the the municipality of Vaals are opening a Euregional Data Center, which is concerned with looking across borders while producing regional data. The Netherlands, Belgium and Germany already collect regional data for national purposes, but these are not yet geared up to each other.’
According to Van der Valk, the standard national data on Dutch municipalities which are situated along the border with Germany or Belgium are often skewed. ‘Take Vaals, for instance, a small provincial town which lies adjacent to the Germany city of Aachen. Village residents there focus on Aachen for many of their activities. But figures on Vaals are based on Dutch sources, so they lack particular information. For example, the number of people living in Vaals but earning an income in Germany. Another example are facilities: Dutch national statistics show that there is no Dutch hospital around Vaals, while there is a hospital in Aachen only 3 kilometres from Vaals. And there are plenty of other examples, for instance, income and literacy rates. We hope the Euregional Data Center will help us in bringing more data to light.’
CBS, ITEM and the municipality of Vaals have now joined forces to jump start cross-border research. This will not be limited to Vaals alone; CBS can offer similar collaboration to other Dutch border municipalities and border regions, running from Groningen province in the north-east down to Zeeland province in the south-west. Van der Valk notes that differences exist among these border regions . ‘Every border region is a different story. That is why the emphasis will be placed on different aspects depending on the region. We are facing the challenge of funding as the production of cross-border statistics is not a part of the mainstream activities at statistical offices.’