Health Policy in Cross-border Cooperation Practices: The Role of Euroregions and Their Local Government Members

DOI: 10.1080/21622671.2015.1114962
Publication Type: 
Journal Article
Published online: 18 Jan 2016.
Journal Title: 
Territory, Politics, Governance
Published online: 18 Jan 2016.
Published online: 18 Jan 2016.
The support for local cross-border cooperation in Europe has been built on the premises of new cross-border institutions (Euroregions) as primarily responding to policy problems that cannot be dealt with effectively within the national contexts, expressed as ‘filling the gaps’. One area with significant gains to be made by cooperating across borders is health policy. This article discusses the extent to which health policy has (not) become an activity in cross-border practices, and what the potential is for Euroregions to facilitate this. The article first relies on previous research in combination with a mapping exercise of 53 current structures to demonstrate that despite well-advertised ‘best practices’, the overall level of health cooperation is relatively low. It then looks into the motivations for cooperation and policy priorities of participating local governments. The empirical data consist of interviews with mayors of local governments in six Euroregions, located at three national borders (Sweden–Norway, Hungary–Slovakia and Austria–Germany). The analysis points to attitudes related to frustration, a sense of institutional inappropriateness and cognitive distances playing a role in the low salience of health policy. The article therefore argues that cooperation in the health area will derive from policy activity from other actors than Euroregions.