The COVID-19 pandemic as a catalyst for cross-border cooperation? What have we learnt for border-regional resilience?

Our recent study addresses border-regional resilience in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and focuses on German border regions. The main objective is to shed light on vulnerability, resistance, adaptability, and recoverability in the border-regional context. Our key questions are: To what extent were the German border regions affected and what differences can be seen among them? What impact does the pandemic have on future resilience of cross-border cooperation? What options do border regions have to better prepare for future crises?


In our paper, we visualize border controls and closures between 2020 and 2021 along the German border. Here, we build on ‘crisis timelines’, illustrating major differences and asymmetrical patterns.

With insights of 104 crisis-specific assessments by border-regional experts (so-called ‘two-staged Delphi survey’) we investigate the resilience of cross-border cooperation. The results indicate that the border regions with German involvement were highly vulnerable to the pandemic in the short term and, therefore, had low resistance to its effects. Regarding adaptability and recoverability, the comparative approach illustrates numerous similarities and differences between the border regions. In particular, the long-term perspective is key for future activities in cross-border cooperation and border-regional resilience. From the border-regional perspective, it is essential to apply the pandemic’s lessons to reduce still-existing obstacles and the vulnerability of border regions. In short, we conclude that three key needs for the strengthening of border-regional resilience were highlighted by the pandemic: increased cross-border multi-level communication at all levels, permanent crisis contact points for border-regional affairs at the national level, and ongoing learning from border-regional best practices.

Moreover, we conclude that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a ‘catalyst function’ for cooperation in border regions. The Delphi results demonstrate that the crisis has raised awareness of the necessity of integrated cross-border cooperation at all levels. That is a new perspective in the scientific debate on border-regional resilience, as the harmful effects of the pandemic have been the main topic of previous analysis and discussion. Based on our Delphi survey, it is not far-fetched to conclude that German border regions will see a long-term profit from the heavy crisis due to a push for border-regional resilience.


The results of this paper are part of the research project ‘CoBo – Cohesion in Border Regions’ which is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

To cite this article: Stefan Hippe, Dominik Bertram & Tobias Chilla (2022) The COVID-19 pandemic as a catalyst for cross-border cooperation? Lessons learnt for border-regional resilience, Europa XXI, 43, 1. DOI:

Alternatively have a look at ResearchGate.