Back to back, or shaking hands? Post-enlargement cross-border labour mobility in the border triangle Germany-Poland-Czech Republic
Germany's Eastern border regions could be characterized as peripheral and rural areas that diverge in terms of territorial development from Germany's prosperous regions. The EU accession of Poland and the Czech Republic in 2004, and the subsequent introduction of free movement of labour in 2011, gave hope to these regions that the EU integration could support a repositioning as central area in the enlarged Europe. This hope is in line with the EU's Territorial Cohesion Policy which aims at convergence and balancing of territorial development. Regional stakeholders in Germany expected that actors formerly standing back to back would quickly turn around and shake hands across borders.
Using an in-depth case study of the EURES-TriRegio, located in the border triangle between Germany, Poland and The Czech Republic, we will challenge the common understanding of a free movement of labour as driver of cross-border regions' integration and convergence. Examining statistical data, we will show that cross-border labour mobility has not increased as strong as expected. Based on interviews with labour market experts and local policy makers in all three parts of the border region, we will highlight barriers for regional cross-border integration. Finally, we will reflect the findings in the light of Martinez' (1994) Model of Borderland Interactions and the developments at Germany's Western borders.