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Upper-Rhine (F, DE, CH)

Border Type?

  • “Old” European border between France and Germany
  • External border (France/Switzerland and Germany/Switzerland)
  • “Natural” border (Rhine)Click to see larger version of the Upper-Rhine region

Which entities constitute the CB region?

Which subnational areas are covered?

  • In France: Bas-Rhin and Haut-Rhin, the two districts representing the former Region Alsace and which, since the territorial reform of 2015, are parts of the Region Grand Est.
  • In Germany: Western part of the State (Land) Baden-Württemberg (9 districts/Landkreise) + Southern part of the State (Land) Rhineland-Palatinate (4 districts/Landkreise)
  • In Switzerland: 5 districts (Kantone) : Aargau, Basel-Stadt, Basel-Landschaft, Jura, Solothurn

What is the broader cross border perspective (the “Framework” of CB in your region)?


How is the territory defined? Is it defined through a political agreement, an INTERREG programme or isn’t there any fixed definition of “the” border region?

Territory defined through an international Treaty since 1975. For a long time the territory was divided in 2 INTERREG-Programs. Since 2007, only one INTERREG-Programme covers the whole Region.

Basic data of the border region:

  • Inhabitants: 6 Mio inhabitants
    • Alsace: 1 868 183 inhabitants
    • Northwest Switzerland: 1 453 287 inhabitants
    • South of Rhineland-Palatinate: 303 763 inhabitants
    • Baden: 2 448 597 inhabitants
  • Area of cooperation: 21 527 km²
  • Development hubs across the border:
    • in France: Strasbourg, Mulhouse, Colmar
    • in Germany: Freiburg, Karlsruhe
    • in Switzerland: Basel

Structure of economy

Former Region Alsace (Bas-Rhin + Haut Rhin) Northwest Switzerland South of Rhineland-Palatinate Baden Total
BIP 2014 Mio. € 54 928 89 606 8 495 92 125 245 153
BIP/Inhabitants 29 467€ 62 682€ 30 406€ 37 751€ 40 769€
  • Primary Sector:  0.7 % BIP
  • Secondary Sector :  32.6 % BIP
  • Tertiary Sector:  66.7 % BIP

Specificities of the economy in the border region

  • Finance (UDS…)
  • Chemical and pharmaceutical Industry (Novartis, Roche…)
  • Nanotechnologies
  • Life Sciences (Cross Border Network BioValley)
  • Green Energy technology
  • Engine Construction / Automobile Industry (e.g. Mercedes-Benz in Rastatt and in Wörth)
  • NTIC

“Standing” of the border region considered as a weak or strong region compared to the average of the national state?

Definitively a strong region; Alsace and Baden-Württemberg are among the wealthiest and most dynamic regions in their country as well as the Basel Region which is one of the biggest economic agglomerations within Switzerland

Links between the jurisdictions…

  • Cross-Border workers:  93 000 in the whole region – the most of them are commuting from France to Germany and Switzerland or from Germany to Switzerland
  • Cross Border higher education and research: very developed in the region (Universities-Network EUCOR ; TriRhenaTech, Science Pilar of the Trinational Metropolregion , bi- or tri-national degree programmes)
  • Cross-Border Consumers: very developed near the border (From Kehl to Strasbourg: 80 % consumers are French)

General specialties of the border region (e.g. common language, identity feeling etc.)

  • 3 languages: French, German and Switzerland-German
  • Importance of dialects which provide passive comprehension of the neighbouring language (especially for older generations)
  • Good understanding between populations and strong will of the administrations (and other actors) to cooperate
  • Awareness of the cultural and geographical proximity but difficult to speak from common identity yet

Governance – institutionalisation of cross border cooperation within the region:

Degree of cooperation:

Short history of cooperation structures:

  • After WW2: town partnerships + a couple of big projects like EuroAirport Bale/Mulhouse/Freiburg
  • Seventies: Institution-building (Upper-Rhine Conference 1975 as institutional framework based on an international agreement between France, Germany and Switzerland)
  • Nineties: Strong development of the cooperation and diversification of the involved actors through INTERREG-Programme + Upper-Rhine-Assembly
  • Beginning of the 2000’ : Creation of 4 sub-areas of cooperation (Eurodistricts)
  • End of the 2000’: Reform of the governance-model – Creation of the “Tri-national Metropolregion” = Better integration of non-administrative-actors (actors of the economy, science and innovation and civil-society) in the governance structures + better coordination and building of complementarities between Upper-Rhine-level and Eurodistrict-level + better coordination of political/administration actors

Public or private predomination?

  • Definitively public predomination. Since 2011 : opening to other actors (economy, science, civil society)


  • Upper-Rhine Conference with a lot of thematic committees (Culture, Environment, Economy, etc.) and a permanent secretariat : framework of the cooperation between administrations
  • Upper-Rhine Assembly  (2 x year) : 71 local/regional political representatives from F, D and CH
  • Trinational Metropolregion (Governance Modell since 2010 with 4 thematic networks : politic, economy, science, civil-society)
  • INTERREG-Programme
  • 4 Eurodistricts : local cooperation (e.g. Eurodistrict Strasbourg-Ortenau)
  • Euro-Institut (Training, Monitoring, Research and Advise/Consulting)
  • 4 INFOBEST (Information centre for cross-border workers and citizens)
  • CEC (Centre for European Consumer Protection/Rights)
  • CCPD  (Police and Customs Cooperation Centre)
  • Cross-Border Placement Office
  •  …and a lot of other networks and actors…

Main Developers and drivers of cross border co-operation:

  • INTERREG-Programme
  • Upper-Rhine Conference and Tri-national Metropolregion
  • Eurodistricts
  • Euro-Institut as support

Cross border project funding characteristics:

  • largely EU territorial cooperation funds
  • Tri-national fund of the Upper-Rhine Conference

Thematic focus:

  • Potential orientated cross border intervention approach in a lot of thematic areas

Major Projects in the cross border region:

  • Neurex+ (Neurosciences)
  • TRION (Energy & Climate)
  • TRISAN (Health)
  • Cross-border nursery
  • Cross border tramway line
  • Upper Rhine Valley (Tourism)
  • “Success without border” (Education & labour market)

Major challenges

  • Language issues
  • Fragmentation of cross-border structures (better coordination necessary)
  • No joint data available
  • Legal issues (different national law)
  • Reform Governance Modell – Better integration of non-administration-actors
  • Territorial reforms