Borderlands as Functional Spaces
Borderlands are not always marginal or peripheral areas that are poorly developed with bleak economic perspectives. They can also be places that function dynamically, with a high density of shopping centers and industrial production facilities resulting in job opportunities for locals and migrants. Further, borderlands are frequently characterized by a high degree of interdependency among regions within their own country and even more frequently with their neighboring borderlands.
In China, the 'special administrative regions' (SARs) (Figure 3) on the internal Chinese border between Mainland China and both Hong Kong and Macao again demonstrates how state policies determine the permeability of borders and the economic dynamics. The city of Shenzhen, which has today about 12 million inhabitants, was built up as a 'special economic zone' with regard to the neighboring city Hong Kong within the last 27 years. Along the US–Mexican border, maquilas – usually situated on the Mexican side – attract people from peripheral areas of Mexico. Such factories take advantage of, for example, low labor costs and lower environmental standards. This idea of relocating the assembly process from one side of the border to another is not unique to the US–Mexican context. The area around Bratislava, Slovakia, adjacent to Austria, has become an attractive partner for selected European car manufacturers. Even when Slovakia became a member of the EU, it maintained its booming character. The Regio Basiliensis, referred to previously, is primarily a functional space based on a common interest to support the various bordercrossing activities of company owners and employees. Today, the Regio Basiliensis constitutes a highly integrated space, particularly in functional terms. Elsewhere as well, inhabitants live on one side of the border and work on the other, commuting back and forth as part of their daily routine.
However, economic activity alone does not produce a functional space. An exchange of know how between local authorities, the joint use of technical and educational infrastructure, and common environmental efforts are also required. The borderlands around Lake Constance (Germany, Austria, and Switzerland) have agreed on common ecological standards to protect the lake from pollution, thus promoting the border region as a single integrated tourist region. In Frankfurt (Oder) and Slubice on the German–Polish border, the University of Viadrina on the German side and the Collegium Polonicum on the Polish side were conceptualized as an integrated center for higher education. In other contexts, agreements have been signed to allow the fire brigade to cross the border in case of emergency and to give healthcenter access to people from both borderlands. Agreements have also been signed for the joint use of technical infrastructure such as sewage plants, highway corridors, and special facilities for trucks.