In its Plenary Assembly on Wednesday 29 June 2022, the Economic and Social Council of Luxembourg (ESC) unanimously adopted a flagship Opinion titled "Pour un développement cohérent de la métropole transfrontalière du Luxembourg dans la Grande Région" (For a coherent development of the cross-border metropolis of Luxembourg in the Greater Region).
The ESC Working Committee in charge of the design and drafting of this Opinion, which contains in particular 23 reasoned recommendations on the subject, was co-chaired by Jean-Claude Reding and Michel Wurth; Vincent Hein was the Rapporteur.
Based on the observation that the economic development of the Grand Duchy is part of an area that goes beyond its national borders, the Opinion focuses on the aspects related to this model of cross-border territorial development which represents both opportunities and challenges for the socio-economic development of Luxembourg. It aims to formulate recommendations to make this development more coherent and sustainable in the long term.
Several major findings prompted the ESC to formulate recommendations for a more coherent development of the cross-border metropolis of Luxembourg:
• Economic and social divergences remain very strong in the Greater Region, despite very advanced economic integration;
• Many economic and social interactions, but also associated issues, are concentrated at the level of a cross-border territory (functional area) which goes far beyond the borders of Luxembourg, but which remains more restricted than that of the Greater Region. A coherent development of this territory, which resembles a cross-border metropolis, is a necessary condition, according to the ESC, for the sustainable development of Luxembourg;
• Most of the "institutionalised" cross-border cooperation policies are either State-to-State or within the very broad multilateral framework of the Greater Region, and only partially overlap with the high-stakes territory of the cross-border metropolis of Luxembourg;
• The dynamics of economic and demographic growth reveal bottlenecks which will be increasingly problematic for economic and social development, and also for the environmental situation of Luxembourg. It seems difficult, according to the ESC, to address some of these issues without better cross-border coordination with neighbouring territories;
• It is in the economic interest of Luxembourg that the territory of the cross-border metropolis be organised in a more coherent way and that the bordering regions (in which many Luxembourgers live) benefit from a better attractiveness and increased quality of life;
• The bordering regions only seem to benefit partially from Luxembourg's economic dynamism, the ESC found, resulting in sometimes very strong disparities in development at the borders and calling for a certain rebalancing;
• The current territorial development model reveals strong interdependencies for Luxembourg and its neighbours, with disadvantages and advantages sometimes shared by all and sometimes divergent, which makes cooperation easy in certain areas, but can complicate it in others.
These findings plead for a new state of mind and the implementation of new objectives in cross-border cooperation policies between Luxembourg and the neighboring regions.
The ESC's Opinion presents five main objectives that such a policy could seek to achieve:
• Take concrete action on the opportunities to create "critical mass effects" by pooling and networking resources (human, financial, projects, etc.) in order to make the cross-border metropolis of Luxembourg more competitive and attractive;
• Seek a dynamic of socio-economic convergence between the territories to limit the vulnerabilities associated with the excessive polarisation of activities, in particular by creating "secondary" poles in the cross-border region;
• Put in place new mechanisms to encourage all stakeholders to invest more in border territories with a view to promoting the infrastructural framework, the quality of equipment and a coherent development of these areas;
• Contribute to strengthening the territorial cohesion policy of the European Union (EU) and the image of the territory by testing pilot cross-border schemes;
• Support the ecological transition of the cross-border metropolitan area.
The first part of this Opinion offers a summary of the current challenges of the territorial development of the cross-border metropolis of Luxembourg. The second part describes the main projects and bodies that make up the current framework for cross-border cooperation between Luxembourg and the neighbouring territories. It also offers a description of cooperation in other cross-border areas, in particular that of Greater Geneva, where a cross-border territory project has been established and operates with tools that do not currently exist in the cross-border metropolis of Luxembourg. Finally, the third part of this Opinion formulates 23 recommendations for a cooperation policy in the service of a more coherent cross-border territorial project. They aim to bring out a project for the cross-border metropolis of Luxembourg which will go through new objectives in terms of cross-border cooperation, based on five pillars: regional planning and mobility, cross-border economic development, social and health policies, training as well as changes to promote in terms of governance and experimentation.
With this Opinion, the ESC has expressed its wish to raise awareness within the Luxembourg Government as well as among civil society and all decision-makers on the need to better take into account the cross-border issues which have become of paramount importance for the sustainable development of the Grand Duchy in the long term. The ESC has also called on the government to integrate the intermediary bodies of the Greater Region (ESC, the Economic and Social Committee of the Greater Region - CESGR and the social partners) in this process.
- Develop a territorial project for the cross-border metropolis
- Translate the conclusions of the territorial development plan for the Greater Region (SDTGR) into the master programme for territorial development (PDAT) and encourage neighbouring regions to have the same approach
- Implement mechanisms for sharing information and reciprocal participation on development projects that may have a cross-border impact
- Strengthen equipment projects of common interest in municipalities close to borders where they are insufficiently developed
- Identify mobility infrastructure priorities for the coming decades
- Develop pilot telework centres in the border regions of Luxembourg, in addition to the centre projects within the country's borders
- Aim for more balanced economic development
- Develop cross-border economic development agencies to promote a cross-border business model
- Develop cross-border activity zones
- Seek better integration of research and innovation policies
- Study the development potential of logistics platforms of common interest
- Create joint training centres for medical personnel
- Develop organised zones for access to cross-border healthcare (ZOAST)
- Relax the recognition criteria for providers of childcare service vouchers (Chèque-Service Accueil - CSA) to increase the number of eligible cross-border creches
- Consider the recommendations already formulated by the ESC in terms of cross-border vocational training
- Multiply "co-diploma" Masters when critical mass cannot be achieved in a single territory of the cross-border area
- Consider shared management of professional training (initial and continuous) in the most "critical" sectors
- Strengthen cross-border educational projects and implement ambitious changes and experiments in governance
- Apply certain provisions of the draft European Cross-Border Mechanism (ECBM) Regulation
- Set up new cross-border groups in strategic territories
- Improve the legal and fiscal framework for cross-border teleworking
- Create cross-border activity zones with a specific status
- Create funds dedicated to cross-border cooperation
The Opinion is available (in French) on the ESC website: https://ces.public.lu/content/dam/ces/fr/avis/themes-europeens/gr-developpement-coherent.pdf