On 19 October 2021, the 6th meeting of the Franco-Luxembourg Intergovernmental Commission to strengthen cross-border cooperation (IGC) took place in Esch-Belval. The delegation of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg was led by Ms Corinne Cahen, Minister for the Greater Region, and that of the French Republic by Mr Clément Beaune, Secretary of State for European Affairs.
Cross-border cooperation between Luxembourg and France has continued to intensify since the signing of the Franco-Luxembourgian agreement on strengthening cross-border cooperation on 26 January 2010. The original ten-year agreement was extended for another ten years in 2020.
Against the backdrop of the interconnectedness of living spaces in the Greater Region and, in particular, the ever-increasing number of cross-border workers living in France and working in Luxembourg - more than 110,000 in the first quarter of 2021 - the two parties reaffirmed their commitment to this intergovernmental framework to ensure the proper coordination of public policies and to define joint initiatives aimed at improving the daily lives of border residents and promoting the harmonious joint development of this common space.
The Covid pandemic19 brought the two partners even closer together, both in terms of continuity of cross-border flows and cooperation in health and civil protection. A new French-Luxembourg agreement on cross-border cooperation in health was signed, as was a cooperation agreement on emergency medical assistance.
A local implementation protocol between the Grand-Ducal Fire and Rescue Service (CGDIS) and the Regional Health Authority (ARS) is to be signed before the end of the year.
During the health crisis, the two countries were able to reach agreements on taxes and social security to facilitate telework. Telework has become an integral part of the daily lives of cross-border workers and has positive effects on reducing travel and the environmental footprint. In this context, the Commission welcomes the willingness of the two governments to work towards raising the tolerance threshold for tax purposes from 29 to 34 days. They will determine the possible modalities within 6 months. The Commission also welcomes the willingness to cooperate on the tax treatment of telework at European and international level (EU, OECD).
The mobility of cross-border workers is at the centre of interest of the IGC. Both parties emphasise collective and sustainable transport as the only way to ensure sustainable solutions for the growing flow of cross-border workers. Following its financial commitment of EUR 120 million in 2018, the Luxembourg side commits to providing an additional amount of EUR 110 million for the following railway measures:
- Construction of a maintenance centre in the metropolis of Metz and its connection to the network, with the Luxembourg contribution set at EUR 50 million;
- The automation or partial automation of train control and the associated communication system to improve robustness and/or capacity, provided that opportunity studies confirm interest (part of the ground infrastructure). In the event that interest is confirmed, the parties agree to meet in due course to decide on the deployment and funding strategy for this technology;
- To continue work on the railway projects financed under the 2018 Memorandum of Understanding.
- In this way, the two parties reaffirm their commitment to the principle of equal co-funding of infrastructure projects of common interest, adopted at the Franco-Luxembourg government seminar of 20 March 2018.
In addition, many new projects are in the pipeline:
- Commissioning of the P&R in Thionville-Metzange in spring 2021 and reorganisation of bus services, continuation of work on the P&R in Longwy and continuation of studies for the P&R at Thionville station;
- Currently studying the possibility of partially extending the free bus service on the Luxembourg side to 5 km beyond the Luxembourg border;
- Establishment of a working group to create a high volume cross-border bus corridor linking Esch-sur-Alzette (LU) with Audun-le-Tiche (FR), in good coordination with the multimodal mobility strategy of the cross-border metropolitan area, ensuring complementarity and interoperability of transport networks in the cross-border region;
- Establishment of cross-border cycle paths.
- The Luxembourg party also confirmed its willingness to continue funding the cross-border bus services operated by Luxembourg, which currently amounts to around 14 million euros per year.
- Both sides welcomed the dynamism of their cooperation in the field of training, where numerous projects are being developed:
- Reform of training courses preparing for the health professions in Luxembourg to meet the growing demand for health professionals;
- Strengthening of the training offer for nurse's aides by Luxembourg;
- Signing of an agreement to promote multilingualism, which concerns in particular the implementation of Luxembourgish language and culture courses in Lorraine by Luxembourgish teachers and the creation of an online offer to learn Lëtzebuergësch;
- Strengthening inter-university and hospital-university cooperation in the fields of medicine and healthcare by extending the additional protocol on scientific and university cooperation signed in 2018;
- Commitment from the Luxembourg side to finance the costs of clinical training of medical students from the 3rd year of the Bachelor of Medicine at the University of Luxembourg and the wish that the exchange will continue for the other years of training concerned;
- Development of a centre of excellence in Longwy for training in digital and new technologies, with the aim of networking and developing complementary training offers.
Both parties are pleased to sign the framework partnership agreement for Esch 2022, the European Capital of Culture, involving the Luxembourg municipalities Pro-Sud and the Communauté de Communes du Pays Haut-Val d'Alzette (CCPHVA). This is a good example of the joint development of culture, tourism and economy.
The Commission recognises the importance of the theme and history of the Cultural Route of the Fortified Towns of the Greater Region and supports the efforts currently being made to obtain certification of the Cultural Route by the Council of Europe.
The two parties also stressed the quality of their cooperation in the field of internal security, which is constantly being developed with the aim of protecting citizens. This willingness has led to the signing of several texts, including an agreement on cross-border radio communications with Belgium and the Memorandum of Understanding between the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and the French Republic on the setting up of a working group on police and customs cooperation under the auspices of the IGC. The Parties continue their regular exchanges on energy and security issues.
Aware of the importance of cross-border issues, the two Parties have undertaken to closely and regularly monitor the implementation of the conclusions adopted by this 6th Commission and to convene the next Commission in France in 2022.
Press release by the Ministry of Family Affairs, Integration and the Greater Region