May 25, 2019

“SaarLorLux“ as a laboratory for the European Union

By H.E. Dr. Heinrich Kreft, Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.

“SaarLorLux” also called the “Greater Region”, consisting of the sovereign state of Luxembourg; Belgium’s Walloon region, comprising the French and German speaking parts of Belgium; Lorraine, a region of France; the French départements Moselle and Meurthe-et- Moselle; and the German federal states of Saarland and Rhineland-Palatinate is the EU’s area with the highest cross-border mobility. More than 240.000 people cross the national borders of Luxembourg, Germany, France and Belgium every day.

The close bonds between today’s border regions share a history of more than 2000 years: as early as in the Roman era, a ferry connected the Luxembourgish Wasserbillig with the German Oberbillig.

Today’s Greater Region has gradually evolved from the European Border Region SaarLorLux comprising the Saarland, Lorraine and Luxembourg. Coined in the late 1960s by Dr. Hubertus Rolshoven, founding president of the Institut Régional Intracommunautaire, SaarLorLux was formally founded in 1980. The EU acknowledges the region’s role as nucleus of European integration by supporting the euroregion’s activities within the framework of the INTERREG-programme.  

Nowadays, boundary-crossing cooperation of public administrations and institutions exists in a wide range of areas. Multilingualism – Luxembourgers speak at least the national language Luxembourgish and the two official languages German and French – is not only the key to transnational collaboration but also to the emergence of a cultural life irrespective of national borders.

Being the first of its type in Europe, the cross-border cultural portal plurio.net was created in 2006 in order to promote transfrontier cultural activities. Under the motto “crossing borders together”, 2007 marked the year where the title “European Capital of Culture” wasn’t attributed to a city alone but to an entire region; the Greater Region – another first in the history of Europe.

Beyond that, infrastructure constitutes a further area of transnational cooperation – in large or small. In large, the town partnership between Luxemburg, Saarbrücken, Trier and Metz, QuattroPole, connects four cities in three countries and promotes the formulation of innovative shared strategic policies. Moreover, during its presidency of the summit of the Greater Region, Luxembourg developed a transboundary mobility strategy with a view to facilitating the use of public transportation in the border areas. In small, the Sankta Maria II, today’s ferry connection between Wasserbillig and Oberbillig, allows to save 14.000 liters of diesel fuel by connecting Luxembourg and Germany electrically. 

As German Ambassador to Luxembourg I am seeing the benefits of an enhanced cooperation beyond national borders in my daily life. The emergence of SaarLorLux and its evolution into today’s Greater Region is not only a prime example of transfrontier cooperation, but can – in view of its historic development and the added value it generates for its population – also be seen as laboratory for the European Union. The EU is – and not only in Europe –  perceived as the guarantor for more than seventy years of peace, freedom and prosperity for its members.

EU citizens hold it in their hands by voting for pro-European parties at the European Elections between May 23-26 that this success story can continue!

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