Interview with the Department of Moselle and the Metz Eurometropolis

June 2023

Interview with the Department of Moselle and the Metz Eurometropolis

On the border between France, Germany and Luxembourg, the cross-border territory hosting the MOT’s general assembly on June 27th and 28th, 2023, in Metz is a hub for cross-border news, projects and issues. Joint interview with Patrick Weiten, president of the department of Moselle and former member of Parliament, and François Grosdidier, president of Metz Eurometropolis and mayor of Metz.

What are the cross-border issues in your territory and the obstacles to cooperation?

Patrick Weiten:
Moselle is one of the 4 French departments that shares a border with two other European states. It represented 3/4ths of the external borders of the former Lorraine Region. It includes 4/5ths of the Franco-Luxembourg border.

Every day, 100,000 Moselle residents cross the border to go to work. Moselle is the 2nd French department in terms of the number of cross-border workers. This is both an asset and a challenge for all those involved in the region.

Moselle is therefore at the heart of a cross-border area where there are real economic opportunities. In choosing to develop an innovative and ambitious cross-border policy, the department of Moselle has drawn on its strengths in human and territorial solidarity. In a special context that is unparalleled in France, it has developed local solutions, both with the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and with the German Länder.

François Grosdidier: The Metz Eurometropolis balances out its Luxembourgian counterpart, to the south and north of our shared living area. We face the same challenges in terms of higher education, health, training, employment, culture and mobility. With 10% of its working population working in the Grand Duchy, the Eurometropolis is also faced with a growing phenomenon that we need to take into account on a broad scale in Northern Lorraine. These cross-border workers face major mobility problems: congested motorways, overcrowded trains, etc. and have specific needs that we need to take into account: public service schedules, the need for information on their rights and duties, and so on. 

In terms of cooperation, one of the key features of our cross-border relationship is that our partner is a sovereign state with multiple stakeholders: the state, the region, the departments, and the local authorities. The question of governance is therefore a major one for building a shared vision of the development of our Nord-Lorrain territory with Luxembourg and for carrying out joint projects. We need, I believe even more than anywhere else, the French State to understand our situation in all its complexity and in all its dimensions, including territorial.

How can we respond to these challenges?

François Grosdidier: The Metz Eurometropolis wanted to offer a specific service to border workers in its area by creating its Maison du Luxembourg. The first task of the Maison du Luxembourg is to answer the questions of cross-border commuters by providing them with individual advice, online resources and events (webinars, themed afternoons, the Border Workers’ Village). All this work is only possible because we have managed to bring together and put in contact, in our area, all the institutional players and contacts likely to shed light on specific cross-border issues: CAF, Public Finances, CROUS, CARSAT, etc. In total, around twenty partners are involved in the Maison du Luxembourg initiative. We are also delighted to see our partnerships developing on the other side of the border. 

At the same time, the Eurometropolis is involved in strategic issues relating to cross-border issues. From developments in teleworking to the work being done to combat double taxation, from support for cooperation in education to the development of suitable transport infrastructure and services, the Eurometropolis is committed to serving the interests of the region and its residents on a daily basis.

Patrick Weiten: Since cross-border cooperation is in its DNA, as much because of its geographical location as its attachment to the values on which European integration is based, I proposed that the department of Moselle should be recognised as a French Eurodepartment. At my instigation, the Departmental Assembly unanimously decided on May 9th, 2019 to call for the extension of its powers in order to act more effectively and simplify the many partnerships with its European neighbours.

This should facilitate the development of responses that are specifically cross-border and pragmatic, since they are linked to the day-to-day realities of its inhabitants. This is already the case for cooperation between fire and rescue services, and for the development of a joint response to the shortage of labour in sectors under pressure.

As a legitimate player in human and territorial solidarity, I wanted the department of Moselle to take this cross-border dimension into account in all of its public policies.  As part of the Schumann legacy, the department is there for its inhabitants from the first smile to the last breath. It deploys innovative, ambitious and pragmatic solutions for them.

What are the latest developments and the cross-border projects you are working on? 

Patrick Weiten: Through its participation in various multilateral and bilateral cross-border cooperation bodies, as well as in the Monitoring Committee for the INTERREG VI A Grande Région programme, the department of Moselle is constantly involved in resolving everyday issues.

That's why hosting the MOT General Assembly will give us an opportunity to present our range of actions and concrete achievements.

François Grosdidier: Hosting the MOT General Assembly at the end of June, of course! We are delighted to be able to welcome stakeholders from regions that share our concerns and challenges. The Eurometropolis has also initiated a closer collaboration with the 16 public inter-municipal cooperation bodies (EPCI) of the Nord Lorrain region, which share a common set of challenges, foremost among which is the metropolisation of Luxembourg. It is important to have forums for exchange and coordination in order to provide coordinated responses to common problems. 

We also have major partnerships with Germany in the fields of business (World Trade Center Metz-Sarrebruck), higher education and culture. The forthcoming opening of new rail links should enable us to increase these exchanges. Metz is a city where you can follow your entire school curriculum, from nursery school to a PhD, in Franco-German courses: from our bicultural schools to the Franco-German campus of ENSAM or ISFATES, our ecosystem is built to take advantage of this cross-border commitment.

What are your priorities for the new Interreg 2021-2027 programme?

François Grosdidier: Interreg is a great opportunity to develop new partnerships. For this new programme, the City of Metz is leading a major project entitled "GRACE" (Great Region Artistic Cooperation), which aims to extend artistic education to all citizens of the Grande Région.

Patrick Weiten: Thanks to the strength of its experience over several decades and after leading the largest cross-border multilingualism project, SESAM GR, the department of Moselle is continuing its commitment to learning the languages of its neighbours through new initiatives: the ENGAGEMENT GR project, strengthening partnerships between Moselle and Saarland secondary schools, and working towards the creation of a Franco-Luxembourgian secondary school.

In terms of mobility, it is deploying environmentally-friendly solutions, in particular by campaigning for the reopening of passenger transport lines, making it easier for both cross-border workers and everyday users to get around, such as the Saar/Luxembourg rail link via Moselle.

To promote good living, the department of Moselle will also be carrying out a project on the prevention of dependency entitled Senior Activ 2. This project aims to develop a digital component and new practices for senior citizens with a view to care for them at home, as well as facilitating the work of carers.

This is also the case for the Bliesbruck-Reinheim European Archaeological Park, an open-air laboratory for local Franco-German cooperation. Thanks to its recognition as a functional area within the Interreg Grande Région programme and the creation of a multi-level cross-border association, it will be possible to overcome the border effect in the organisation of joint activities on either side of the Franco-German border, thus allowing for the application of exemption and experimentation clauses as envisaged in the Treaty of Aachen.

More info on the MOT's general assembly

Copyright photo: P. Gisselbrecht VdM / Shigeru Ban Architects Europe et Jean de Gastines Architectes, avec Philip Gumuchdjian pour la conception du projet lauréat du concours / Metz Métropole / Centre Pompidou-Metz.
Photo Patrick Weiten: Jean-Christophe Fraisse

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