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With a 620 km common border, 25,000 residents in France who travel daily to work in Belgium and 5,000 residents in Belgium who come to work in France, cross-border cooperation between the French and Belgian regions is long-standing and dense. Nevertheless, it is remains low-visibility mainly due to the lack of a genuine institutional forum for dialogue on cross-border cooperation and border issues at the intergovernmental level. Cross-border cooperation covers many areas: infrastructure (rail, road, canal), industry, commerce, government, health and social affairs, environment, agriculture, urban planning. In response to a growing need from local actors, a decentralized cross-border cooperation agreement was signed in Brussels on September 16th, 2002 with the Kingdom of Belgium and the Governments of the Flemish Community, the Flemish Region, the French Community, and the Wallonia Region. The agreement, ratified by all parties, provided a legal framework governing relations between French and Belgian local authorities and prefigured the EU regulation dated July 5th, 2006 establishing the European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC). The first EGTC in Europe, Eurometropole Lille/Kortrijk/Tournai, was set-up on January 28th, 2008 to facilitate developing and managing a Franco-Belgian border conurbation with a population of two million.
A general cooperation agreement between France and the Wallonia Region was also signed on May 10th, 2004 in Brussels. This text provides a framework for France-Wallonia collaboration in all of Wallonia’s fields of competence. There are many other agreements between France and Belgium in defense, security, and health. Police and customs cooperation between France and Belgium is growing steadily. It is based on an agreement signed on March 5th, 2001, which led to inaugurating a center for police and customs cooperation in Tournai, in early September 2002. A road safety cooperation agreement (facilitating prosecution of “speed camera” infractions) is being finalized between our two countries. In hospitals, following the framework agreement in 2005, signed in Mouscron, cross-border access to hospitals in the region was established and continues to evolve. It facilitates providing treatment on both sides of the border within the Organized Area of Transboundary Care Access (ZOAST) by pooling treatment and by promoting synergies and complementarities between hospitals.
In addition, on December 21st, 2011 France and Wallonia signed a framework agreement on welcoming French people with disabilities in specialized facilities in the Wallonia region. Traditionally, Walloon shelters have been home to thousands of disabled French people. Now, the majority of disabled person placements follow a cross-border rationale (68% of all placements are from Nord Pas-de-Calais). The reasons for the attractiveness of Belgian facilities are many: cost of care, caregiver ratios, staff training, coupled with the lack of places across the border. However it is not a unilateral but rather a dynamic partnership: while our citizens benefit from Belgian infrastructures and knowledge, it should be noted, firstly, that the Belgian people’s needs are entirely fulfilled, secondly, this support has a positive impact in economic terms and jobs in Wallonia, and finally it is fully funded by health insurance and local French endowments.
The Foreign Ministry is particularly committed to developing this cooperation through the action of its embassy in Brussels: establishing of a forum for discussing cross-border issues involving all governmental and local French and Belgianactors; supporting cooperation, in both a thematic (internationalizing competitive clusters, deepening scientific and academic cooperation by establishing joint Master’s degrees and dual diploma programs) and sectorial (developing cross-border projects with Champagne-Ardenne) approach.
Updated on 03.01.12