October 15th, 2014 by Luc Soete
At the start of this academic year, on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, I was asked to participate in a debate here in Maastricht on “borders”: the frontiers that surround us here in the southernmost part of the country to the east, west and south. My talk started with a Loesje slogan. A Dutch free speech organisation, Loesje has gone international, so I take it you are familiar with its clever philosophical reflections. The one I started my talk with was the following: “A border is actually a desire … to go further” (“een grens is eigenlijk een wens … om verder te gaan”). This seemed to fit well with the history of Maastricht, from its settlement by Romans crossing the river Meuse to the location of the signing of the Treaty on European Union. That Treaty eliminated many economic and financial borders between European member states, but at the same time highlighted the many other borders left. These remaining borders form a barrier to transnational synergies and opportunities. And for a region such as South Limburg, with its 220 kilometres of international borders and only 6 kilometres of domestic borders, these missed synergies and opportunities are likely to be significant. Far more so than for any other region in the Netherlands or, for that matter, in Europe.