Esch2022 – a cross-border project Cross-border collaboration, programming and participation

The programming, under the theme of REMIX Culture, is inspired by a broad range of artistic fields and extends beyond national borders. Although the initiative has its roots in Esch-sur-Alzette, the second largest city in Luxembourg, a total of eleven Luxembourg municipalities and eight French municipalities are taking part. We spoke to those responsible on both sides of the border to find out more about the various REMIXes and the diverse projects as well as the shows that, without a doubt, will be remembered long after the year of culture has ended.

REMIX Culture -  capturing the heartbeat of a historic cross-border community

When and how did the idea to develop a Franco-Luxembourg cross-border cooperation see the light of day?

Nancy Braun: The basic idea of the European Capital of Culture is to celebrate European culture and diversity, while showcasing the region's identity.

The cross-border cooperation as part of Esch2022 was born out of the links that were forged by our shared industrial heritage and the fact that we benefit from the Europe experience on a daily basis, as there is a constant flow of people and goods across the region's borders. As such, each day, hundreds of thousands of people cross the borders in the Greater Region on their way to and back from work. Also, some Luxembourgers and expatriates live in France. Therefore, we are connected in numerous ways, which brings people closer together.

The eleven Luxembourg municipalities and eight French municipalities that make up Esch2022 form a unified whole. This was one of the factors that convinced the European Commission's committee. We are a European laboratory and serve as an example.

Patrick Risser: This cooperation and the shared values, which have always been implicitly present, were further strengthened following the signing of the Schengen Agreements in 1985. Over the years, exchanges have become much easier and projects have been developed jointly. Esch2022 is an ideal example of this shared and unified expression of the friendly exchanges that exist between Luxembourg and the French region

It should be noted that a European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC) already exists. It was chosen in order to stabilise relations, develop joint projects over the long term and actively encourage the creation of services beneficial to all. This entity has a global view of the sector and should help to foster exchanges between the actors in the region based on common themes.

Was the shared history of the two countries one of the considerations behind the cooperation for Esch2022?

Sylvain Mengel: Precisely. As a ECOC (European Capital of Culture), the region can showcase its shared industrial heritage, which is built on the same activities and waves of immigration. Moreover, the desire to regenerate the region is an objective of Esch2022, ProSud and the CCPHVA.

Nancy Braun: Esch-sur-Alzette's ambition to become European Capital of Culture is based on the shared history of the region which encompasses southern Luxembourg and north-eastern France. The region's roots are deeply embedded in the industrial history of ore mining and steel production.

Some key facts:

1 region

2 countries: Luxembourg and France

8 French municipalities

11 Luxembourgish municipalities

57 partners

160+ projects

400+ volunteers

155,000 inhabitants and stories

Have community ties been established over many years between the Communauté de Communes Pays Haut Val d'Alzette (CCPHVA) and the municipalities in the south of Luxembourg?

Yann Logelin: ProSud, the union of municipalities in the south of Luxembourg, has developed links across the border through the EGTC Alzette-Belval, which involves it in discussion groups, information meetings and field visits with a cross-border scope. The pre-planning study of the Internationale Bauausstellung (IBA) conducted in 2020-2021 is a prime example of this cooperationIn the long run, the IBA will lay the groundwork for many projects and contribute to the creation of a unified landscape between the south of Luxembourg and the French region of the Pays Haut Val d'Alzette, by creating a new cross-border urban agglomeration.

Sylvain Mengel: Owing to their geographical location, the municipalities have enjoyed close ties for several decades. It goes without saying that this attachment was originally economic in nature (transfer of skills, migration of staff, financial flows, etc.) but, over the years, other bonds have been created.

How does this community manifest itself in everyday life? Could you provide us with some concrete examples?

Sylvain Mengel: Obviously, each day thousands of inhabitants cross the border to go to work. The mayors regularly discuss various common issues such as mobility and the development of networks in order to provide citizens better conditions and to abolish the concept of borders completely. Finally, at local level, various partnerships have been created between associations located on both sides of the border, such as the exchange of students from music schools, performances by French associations in an organisation in Luxembourg, etc.

Yann Logelin: At a municipal level and for associations, there are several examples:

  • Sanem and Rédange with their shared gardening project;
  • Regular exchanges between the after-school centre in Rédange (FR) and the maison relais (childcare centre) in Belvaux. Since 2019, the Rédange after-school care centre has been tending a plot in the 'Matgesfeld' gardens in Belvaux. They go to the site for supervised gardening and cooking activities, together with the children from the Belvaux maison relais. Several exchanges also take place between the youth clubs of Schifflange and Audun-le-Tiche (FR).

How does Esch2022 support this concept of art without borders?

Françoise Poos: We always took into consideration how to build cross-border partnerships when selecting the 130 projects of the municipalities, institutions, cultural actors and all their partners. After all, this characteristic is in the DNA of the Esch2022 project. The international aspect is also evident in the projects carried out by the non-profit organisation itself. For example, the exhibitions in Esch-Belval, where we work with internationally renowned partners, who in turn invite artists from across the globe to take part.

Sylvain Mengel: The ECOC area straddles two countries. As such, it does not shine a spotlight on a particular country. Instead it focuses on a common region in need of regeneration and development. In reality, the border no longer exists and artists do not care whether they are in France or Luxembourg. The financial package is the same for projects launched via the call for projects, there are no barriers at this level either. The exclusive priority rests with the project:  its actors, its development, its regional registration and its benefits.

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They talked to us:

Caroline Martin
Mike Zenari / Esch2022

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