Xavier Bettel's second coalition government, which officially began its legislative period this week, has plans to deal with the increasing number of cross-border workers.

This examination of the cross-border worker issue joins our previous examinations of the changes to the tampon tax and the increase in fuel tax expected in 2019.

Within the next legislative period, it is almost certain that the number of cross-border workers, or "frontaliers", will exceed 200,000. Given this substantial number, the Gambia coalition had to address these workers in a number of areas in the coalition agreement.

Three main categories will involve changes for cross-border workers. These are work, the economy, and mobility.

Work

Up until now, the Luxembourg government has been negotiating with its Belgian counterpart to increase the number of flexible working hours, which includes distance working, working from home, etc. If the Belgian negotiations are fruiful, Belgian cross-border workers would be able to have up to 69 days a year of flexible working conditions. This would be more than a quarter of the working year.

In the coalition agreement, the government has announced its plans to open similar negotiations with Germany and France. As the discussion has already begun in Belgium, this should be the least complicated partner for the Luxembourgish government.

The Grand Duchy has a host of reasons to want to increase the number of flexible working days for French (29 days) and German (19 days) cross-border workers, but needs to convince its respective partners.

Belgium and Luxembourg are already negotiating the increase of the number of flexible working days. / © Glenn Carstens-Peters / Unsplash / Domaine public

More generally, this phenomenon does not just focus on cross-border workers. The coalition wants to establish a so-called "disconnection principle" in union agreements or inter-professional agreements. The principle would allow for a better work-life separation and balance.

The new government also wants to highlight co-working spaces, especially ones situated near the main roads from the borders. This point was stressed by both the DP and LSAP in their election manifestos. One such example for increased co-working spaces would be Belval, but also crucial spots near the A1, A3, and A6 motorways as well as near the N31 road in Rodange.

The French government is also exploring this option and is constructing such a building near Thionville.

Everybody taxed in Luxembourg will soon be taxed in a single tax bracket. Beginning with transitional phases, the change to a single tax bracket will avoid tax changes depending on a person's family situation.

Society

The French government recently announced that it would close several ageing nuclear power plants, leaving the plant in Cattenom open. As for Luxembourg, the government has renewed its wish to see that plant close as well as the ones in Tihange and Doel, citing that these are all a "crucial risk for the Grand Duchy's national security".

Even if the Luxembourg government hopes to make use of legal avenues to reach this goal, the decisions remain with France and Belgium. It is puzzling that the government has explicitly named the power plants in Cattenom (10 kilometres from the border), Tihange (70 km), and Doel (180) without mentioning the reactors in Chooz (70 km). Whilst the first three are certainly older, the Chooz reactors were also put into operation twenty years ago.

La fermeture de la centrale nucléaire de Cattenom reste un objectif du Luxembourg. / © Archives RTL

Although the agreement lacked details in this regard, the government announced its desire to extend its "legal and technological instruments" to reinforce police cooperation between the Grand Duchy and its Benelux neighbours. This also includes maintaining customs cooperation measures.

Neighbouring economic institutions will also see increased cooperation. Luxembourg will continue to take part in the development of the "Grand Region", especially in the "Interreg" project, which aims to create a territorial development scheme for the entire Greater Region.

The French "Grand Est" region and Luxembourg have already signed a bilateral agreement concerning border transport of ambulances and the government hopes to create similar agreements with Belgium and Germany.

Environment and territory

Cross-border projects aiming to predict flooding and reduce the impact of floods will be a topic which is of equal interest to all three bordering countries.

The government will re-examine the management of the Germany-Luxembourg nature reserve, which extends from Rosport to the northern border. In 1964, the two countries agreed to create first cross-border nature reserve to preserve the "exceptional beauty" of the region.

© Portail de l'aménagement du territoire

More generally, the coalition partners will continue efforts to decentralise the country, which include developing the Nordstad (northern city) with residential zones and public services. In the same vein, the government wants to continue to develop the cross-border industrial zones.

Mobility

The transport ministry, which has been assigned to the Green Party, will launch another study on mobility to better plan changes to the country's transport in line with the needs of residents and cross-border workers, which the agreement describes as "the Grand Duchy's particularly dynamic context."

The study will collect information from public and private companies, as well as commuters, with regular inquiries.

In order to limit congestion and encourage the use of public transport, the coalition will increase the number of P+R park & ride parking lots by 2020 and double that number in the long-term.

The Grand Duchy will also increasing promote its car-sharing scheme by collaborating with certain companies and by creating priority lanes for volunteer users, especially on motorways. The ministry of sustainable development will examine whether it could extend the use of the hard shoulder to car-sharing users on the entire road network.

The construction works on the Luxembourg City station will create two new platforms. / © Archives RTL

The government will also accelerate certain priority projects, such as extending the railway infrastructure. This includes further developing the Luxembourg-Bettembourg tracks, the Luxembourg City train station, and the multimodal interchange hub in Ettelbruck.

Other priority projects include motorway projects on the A3, at the Micheville exchange, and the development of the tram.

Finally, the government will increase taxes on fuel prices. For more information on this point, see our article below on the fuel tax increase.