© Marc Hoscheid
As the remaining 21 Members of Parliament took their oath on Tuesday afternoon at the Chamber of Deputies, Jeff Boonen, a farmer from Elvange, assumed his role after coming fifth on the Northern list of the Christian Social People's Party (CSV) in the October elections.
Boonen steps in for Minister of Agriculture Martine Hansen and brings his perspective on addressing challenges faced by rural areas, particularly in healthcare, mobility, and energy.
Boonen emphasises a notable trend in the increasing centralisation of healthcare services in hospitals, a move aimed at consolidating various areas of expertise. However, he acknowledges the criticism directed at the Centre Hospitalier du Nord (CHdN) with branches in Ettelbruck and Wiltz, citing concerns that it no longer provides a comprehensive range of services. Boonen recognises the complexity of radically altering this situation, citing a shortage of doctors and the understandable preference of medical staff for conducive working environments.
In response to these challenges, Boonen proposes an alternative approach. He asserts, "We can't get everything done anymore," attributing this limitation to factors such as the shortage of doctors. Rather than attempting to offer all services in Wiltz and Ettelbruck, Boonen advocates for establishing joint practices in larger municipalities. These practices would focus on providing robust general medical services, potentially incorporating specialist expertise as needed.
Boonen underscores the necessity of expanding public transport in rural areas, aiming to alleviate road congestion and minimise the carbon footprint. Reflecting on challenges during the temporary closure of the train line to the north, Boonen emphasises the need for road enhancements, especially along the N7. He advocates for widening these roads to four lanes, particularly concentrating on ongoing projects initiated by former Minister for Mobility François Bausch. Boonen stresses the importance of strategic planning in all major investments to ensure efficient traffic flow for those traveling from the North.
In addressing the energy transition, Boonen places a priority on photovoltaics, signalling a commitment to harnessing solar energy. However, he also emphasises the need for additional wind turbines to bolster sustainable energy production. Boonen proposes the establishment of a "wind register" in the initial phase, followed by active public involvement in the form of cooperatives during the second step. Boonen acknowledges the necessity of realistic expectations, stating that "it would be illusory to believe that you can produce the energy you need without seeing the production."