King’s Commissioner Theo Bovens
Contribution to the debate “Reflections on the EU – today and tomorrow” at the plenary session of the Committee of the Regions, 11 October 2016
As the King’s Commissioner (the “Gouverneur”) of the Dutch Province of Limburg, the capital of which is Maastricht, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak here briefly today.
In December this year, it will be exactly twenty-five years since the Treaty was negotiated in Maastricht, in the building where the Provincial Parliament meets. A few months later, in February nineteen ninety-two, the Treaty was signed, again in Maastricht, and bears the name of that city.
As you know, it was the Maastricht Treaty that set up the European Union. That Treaty was also the birth certificate, so to speak, of our own Committee of the Regions and of the common currency, the euro. Moreover, it was also the first Treaty focusing on social issues and culture.
Twenty-five years ago, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, there was great enthusiasm among twelve countries for forming a single large Union. But Maastricht was also a symbol within Europa for the debate about our shared European future. Referendums in Denmark and France, opt-out options for the United Kingdom and Denmark, the drafts of the Maastricht criteria – all these dominated discussion in the years that followed the ceremonial signing.
That is why Maastricht – located in a border region, the Meuse-Rhine Euroregion, which has the cities of Hasselt, Liège, Aachen, Eupen, and Maastricht as administrative centres – is absolutely the perfect place to take a look back at Europe as it was when the Treaty was signed, but above all to look forward to the Europe of the future.
We are doing that with a varied programme of activities in and around Maastricht, but with the focus of discussion on Europe and with the motto Europe Calling! On the ninth of December, for example, we will be holding a new summit meeting, exactly twenty-five years after the summit in nineteen ninety-one. Signatories to the Treaty and EU authorities will attend. On the seventh of February, “La Génération Maestricht” – young people aged twenty-five and younger from twenty-eight countries – will meet in Maastricht to work on creating a new Europe.
Mr Chairman, esteemed colleagues,
The Maastricht Treaty also introduced the citizenship of the Union. As far as I am concerned, that European citizenship is not just something on paper – it needs to be given shape in actual practice. Indeed, it is already normal daily practice in the border region between Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, and in fact in all of Europe’s border regions. As a man from Maastricht, I feel part of the Limburg, and the Dutch, and the Euroregional, and the European identity! Our border region has become a borderless region!
We must continue to work to give real substance to the concept of European citizenship – and we need to do so day in, day out. That is the appeal that I wish to make. Developments since the Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom have made that discussion even more topical. After all, Brexit also means withdrawing from the Maastricht Treaty. Even so, it is my fervent wish that the British will remain part of the family of European citizens.
We hope there will be inspiring discussions and we hope to welcome many Europeans to Maastricht, in Limburg. We would really like to see you there!