Léon Frissen, Governor of Limburg: “I feel like a true European”
August 18, 2006 2 Comments
Léon Frissen has just completed his first year as the Queen’s Commissioner of Limburg and acts like a fish in water. “Limburg is the Netherlands’ most European province and I feel like a true European, professionally and personally”, he says.
That is how the Governor of Limburg, as the Queen’s Commissioner is also called here, describes his job. Léon Frissen loves Limburg where he was born and raised and strives to cover the province in its entirety. So he enjoys Pinkpop 2006, an international pop music festival in the southern-eastern town of Landgraaf and also pays a working visit to a school in Roerdalen in Middle-Limburg.
“Globalisation and internationalisation are taking over the world, and Limburg is no exception,” says Frissen. “Typical Limburg industrial concerns like haulage firm Frans Maas and petrochemical multinational DSM are now in foreign control. The regional daily newspapers are now in British hands! And although mobile telecommunication company Vodafone has a promising future in the capital city of Limburg, its core business could just move to Prague or Moscow…”
But on the other hand, “decisions are currently being made in the USA about investments into a future mega-entertainment centre in Maastricht,” adds Frissen. “This would mean a huge economic potential for the area and an intensive co-operation between Holland Casino and Harrah’s.”
Nordrhein-Westfalen as part of the Benelux
Despite these developments which affect Limburg strongly, the scope of the province is still more nationally oriented. “By this I mean: more focused on The Hague instead of Brussels, Liège, Lille or Düsseldorf. The often anti-European attitude and recent developments in our country amaze the international community: the murder of Pim Fortuyn on May 6, 2002 and the unconceivable ‘No’ of a European city like Maastricht to the European Constitution. However, in practice our work continues”, explains the Governor.
Frissen proudly refers to Limburg’s achievements in the infrastructural field. In particular to the road constructions of the international highways A73, A67, A74 and A2, but also to future improvements in the railway connections between Maastricht, Liège and Brussels.
“In the economic sphere the co-operation with the neighbouring regions must be expanded and intensified,” says Frissen. “The Benelux treaty is in force until 2009: the moment to explore the possibilities to involve Nordrhein-Westfalen – and perhaps the region around Lille – in a new ‘Benelux+ treaty’.”
As for culture, there are efforts to increase the existing co-operation between the Opéra Royal de Wallonie and Limburg’s Opera Zuid. “And it would be a great challenge to encourage the three cities of Liège, Aachen and Maastricht to run together for the ‘European Capital of Culture’ in 2018,” adds Frissen.
Be good and tell it
“The provincial administration can do a lot more to make Limburg become one of the top regions in Europe”, states Frissen. “I agree with the critics who claim that we are too focused on the people of Limburg and too little on what is going on beyond our provincial boundaries. During the restructuring period, between 1970 and 1990, the slogan ‘be good and tell it’ was common use. For example, the publication of the English-language periodical ‘Limburg International Magazine’ back then, was a joint-venture between the Province of Limburg and the LIOF, Limburg’s investment bank. Unfortunately, these English-language initiatives vanished due to policy changes in the past. Perhaps we should operate more aggressively to facilitate multilingual expressions, possibly with a restart.”
“This province is developing along with globalisation and internationalisation. A protectionist and/or an anti-European attitude is lost labour. We should be one of the key players in the main social, cultural and economic areas. We need to facilitate economic trendsetters. We should also stimulate more innovative actions and educational initiatives. Our answers to the Lisbon agenda have been formulated in the so-called Acceleration Agenda 2012 . This document lists the most promising economic projects for Limburg, which we also have linked to higher and academic education. In this way we try to build on the strong aspects of our economy. At euroregional level we must seek for true cross-border projects; projects of ‘grand design’ like the Floriade 2012, which can establish this region on the European map and eventually in the world. Fifteen years after the signature of the Treaty of Maastricht, Limburg is ready for a project with grandeur!”
European leaders “avant la lettre”
How European is Frissen himself? “I have always taken interest in Europe. Being born in Limburg, I have always been aware of the international position of our province.
When I was a member of House of Representatives in 1980-1994, I also took part in the Council of the Benelux. Before that, in 1977 and 1979, I co-organised two European youth congresses in Maastricht. Over a thousand young participants from all over Europe came to these meetings and many of them are now participating in governments and parliaments of several European member states.”
Cherishing European dreams
“In my personal life I am greatly fond of Italy, especially of Tuscany. I often visit the historic and cultural capital city of Rome. I have also travelled across all of Europe by bicycle, particularly through France and Spain because of the many bicycle friendly roads. A landmark trip to me is a journey from Maastricht to Santiago de Compostela within three weeks in 1993. And there are more European dreams I would like to fulfil…”, discloses Frissen.
By Rinnie Oey
Rinnie Oey is an editor at the Provincial Council of Limburg and also works as a freelance journalist for several clients such as the Open University of the Netherlands and Crossroads. She mainly covers human interest and science/education topics.