Every working day is an international journey for me since I belong to the crew of ‘frontier workers’. That means I have the unique pleasure of complaining when I am the only one at home to have a day off due to a national holiday in the country where I work; and to work when my whole family is enjoying ‘the storming of the Bastille’ on July 14th in my residence city. Welcome to the reality of those who live in France, but make their money in a neighboring country!

As it turns out, I decided to keep living in a small village in France 10 years ago when I got a job offer in Luxembourg. My decision was primarily related to the comfort and well-being of my husband and kids. Our quality of life was excellent as the kids ran free and were in contact with nature on a daily basis. No houses were piling up near one another. It was marvelous. The only drawback was that we had to drive everywhere we wanted to go considering no public transport system existed back in the day. Much has changed in the past years with the exodus of people from bigger cities and the increasing demand of workers in the Luxembourg area. Several housing conglomerates are being built here and there, and we even have an intercity bus now. The latter is a great option to boost the independence of our two teenagers -although I miss the quieter times in my hometown.

Indeed, cities close to neighboring countries face specific challenges in terms of urbanization, especially when there is industrial implementation. Industries allow a rather quick economic development in these regions, which affects both countries in aspects such as housing, public transport, school, land prices, traffic jams and so on. With this said, you can imagine that both countries must cooperate one with another in order to well sustain their growth. This seems obvious at first, but it turns out to be less evident when you take into account that in each country a different language may be spoken, and there are different laws and culture. Already, such areas have become much more flexible with the implementation of the European Union.

In my PhD I observe how the rural cross- border spaces work together, how they achieve their missions and with what means. My case studies are based on three areas with differences in their development dynamics: (i) Attert (Belgium) and Beckerich (Luxembourg), (ii) Pays de Montmédy (France) and Gaume (Belgium) and (iii) the Franco-German palatinate forest - north Vosges biosphere reserve. In order to collect my data, I interview elected officials and/or members of their advisory board, and I complement their speech with existing documents on the ‘cross- border’ framework in question. I really enjoy the international aspect of my work. It has definitely opened up my mind in respect to bringing solutions to communities with specific needs.

I am Fabien Gille, a PhD student working at the Loterr lab at the University of Lorraine.

Text by Fernanda Haffner

Illustration by Luis Rubio