The Eurode Business Center (EBC), a common service-industry complex, also illustrates this cross-border economic cooperation.
In 1997, as part of a slowly evolving collaboration within Eurode, the idea was conceived of realising an office complex straddling both sides of the border where a multitude of other businesses might be housed, complementary to those already existing at the Technologiepark Herzogenrath. Herzogenrath and Kerkrade, together with the respective development corporations, the Aachener Gesellschaft für Innovation und Technologietransfer (AGIT) and the Dutch N.V. Industriebank LIOF, worked out the concept in detail.
The added value of this business centre acted as an impulse to cross-border economic development and to expanding business networks in both countries.
Bearing in mind that there were already several such similar business and technology parks on either side of the frontier, any new business complex would have to desist from taking up a competitive position in relation to existing ones. For that reason, service industry and innovation were chosen as key themes. Concentration of these activities would provide an opportunity for a pilot project to be carried out whose aim was to adapt and harmonise German and Dutch legal systems. One condition was that the building would be located precisely on the border of the two countries.
The EBC is aimed at the following target groups: General service industries, such as employment agencies, law firms, tax consultants, business consultants, PR and marketing companies, agencies promoting local and regional culture, local recreation and tourism, estate agents and other property development companies.
Specific service industries, such as, (tele)communication businesses and cross-border multimedia concerns, technology transfer facilities, complementary to existing hi-tech innovation centres, cross-border service providers in the field of health-care.
An important pre-condition for siting the EBC was that it was able to capture an urban catchment area of 50,000 people on both sides of the border. In this respect, Eurode – as a bi-national city with a joint population of 100,000 – is unique in Western Europe, with clearly-defined and closely-knit relational and functional links. Infrastructure, employment, housing and recreation provide just a few examples of this. In other areas too – civic, socio-economic, spatial and urban planning – intensive and close-knit links are manifest.
Other criteria determining its location were accessibility, parking facilities, telecommunication networks and the possibility of creating a cross-border building with a striking exterior.
One such location that met all these requirements was in the vicinity of the Nieuwstraat/Neustraβe. On 5 June 2001, the building – incorporating a total surface area of 3,630 m² - was opened by the respective premiers of the Netherlands and North Rhine-Westphalia at the time - Wim Kok and Wolfgang Clement. With occupancy levels of almost 100%, the EBC currently houses around 70 different businesses. The EBC has since developed into a Euregional centre of excellence for cross-border economic activities, whereby the fruits of bi-nationality can be plucked. Businesses have the option of locating themselves on the German side as a German legal entity, for example, a GmbH. Or alternatively, they can choose to locate on the Dutch side of the border and incorporate themselves as a Dutch BV. Some companies have rented space on both sides and set up two separate legal entities. This means that they can reap the benefits of the considerable differences between the two countries as it suits them, for example, in terms of employment and fiscal rights.
At the moment however, relocating to an office in the same building on the other side of the border is not quite so simple. By virtue of the principle of territoriality, this means swapping one tax authority for the other and the amount of red tape that this involves is a step too far for many small companies.
Because of this, we continue in our endeavours to bring about freedom of choice in respect of fiscal rights throughout the building. Confronted as we are by obstacles thrown up by the different statutory regulations in both countries, it goes without saying that a degree of tenacity is required. Since 1 May 2008, the Dritte Zusatzprotokoll zum deutsch-niederländischen Doppelbesteuerungsabkommen now applies to the EBC.
This opens up possibilities for businesses housed in the EBC to have the greater (registered) part of their business on one side of the border and the lesser part on the other side, and to adopt the fiscal rights of the country in which the greater (i.e. registered) part of the company is situated. This provides yet another example of the importance of enforcing the existing laws as flexibly as possible in such border regions.
Alongside its role as cross-border service centre, the EBC serves another key purpose. In the last few years it has developed into an official meeting point for numerous bodies that have an active cross-border function. Examples include the executive committee of Eurode’s administrative body, the Eurode 2000+ foundation, the Eurode Rotary Club, the Round Table of the Meuse-Rhine Euregion and many others. The EBC also functions as a support centre for all cross-border commuters who have problems or queries relating to the fact that they live in one country and work in another. Regular walk-in sessions are organised for cross-border commuters and countless people from all over the Meuse-Rhine Euregion make use of this service.
Likewise, both Eurode mayors regularly hold a joint surgery here for citizens.
This range of services wouldn’t be complete without a joint German and Dutch police station.