The Lille-Kortrijk-Tournai "eurometropolis"
Lille Travel Blog› entry 3 of 17 › view all entries
April 1st, 2009 – by: lamadude
To the south you have a densly populated and industrial area around the city of Lille. This region is known as Romance Flanders (which means that even though it belonged to the county of Flanders, it has always been French speaking)
This region forms one big urban area that goes fluidly from Lille, Roubaix and Tourqoing in France, to Mouscron in Wallonia and Menen and Kortrijk in Flanders (where I live) creating a sort of city that extends across state and language barriers, forming an urban area of over 2 million inhabintants in various cities within 20 km from each other.
Life within this "eurodistrict" has been made a lot easier with the opening of the borders between Shengen countries in the early '90s and the introduction of the euro . Many people from Kortrijk go shopping in Lille and the other way around, around 40% of people shopping in Kortrijk are french speaking. In my high school there were at least a couple of students from Mouscron in every class because of the better reputation schools have here. Also transport wise for example, when we want to go to Paris or London, we don't go to Brussels-South, which would be a huge detour, but to the Lille-Europe train station. (which is the international train station, the other station is called "Lille Flanders") and I walk around the easter fair here in Kortrijk I can hear as much French as i hear Dutch.
However, the borders are still clearly felt sometimes, one obvious example are the economic difficulties of a lot of these ex-industrial cities, compared with the economically better of cities of Lille (center) and Kortrijk. There is also very little cultural connection between the different parts, and the trains between Belgium and France are still too expensive for such short trips. For this reason last year the mayors of all the cities in the urban area met in Kortrijk to create the first "EGTC, European Grouping of Teritorial Cooperation" which is a framework organisation that will organise joint cultural events and try to improve transportation connections etc. The scope of this framework is slightly bigger than the urban area itself and includes nearby cities that are not phisically connected to the urban area, such are the regions around Ypers and Tournai.
Obviously we're not quite there yet, but I feel like if we could forget about the language and country differences and with proper marketing focussing on its favourable location, this region could really improve itself.
To the north you have the much more sparesly populated region closer to the sea, a region where I have often gone in my childhood because my parents have a house there, I still go there whenever I can, it is a beautiful hilly area that is still very rural and seemingly unaware of its splendid location in between Paris, Brussels and London, I will blog about the beautiful little towns in this region later.
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