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Euregio Meuse-Rhine: seen from both Zuid-Limburg and Den Haag perspectives

By Helmi van Bergen, Programmamanager Advies – ZZP fabriek

It depends on how you look at it!

When I write this, measures to contain the Covid-19 virus have been taken again. This means that again many companies have to close down or cannot work or do business.

As in the past spring, all kinds of compensatory support measures for entrepreneurs have been announced. Support measures for loss of income, the ability to pay employees, etc.

One of the support measures, about which there has been a lot of fuss and about which a number of border entrepreneurs are still waiting for a decisive answer, is the TOZO. This concerns entrepreneurs who do business in the Netherlands, but live in Belgium or Germany.

The TOZO stands for Temporary Bridging Scheme for Independent Entrepreneurs. This scheme is intended for self-employed entrepreneurs who have run into financial difficulties due to the corona measures. Support can be applied for in the form of an additional subsistence allowance and/or a loan for working capital. The maintenance allowance supplements the income up to the social minimum. A working capital loan can be applied for to solve liquidity problems.

Of course, as a self-employed person, you must then meet a number of conditions. One of the conditions for applying for the supplementary living allowance in particular is that the entrepreneur must live in the Netherlands. If the entrepreneur does not live in the Netherlands, he can only apply for a TOZO loan for company capital.

Also when the company is registered at the Kamer van Koophandel and when the entrepreneur, because they are doing business in the Netherlands, has their social security in the Netherlands and pays taxes in the Netherlands.

The reason for the exclusion of these border entrepreneurs from the TOZO for living expenses is that the TOZO scheme is based on the residence principle linked to social assistance. This residence or country of residence principle states that the applicant must live in the Netherlands. There is no such requirement for frontier entrepreneurs who live in the Netherlands and have established their business in, for example, Belgium. They did and do receive support measures from Belgium for their business.

Despite repeated protests by the border entrepreneurs, questions and amendments on this subject in the Tweede Kamer, and also despite questions and interference in the European Parliament, there is still no definite answer.

In a previous article that I published on this subject, I wrote the following:

"I wonder why these entrepreneurs are not receiving any support. Does this problem lie so far away from Den Haag in the border region that it is not seen, despite all the signals about it.
Supporting these entrepreneurs now will yield far more in taxes, social security contributions, employment and prosperity when things return to normal than if this group does not receive any support for their livelihood. And this group of entrepreneurs will therefore collapse and go into liquidation. If the latter happens, it will cost the Dutch treasury more than the support it currently receives. That means much less tax revenue, more unemployment benefits and welfare payments for the lost jobs.
"We'll do it together" and "together we'll get rid of the Corona virus" are the mantras I keep hearing. But I believe that together means everyone who contributes to the BV Netherlands and not "together, but apart from this group of entrepreneurs?"
The big question now is when will this group of entrepreneurs, just like all their other fellow entrepreneurs, be able to receive their support, as promised by the Kabinet?"

I asked the question:

"Is this problem at the border so far away from Den Haag that this is not seen, despite all the signals about it?"

During my summer holiday, I received an answer to this question.

Last summer, I read Floor Milikowski's book "Een klein land met verre uithoeken” (“A small country with far away corners").

It surprised me and bewildered me too.

Since the 1980s, policy in the Netherlands has focused more on a few strong regions, such as Schiphol and Amsterdam, Rotterdam and its ports, Utrecht and the Leidse Rijn and Brainport Eindhoven, than on the country as a whole, including the regions on the periphery of the country, such as our region of Zuid-Limburg.

This was in response to the advice "A new industrial élan" by the Wagner Commission.

Among other things, this opinion advocated

"shifting the focus from supporting economic sectors and regions with lots of economic problems to strengthening sectors and regions with great potential."


"In practice, it meant that there was less and less attention for economic development in disadvantaged parts of the country, such as South Limburg." *4

I also had to think of maps and graphs from "de 2019 Atlas voor Gemeenten. These graphs and maps show the residential attractiveness of the 50 largest municipalities in the Netherlands. Two versions of each graph and map were made. A version in which no account is taken of foreign countries and a version in which account is taken of foreign countries.

The three largest municipalities in South Limburg, Maastricht, Sittard-Geleen and Heerlen, are in the lower ranks in the graphs and maps which do not take account of foreign countries. While in the graphs and maps, which do take account of foreign countries, these municipalities are in the top 25.

Here, people in Zuid-Limburg mainly look at the job opportunities across the border in Germany and Belgium.

This means that if there were no borders, the opportunities for finding work and doing business would be and become greater.

Although we are one Europe and can effortlessly cross the border for recreation and shopping, we do not do so very much for work and enterprise.

Unknown makes unloved.

Not only unfamiliar with the opportunities for doing business and working, but also unfamiliar with the laws and regulations concerning taxes and social security in the other country.

Every country in Europe has its own laws and regulations regarding taxes and social security. This concerns differences in tax legislation and in social security legislation. You have to think about health insurance, unemployment, state pension and pension, social security, child allowance, sickness benefits and incapacity for work.

This is, of course, not convenient for the free movement of people, services, goods and capital. For social security in particular, Europe then thought that social security should be coordinated. In concrete terms, this means that a person can only has his social security in one country, namely in the country where that person works as a self-employed person or as an employee. Even if you do not live there. That is the basic rule. Of course, there are exceptions, but according to the European coordination rules, you have your social security in the country where you work as a self-employed person.

Despite this relative unfamiliarity, there are still entrepreneurs who take the step of doing business in a country other than their country of residence. Because they see more opportunities there, because they have moved to the other country. They have crossed the border.

That's why it's so galling that entrepreneurs in the Euregio Meuse-Rhine and in all other border regions, who contribute to the Dutch economy in good times, are now being abandoned by the 'centrally' located Den Haag.

Helmi van Bergen is a legal advisor at ZZP fabriek, GrensInfopunt Maastricht and owner of Juridiqua legal advice for organisations.