Eurode Business Center (EBC)

Start of construction activities (Herzogenrath Stadtarchiv/Herzogenrath City Archives, Photo: Opreij Photo Studio)

The Eurode Business Center (EBC) is a notable initiative designed to reinforce the cross-border economic structure in Eurode.
In 1997, in the context of cooperation within Eurode, the idea arose to build a cross-border business complex in which all kinds of service companies could be housed, to supplement the Herzogenrath Technology Park.

This idea was elaborated in detail by the regional development companies, the Dutch Industriebank LIOF NV and the German Aachener Gesellschaft für Innovation und Technology Transfer (AGIT), in close collaboration with the municipality of Kerkrade and the City of Herzogenrath. It was hoped that the added value of this business building with multiple tenants would boost cross-border economic development and the possibility of connecting networks in both municipalities/countries.

The building with 3,630 m2 of commercial surface and 470 m2 of general and service areas was finally opened on 5 June 2001 by the then Prime Ministers of the Netherlands and North Rhine Westphalia, Wim Kok and Wolfgang Clement.

 

“The maypole on the house” at the EBC on 8 December 2000 (Photo: W. Sevenich)

Assuming that there were already several business centres and technology parks on both sides of the border, a new business centre to be realised did not have to be in competition. Therefore, ‘cross-border services’ and ‘innovative developments’ were chosen as themes. A concentration of such activities offered the opportunity to realise a pilot project with the aim of eventually adapting and harmonising Dutch and German legal systems. A condition was that this building had to be built right on the state border.

The EBC was to focus on the following target groups:

-General services such as employment agencies, law practices, tax consultants, PR and marketing companies, institutions promoting local and regional culture, recreation and tourism and real estate companies.
-Specific services such as cross-border multimedia firms and (tele)communications companies, technology transfer facilities in addition to existing high-tech innovation centres, cross-border healthcare service providers.

A further important condition for the location of the EBC was, that urban concentration areas with around 100,000 inhabitants would be present on both sides of the border at a short distance. In that context, Eurode as a binational city with over 90,000 inhabitants , is unique in Western Europe, with clear intertwined relational and functional connections.

Examples include:

-Infrastructure,
-Labour market, residential areas,
-Cross-border services,
-Cross-border local recreation etc.

In social, socio-economic as well as spatial planning and urban planning terms, one can speak of close interlinking and intensive connections.

Other location conditions were accessibility, existing telecommunications networks, parking facilities and the possibility of a cross-border building with a striking appearance.

Based on a location study carried out by the Faculty of Economic Geography of RWTH, a site within Eurode in the vicinity of Nieuwstraat/ Neustraβe was the obvious choice for the reasons detailed above. Thereupon, the municipality of Kerkrade and the Stadt Herzogenrath made a joint effort to realise an equal basis for this cross-border business centre. This could include matters such as the same zoning plan, cross-border infrastructural connections, equal addressing, equal granting of permits with an intensive comparison of conditions, etc. In the end, the design prepared by architect Paulus from Herzogenrath was realised. This design incorporates some typical building elements such as Dutch brick on the Dutch side and typical German plaster (Putz) on the German side. To emphasise the cross-border character of the building, the middle part of the building -where the general and service areas are located- shows exactly the opposite image.

The characteristic German yellow letterbox marks the German part at the front and the striking Dutch orange letterbox marks the Dutch side of the building.

Photos: Openbaar Lichaam

With an almost constant occupancy rate of 100%, over 80 small companies are located in the EBC anno 2023 and the EBC is a business hub where cross-border economic activities are central and where the advantages of the border location can be fully exploited. Thus, companies have the option of setting up on the German side and choosing a German company form (e.g. a GmbH). Or one settles on the Dutch side and chooses a Dutch legal form (e.g. a BV). Some companies have rented spaces on both sides and have thus become two legal entities. In this way, precisely because there are significant differences between Germany and the Netherlands with regard to e.g. labour law, tax law and social legislation, they can make targeted use of concerning country advantages.

Only the relocation within the building from one country to another was unfortunately not possible without problems for some time due to the fact that the so-called territoriality principle was strictly enforced by, among others, the various tax authorities. This prompted Eurode to make efforts to find a solution in this context. This was found in the Agreement between the Netherlands and Germany ‘… for the avoidance of double taxation in the area of taxes on income and capital and various other taxes and for the regulation of other tax matters’ (Tr.blad 2007, no 108), which entered into force on 1 May 2008. This regulation explicitly applies to the Eurode Business Centre and has since been incorporated into and is an integral part of the Tax Treaty in force between the two countries. This arrangement allows companies established in the EBC to have the main part of the company (incl. staff and management headquarters) on one side of the border and a smaller part on the other side and then be allowed to apply the tax law of the country where the company’s headquarters is located for the whole company. Again, the importance of flexible enforcement of existing laws for our border regions can be emphasised.

Besides its function as a cross-border business centre, the EBC serves other, not unimportant purposes:

-It has now become a location for those interested in cross-border living, studying, working and recreation. From dignitaries such as ministers, state secretaries, ambassadors, ministries, to students, schoolchildren and all those interested in the (formal) cooperation of the municipality of Kerkrade and the Stadt Herzogenrath (Public Body Eurode).

The most notable visit the EBC can look forward to has been the visit of H.M. Queen Beatrix her son, the then Prince Willem-Alexander and her daughter-in-law the then Princess Màxima, who were together on a state visit to Germany at the time. As part of that, they visited the EBC on Friday, 15 April 2011.

-In addition, from 2010 the EBC has increasingly profiled itself as a ‘European’ building where cross-border services increasingly define the character of the building’s foyer. For example, on .7 September 2012, the first Border Information Point (GIP ‘Aachen-Eurode’) was opened where people can go for cross-border questions and problems concerning pensions, taxes, social security, health care costs, child allowance, living and studying abroad, etc. ( https://grenzinfo.eu/emra/nl ) As of 1 July 2016, cross-border services have been completed with the opening of the Cross-border Employment Service (SGA). From 2023, SGA will be called ‘Border Labour’ (https://grenzarbeit.eu/ebc/nl ) . Regular ‘Grenspendlaars advice days’ take place where specialists from various (government) agencies such as tax, health, social legislation, pensions, etc. are present to -also based on papers and forms brought by visitors- help people.

-There are also monthly workshops on the topics of “Working in Germany” and “Working in the Netherlands”, where bodies such as UWV and Bundesagentur für Arbeit (both partners of “Grensarbeid”) provide information to people who want to work on the other side of the border.
Also located in the EBC is the official secretariat of the Public Body Eurode ( https://www.eurode.eu ) and near the EBC is the ‘Friendship Meadow’. A sustainability project of a German and a Dutch primary school where (fruit) trees, insect hotels, etc. are planted or put up together and where lessons on location should make children more aware of the nasture in their own environment.

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