Minister Ploumen visits ITEM
On Tuesday 20 February, minister Ploumen visited expertise centre ITEM, located in the UM Faculty of Law. ITEM focuses on cross-border mobility and cooperation issues from an academic perspective. The minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation discussed the opportunities in the border regions, particularly in the Walloon provinces/Limburg. Minister Ploumen said that politicians are working hard to remove the obstacles in the border regions. She is optimistic that they will succeed with the help of ITEM and Maastricht University.
During her visit of ITEM she spoke with a group of Walloon and Dutch students about opportunities and problems in the border region. The students told her they had all very consciously chosen to study at Maastricht University. Main motives were Problem Based Learning and the international character of the university. One student remarked: “In Belgium you have hardly any contact with your teachers. At the UM you work with passionate tutors and there is constant interaction. Here you learn to do, not to memorise.”
On the international character another student said: “My group of friends is entirely international. One of my best friends is from Poland. Because of him I went to Krakow and became passionate about the country. I even started to learn Polish. That would never have happened if I had studied in a less international environment.”
But the students also mentioned problems. One of the main bottlenecks turned out to be the recognition of diplomas. Also public transportation across the border is still insufficient, particularly in the direction of Liège. “If you have to be at the university at 8h30, you have no other option than to take the 6h30 train to Maastricht. Otherwise you won’t make it in time.” After graduation the language barrier is a problem. A Dutch student said: “I would love to work in the Walloon provinces, but the French language is an obstacle.”
Minister Ploumen once again emphasized the importance of being multilingual: “Speaking three languages is absolutely an asset, even more so when you live in this region. It opens doors and creates many more career opportunities in this area.”
The minister concluded with a positive message: “We politicians work hard to remove all obstacles in the border regions. We are trying to get the diplomas recognized, the problems regarding cross-border public transportation solved and we want to create career opportunities across the borders. I am sure we will succeed with the help of ITEM and Maastricht University.”
ITEM (Institute for Transnational and Euregional cross-border cooperation and Mobility) specifically focuses on border obstacles. The expertise centre was established in 2015 to support and advance the cross-border and international functioning of the transnational and Euregional society from an academic perspective. Within that scope ITEM advises governments concerning the elimination of obstacles in the field of cross-border work, study or business.
A photo impression of Minister Ploumen's visit to ITEM
Photography Joey Roberts