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Diplomacy

Luxembourg, Belgium set for CovidCheck summit 



The 11th Gäichel Summit will bring together the Belgian and Luxembourg governments under prime ministers Xavier Bettel (r.) and Alexander De Croo Photo: EU/Archives

The 11th Gäichel Summit will bring together the Belgian and Luxembourg governments under prime ministers Xavier Bettel (r.) and Alexander De Croo Photo: EU/Archives

The Luxembourg and Belgian governments are set to meet in the grand duchy on Tuesday, with a relaxation of teleworking rules and a joint army unit up for discussion, among other topics including disaster cooperation, the pandemic and the joint rescue mission from Afghanistan.

The 11th Gäichel Summit--named after the estate where it was first held--will bring together the Belgian and Luxembourg governments under prime ministers Xavier Bettel (DP) and Alexander De Croo on Tuesday, 31 August. The summit had been scheduled for 7 July but delayed following Bettel’s covid-19 diagnosis at the end of June.

The summit takes place in the context of the centenary of the Belgian-Luxembourg economic cooperation, an alliance that began in 1921. It will also be the first meeting between the two countries since the De Croo government took office. And it will be the first large face-to-face diplomatic event since March 2020 and the start of the pandemic. CovidCheck rules will be enforced.

"In the past, these meetings have always been an opportunity to take stock and launch new cooperations," a diplomatic adviser at the ministry of state said. The agenda will focus on the various crises--Afghanistan, floods, the coronavirus pandemic--that have hit both countries and the world in recent months. But topics such as defence, telecommunications, taxation, mobility, space and energy will also be discussed.

Agreement on telework, defence

An agreement should be reached between the finance ministries on teleworking, including an amendment to the double taxation agreement. Belgium had considered doubling the amount of days residents can work from home--rather than their workplace in Luxembourg--from 24 to 48 days without facing paying taxes in both countries. The 24-day cap has been lifted in successive agreements since the start of the pandemic in March 2020 until at least the end of this year.

There will also be exchanges on social security affiliation for cross-border workers, particularly in the transport sector. Around 800 drivers commuting into Luxembourg from neighbouring countries lost their social security affiliation during the pandemic because of EU rules meaning they cannot carry out more than 25% of their work in their country of residence.

Following the floods of 14 and 15 July, a joint declaration on cooperation in terms of crisis management, civil security and medical aid should be adopted. The aim is to formalise existing cooperation initiatives between services. Another joint declaration should be signed concerning cross-border health cooperation, which proved to be crucial in the greater region throughout the pandemic.

In the field of defence, both countries should adopt a text on the joint operation of the A400M military aircraft. The plane is stationed in Belgium and forms part of a bi-national unit. It recently formed part of an evacuation mission from Kabul, Afghanistan. Defence minister François Bausch (déi Gréng) in June said Belgium and Luxembourg would sign a letter of intent at the summit to form a joint army unit.  

Other agreements or declarations, notably concerning the Belgo-Luxembourg Economic Union (BLEU) or the exchange of information between public administrations, should be discussed and signed.

Additional reporting by Cordula Schnuer

This story was first published in French on Paperjam. It has been translated and edited for Delano.