The municipal governments of Borsbeek and Antwerp have decided to start merger talks. The intention is that Borsbeek will become the tenth district of the City of Antwerp on 1 January 2025. An intensive process will now run until the end of 2023, in which the benefits for all residents will be analyzed and administrative and legal preparations will be made.
The people of Borsbeek will be heavily involved in this process. The local government will openly discuss the various policy choices with them and listen to their concerns. That debate will be very accessible, including in streets and squares. Talks will also be started with neighborhood committees and advisory councils. The final decision will be submitted to both municipal councils before December 31, 2023.
Small but but dense
Borsbeek is today the smallest municipality in the province of Antwerp with an area of just under 4 km². With 11,200 inhabitants, it is also the second most densely populated municipality in Flanders.
The residents of Borsbeek can count on a municipal administration that works hard every day to provide the best service. In order to be even better able to withstand the growing complexity of the challenges faced by local authorities, the municipal council has therefore entered into discussions with all neighboring municipalities. This has now resulted in a clear preference to have Borsbeek join the City of Antwerp and thus become a district.
“Our ambition is to rhyme the advantages of the scale that the city offers us with the cozy proximity of our municipal facilities,” explains the mayor of Borsbeek, Dis Van Berckelaer (Borsbeek Boven Alles). “Our main intention in the discussions we had with possible merger partners was that the Borsbekenaar could continue to count on its own service provision with a fully-fledged district office. In addition, a number of improvements are added. We are thinking in particular of the redevelopment of streets and the maintenance of the public domain, a weekly waste collection, and the range of urban activities that Borsbeek would benefit from as a district. Not least our youth and seniors. An expertise also to say ‘you’ to.”
From village next to the city to village in the city
If both city councils give their approval after this two-year process, Borsbeek will become the tenth district of the city of Antwerp on 1 January 2025.
It will be the first district to join the city since the major merger of 1983, when seven other municipalities joined the city as districts: Berchem, Borgerhout, Deurne, Ekeren, Hoboken, Merksem and Wilrijk. Berendrecht-Zandvliet-Lillo also became an independent district.
“Forty years after the merger, we see that the various Antwerp districts have still retained and even strengthened their own identity”, emphasizes Antwerp Alderman for Decentralization and Finance Koen Kennis (N-VA). “That is why a choice for the city is also a positive choice for Borsbeek. Districts remain close to the citizen and retain a large number of powers. This ensures that policy tailored to the Borsbekenaar remains possible.”
The Flemish Government offers financial incentives to municipalities that choose to merge. For the merger between Antwerp and Borsbeek, this would mean a one-off benefit of 50 million euros. Resources that are used to benefit all residents of both municipalities.
“The principle is simple”, says the mayor of Antwerp, Bart De Wever (N-VA). “For the citizens of Antwerp and Borsbeek, this merger will be a win-win. What is good is preserved. And what can be done better, will get better. Concrete projects are on the table for this.”
For Borsbeek’s accession as the tenth district of the city, the following principles are proposed:
- The reconstruction of the local main axes, including the Robianostraat, Jozef Reusenslei, Lucien Hendrickxlei and Wenigerstraat.
- Garbage collection will be done weekly.
- The Borsbekenaar gets all the benefits of the Antwerp residents and the same access to youth work, care for the elderly, sports infrastructure and the cultural offer. This means, for example, that Borsbeek residents can go swimming in the brand new Sportoase Ruggeveld at an affordable rate.
- The talks between the two municipal schools, Academia and De Klinker, and the Municipal Education with the intention of turning these schools over, will be continued. The decision to transfer the municipal schools is independent of the merger talks and was already made by Borsbeek in 2020.
- The expertise and the diverse networks that the city is developing and expanding will provide more than valuable support for the challenges of (child) poverty and employment.
- The subsystems, including the Velo bicycle system, will eventually be extended to Borsbeek.
- Fort 3 will be retained as a green lung and will form part of the green belt around the city, with the further roll-out of the master plan drawn up by Borsbeek.
- The Tirolerhof will be fully upgraded as a warm meeting place for all Borsbeek residents.
- The library will remain and will be further expanded thanks to the extensive urban operation.
- Borsbekenaren can continue to go to the recycling parks of Wommelgem and Boechout, but from now on they can also go to Berchem and other Antwerp recycling parks.
- The local police and fire brigade are included in the Police Zone Antwerp and Antwerp Fire Brigade Zone, the largest fire brigades in Flanders. The police station and the fire station will be preserved, including the deployment of fire brigade volunteers.
- The principle that the Borsbekenaar should improve is taken to heart when drawing up the balance sheet of all financial decisions and consequences, including the unification of the municipal tax systems and the weighing of all financial benefits in terms of services and supply (social, sports and cultural facilities, waste bags,…).
“We are now starting an intensive process with the intention of examining whether the merger can be realized on January 1, 2025. In that case, we will submit an official decision to the Flemish government by December 31, 2023”, explains Borsbeek Alderman for Civil Affairs, Personnel and Finance Ken Casier (N-VA).
“In the coming months, we will involve all the services involved and analyze the administrative and practical consequences. The aim is to make every effort to start Borsbeek as a fully-fledged district with its own powers and policy resources in 2025.”
The municipality only comprises the town of Borsbeek proper. On January 1, 2021 Borsbeek had a total population of 11,076. The total area is 3.92 km² which gives a population density of 2.825 inhabitants per km².
Its slogan is “village near the city”, so it is proud of its green spaces.
As it is adjacent to Antwerp International Airport (ANR) in Deurne, it will be interesting how that complex debate will evolve. The airport is very divisive between proponents and opponents of the airport.
Antwerp has currently nine districts. Article 41 of the Belgian Constitution provides for the possibility of implementing districts for any municipality with at least 100,000 inhabitants. In such cases, the districts have elected district councils and a district college, but only Antwerp has made use of that provision.
A college is the name for city governments. I.e. the mayor and the aldermen.
Other cities in which the provision theoretically could be implemented are Ghent, Bruges and Leuven in Flanders; Charleroi, Liège and Namur in Wallonia; and the City of Brussels, Anderlecht and Schaerbeek in the Brussels Capital Region. Although Anderlecht and Schaerbeek do not contain other former municipalities.
There have repeatedly been proposals to merge the 19 municipalities of Brussels into a single municipality.