Antwerp is in talks with its neighbouring municipality of Borsbeek to make it into a district of the city, announced Antwerp mayor Bart De Wever and Borsbeeck mayor Dis Van Berckelaer at a press conference on Friday.
The aim is to make Borsbeek – which has some 11,000 inhabitants – the tenth district of Antwerp City in 2025. This would make Antwerp bigger for the first time since 1983, which De Wever called “a historic step,” reports VRT.
Over the next two years, the merger will be prepared and the final decision will be submitted to the municipal councils of Borsbeek and Antwerp on 31 December 2023, explained Van Berckelaer.
The merger comes as it is becoming too hard financially for Borsbeek to continue as an independent municipality. It has reportedly held merger discussions with its neighbouring municipalities, but none of them was in favour.
If the merger with Antwerp goes ahead, Antwerp will be entitled to €50 million in aid from the Flemish Government, in the form of a debt assumption.
“The hearts and minds have not yet been won right away. Many people think that they will disappear into the big city, while as a neighbouring municipality they can remain themselves,” De Wever said, arguing that the opposite is true and that a district in the city can keep its individuality.
Like his colleague Van Berckelaer, De Wever said that instead of a village next to the city, it should now become a village inside the city.
He said that this would be a positive choice, adding that it is Antwerp’s commitment that the people of Borsbeek “must keep what they have and not lose it” by becoming a district of the city.
A district is a sub-municipality, but with its own administration: a district council, district college and mayor, but with fewer competencies than in an independent municipality. They were created in 1983 as an aftermath of the Belgian merger wave in the 1970s. Before that, the current districts were independent municipalities.