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Interview with the mayor of Wervik, Belgium
Youro Casier was born in 1968 in Wevelgem and has been politically active since 1994. In 1997 he became a city councillor, between 2007 and 2012 he was an alderman at the City of Werwik and in 2013 got elected as its Mayor.
His political career hs also included work as a provincial councillor (2000-2006) and as a Member of the Belgian Parliament (2017-2019).
Mr Casier, would you briefly present the municipality of Wervik to the audience of TheMayor.EU?
Wervik is a city located in the south of the province of West Flanders. We are a real border town. This is because we are located both at the national border with France, the provincial border and the language border with Wallonia.
Wervik has only one sub-municipality. We count around 19 000 inhabitants and are best known for our tobacco cultivation and our Roman past.
And in 2018 we celebrated our 2050th anniversary.
You have been mayor for almost 8 years now. How has the municipality changed in that period? What were the most important projects and initiatives realized after you assumed the post?
I did become Mayor back in 2013, after six years of being an alderman of Public Works. In these last 8 years, a lot of public works have been carried out.
Our central streets were renewed, a new bridge was built over the Leie between Belgium and France, the towpath and the river boards were renewed, school environments were renovated and so was the church square. Our town underwent a real metamorphosis.
How about plans for the coming months?
In the meantime, we have started building a cultural centre in the sub-municipality of Geluwe. A new central car park will also be built, and our current car park will be completely renovated.
At the moment this is just a plain that we aim to convert into a green and quiet meeting place. We are also committed to encouraging the use of bicycles, by securing our school environments.
In late November, Wervik received a very special recognition – the label of “foster care municipality”. Please tell us more about that.
We have indeed received recognition as a foster care municipality recently. This is because we support the foster parents who live in our town and we also try to motivate other residents to join up as foster parents. Many children are looking for foster families and in that way, we want to show our support to them.
One of the economic support measures considered in Wervik was to subsidise the online presence of the merchants. Has this been already approved? What else has been done to help businesses survive the difficult situation related to COVID-19?
Subsidizing our merchants for the creation of a website or a webshop has been approved and is running smoothly. During the corona period, various actions were organised for the benefit of our local retailers.
Catering vouchers were distributed among the inhabitants, patios were allowed to be extended. The Town of Wervik paid an extra 20% on purchase vouchers. Furthermore, our local Economy councillor was always available to answer any questions and support the sector.
This year, the city decided to extend its Christmas decoration by offering 100 free trees to entrepreneurs. What else are you doing to keep the Christmas spirit alive in this extraordinary situation?
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Christmas and New Year this year will be different. These are dark days, and our inhabitants can certainly use some extra light and warmth.
This year the Christmas lights were lit two weeks earlier and our two mills have also been illuminated. In this way, we try to bring some extra light and warmth for the people to help them get through the difficult times.
Is there a good practice or initiative from Wervik that you would like to recommend to the other mayors in the European Union?
Starting this year and going forward, we have decided to provide € 50 000 each year for sustainable citizens' initiatives. Anyone can submit a project to make their street, neighbourhood or surroundings more sustainable.
What is important in this is the part related to participation and the fact that applicants must be prepared to make a long-term commitment. Simply making a proposal is not enough, commitment will be needed, too.