Link between Germany and France
Saarland, being a border region with France, has French kindergartens and primary schools, a Franco-German Secondary School (Gymnasium), a Franco-German University, a Franco-German theatre festival, and many other testaments to the Franco-German relationship.
The fact that these institutions are based here is due in part to the history of the Land (federal state) and its geographic location. However, it is also the result of a clear strategy, known as the “France Strategy,” which was introduced in 2013 by Saarland's government. Saarland views itself as a bridge between Germany and France and has set the goal of becoming the most French-like of all the German Länder. Moreover, there is a plan to gradually make French a common language alongside German. Saarland is aiming to develop into a multilingual Land within the course of a generation, that is, by 2043.
In the Land of the hiker
On 23 October 1955, Saarland had the opportunity to write a chapter of European history and become an independent European territory. However, in a referendum held on that date, the population of Saarland voted by a majority of 67.7% against the Saar Statute, negotiated between France and Germany, and thus against independent status as a European territory.
On 1 January 1957, Saarland was politically integrated into the Federal Republic of Germany. With a surface area of approximately 2,570 km², Saarland, which borders Luxembourg, Rhineland-Palatinate and the French region of Lorraine, is the smallest of Germany's Länder (aside from Germany's city-states). The Land derives its name from the Saar River. Saarland is one of the warmest and most densely forested regions in Germany. Hence, for example, a ten-minute tram journey from the station in the capital city of Saarbrücken takes you out into the middle of a virgin forest.
Saarland is renowned for its hiking trails. In 2017, the Saar-Hunsrück Climb (Saar-Hunsrück-Steig) was chosen as the most beautiful long-distance hiking trail in Germany. Since 2016, hikers have been able to enjoy the impressive view across the Saarschleife (Great Bend in the Saar), one of the most beautiful river meanders in Germany, from the observation tower on the treetop path.
A successful structural transformation
The former coal-mining area has successfully completed its radical economic restructuring process. The approximately 80,000 jobs lost in the coal-mining and steelworks industries since the 1960s have been recreated elsewhere.
But that’s not all: there are now more jobs to be had in Saarland than ever before. The Land has developed into one of the leading exporting regions in Germany and is focusing on structural change through innovative technologies. Saarland is also now one of the most important centres of the automobile industry in Germany. Above all, local suppliers such as Bosch, Nemak, Schaeffler, Thyssen-Krupp, Michelin and even ZF have a company site here.
Saarland is also a technological pioneer and is positioning itself as a “factory of the future”. Since the demise of the coal mines, the local steel industry has been experiencing a renaissance. For example, all of the steel used to construct the hull of the world’s largest cruise liner, the Queen Mary 2, was produced at a plant operated by Saarland-based Dillinger Hütte.
From mining to culture
Even the Land’s cultural scene is characterised by Saarland’s industrial history. The former ironworks in Völklingen, Völklinger Hütte (Völklingen Ironworks), which were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994, present a perfect example of this. The gigantic industrial complex, which was decommissioned in 1986, now serves as a venue for exhibitions and concerts. The world’s most important urban art retrospective, UrbanArt Biennale®, is also held here at regular intervals. 100 artists from 20 countries display their works across 100,000 m² of exhibition space. The Völklinger Hütte World Heritage Site also hosts the Electro Magnetic music festival, where world-famous DJs can be heard booming out the bass.
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