16 June 2005
Besides a crisis EU summit starting in Brussels on Thursday, several Belgian newspapers were headlining with economic news, such as the air pollution battle around Zaventem Airport.
Last ditch bid to save Zaventem
Transport Minister Renaat Landuyt has admitted there are significant problems around the Zaventem Airport in Brussels. Failing to see a solution to the noise pollution problems caused by night and weekend flights, he said if the Brussels region maintains present noise pollution regulations, the international airport will be forced to close in three months time. If every court ruling in recent months is implemented, no take-offs will be allowed at night or over the weekend, newspaper 'Het Nieuwsblad' reported. Only one route remains open: over Leuven, but that can only be used for landing. Landuyt said the federal government decided on Wednesday to quickly push through an aviation law, stressing that regional authorities would then need to adjust their overly restrictive air pollution regulations.
Dewinter sparks renewed furore
Turning its attention to Filip Dewinter, the leader of the right-wing Flemish Interest (Vlaams Belang) party, newspaper 'Het Laatste Nieuws' reproduced several controversial comments he made to a Dutch newspaper. Pointing out the Dutch headline 'Multicultural is multicriminal', the Belgian paper said the language Dewinter used was a reminder of the most radical years of the Flemish Block (Vlaams Blok). The party was renamed Flemish Interest after being convicted of racism. In his latest interview, Dewinter said immigrants were "asylum tourists and immigration profiteers" and likened Islam to the Trojan horse. The Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism said Dewinter had not learned from his party's conviction.
Disabled jobs under threat
Flemish daily 'De Standaard' ran a front-page report on the loss of 'sheltered' jobs to China. It said the employers of 14,000 workers with learning difficulties in Flanders have been forced to seek new contracts. They are also demanding fairer competition with jails, whose low-paid inmates also take jobs away from people with learning disabilities. The Flemish federation of protected jobs, VLAB, said the delocalisation to China and the former communist countries in Eastern Europe has become a fact. Some 68 workplaces with 50 to 1,700 jobs are now looking for new contractors.
700 jobs at threat at VW plant
Another 700 jobs are at threat at the German Volkswagen plant in Vorst, near Brussels, newspaper 'De Tijd' reported. The German manufacturer wants to scrap the weekend shift at its only Belgian plant, placing at threat 550 jobs. Abandoning production of the VW Lupo will place an extra 150 jobs at threat.
BASF workers protest job losses
BASF factory workers Feluy (near Brussels) went out on strike on Thursday morning in protest against the chemical company's announcement on Wednesday to close the principal lines of production at the site. Some 203 jobs out of 306 are threatened, newspaper 'Le Soir' reported. The threatened cutbacks come after Walloon Socialist leader Elio Di Rupo, called earlier this week for a 'Marshall Plan' to invigorate the stagnating economy of the French-speaking region of Belgium.
[Copyright Expatica News 2005]
Subject: Belgian news