Oil firms demand state repay EUR 100m loan

15th March 2006, Comments 0 comments

15 March 2006, BRUSSELS — The oil industry is refusing to pay the EUR 100 million heating oil subsidy awarded to the public and has demanded the federal government repay the money.

15 March 2006

BRUSSELS — The oil industry is refusing to pay the EUR 100 million heating oil subsidy awarded to the public and has demanded the federal government repay the money.

The money — used by the government as a short-term loan to fund a cut in heating oil prices to help offset the high cost of energy for consumers — must be repaid to 16 oil companies by 31 March.

Budget Minister Freya Van den Bossche, Finance Minister Didier Reynders and Economy Minister Marc Verwilghen signed the deal with the oil sector on 23 December.

"There was an agreement signed by the companies and the government which is very clear: the money must be repaid," the secretary-general of the Petroleum Federation, Gaëtan Van de Werve, said.

But the issue placed Van den Bossche under pressure in January when she said the government did not intend to repay the money. Amid a storm of protest, the Socialist SP.A minister was forced to reverse her statement a few days later.

The government then said it would enter negotiations with the oil sector to convince it to pay a contribution to the federal energy rebate.

No such talks have been carried out, but the minister's spokesman said the government expected the issue to come up for debate during a budgetary assessment at the end of the month.

Meanwhile, due to the high cost of energy, gas consumers will also receive a subsidy from 1 July and the gas sector has already said it will not contribute any money to the rebate.

In response, Minister Verwilghen said on Tuesday the government will use every "legal" means at its disposal to convince the sector otherwise.

[Copyright Expatica News 2006]

Subject: Belgian news

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