What will change in 2008?
The new year brings a number of changes in Belgium, including a more expensive energy bill, higher medical expenses, and lower prices for some welfare housingThe new year brings a number of changes in Belgium, including a more expensive energy bill, higher medical expenses, and lower prices for some welfare housing but an obligation to learn Dutch to qualify for welfare housing in Flanders. Mailboxes from now on must have an opening of minimum 23 cm wide.
Belgian families will see a rise in electricity and gas bills this year: up to €30 for electricity and €75 for gas. The reason for the price hike is an increase in the distribution tariffs. However, the 'Elia-tax' on energy consumption that was to compensate for the liberalisation of the energy market, has been abolished. This will save the average family between €10-20/year.
For diesel cars the extra road tax has been abolished as has the tax on small pull trailers.
Doctor fees and some medical costs increase
Most doctor fees increase slightly this year, but the amount paid back by the health insurances also increases accordingly.
Doctor visits after 6:00 pm are now €2 more expensive- people who have a regular doctor will be reimbursed in full.
Some examinations, such as CT scans are now up to 30% more expensive for the patient.
Loser pays winner's lawyer
From now on whoever is involved in a civil court case and loses must pay a considerable part of the legal fees for the winner.
The amount to be paid increases with the amount involved in the dispute. For disputes of between €250-750, the loser's contribution to the winning side is €200. For disputes of between €750-2,500 the contribution is €400.
For sums above €5000, the contribution will be worked out by a percentage system. The judge in any given case has the final word and may intervene to lower or increase losers' contributions.
Smiley for good hygiene
Restaurant and hotels that respect hygiene rules and serve freshly cooked meals may hang out a board with a smiley face on it from now on.
The Smiley sticker with a thumbs up is a label for restaurants and hotels included in a special guide.
The businesses that are not included will be controlled more often.
Senior citizens can just hop on
From January 1, 2008, senior citizens can just hop on and off buses without having to register their free card every time. Until the special senior pass equipped with a chip are sent out, senior citizens will get a special 65+ card.
The measure also applies to people with a handicap. In total, 1.2 million senior citizens and 128,000 people with a handicap are receiving the new pass.
Dutch for welfare housing
From 2008 there are new conditions to be eligible for welfare housing in Flanders.
As welfare housing is a regional matter, the Flemish Region is now demanding that a candidate renter at least show 'willingness' to learn Dutch in return for being able to live in subsidised welfare housing.
The renters will have a grace period of 2 years in which they must effectively learn basic Dutch. Only after that period will a rent contract be turned into a contract of unlimited duration.
The calculation of prices for welfare housing has also been revamped, making housing cheaper for certain groups, while the rent for some groups goes up slightly.
Larger mailbox opening
All houses and residences have the obligation from now on to have a mailbox with an opening of at least 23 cm wide, and 3 cm high. The height of a mailbox must be between 70 and 170 centimetres.
Stricter overtaking prohibition for lorries
A passing restriction is in effect from January 1 for lorries double duo-carriageways.
The prohibition applies specifically to regional and ring roads.
The passing restriction does not apply to most motorways (which are triple laned in both directions).
On these roads, the passing restriction only comes into effect when it is raining.
The new regulation has been met with mixed reactions.
2 January 2008