Belgian road vignette isolates Dutch region
Belgium is to introduce a road toll for motorists after the Dutch-speaking Flemish decided to drop their opposition to the plan. Residents of the southern part of the Dutch province of Zeeland will now have to pay to drive to any other destination within the Netherlands.
Flemish-speaking Belgium was talked out of introducing a Swiss-style road tax vignette three years ago by the Dutch government, which wanted the two countries to introduce a more sophisticated pay-as-you-go kilometre permit system. Under Camiel Eurlings, Dutch transport minister in the last coalition government, the system was developed further for implementation despite opposition at home.
Then, the new right-wing Dutch cabinet with free-market liberal Mark Rutte at the helm announced last month that the controversial pay-as-you-go proposal is dead and buried, as far as his government is concerned. Flanders has now agreed with French-speaking Wallonia to implement the kilometre permit systems for hauliers, while ordinary motorists will be subject to the road toll.
The Dutch Labour party had tried to dissuade the Belgians from introducing the vignette system, which will have repercussions for people living in the most southern region of Zeeland, Zeeuws-Vlaanderen. Until 2003, travel to and from Zeeuws-Vlaanderen was only possible by ferry or by cutting through Belgium. Then, the Westerschede tunnel was opened, connecting the southern region with the rest of the country, but a toll is exacted to use it. Local Labour politician Marjan de Koster has voiced her concerns that Zeeuws-Vlaanderen could become an island again when the vignette is introduced.
© Radio Netherlands Worldwide