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DHL to go

Published on 21/10/2004

21 October 2004

BRUSSELS – Blaming Belgian government dithering, global courier firm DHL said on Thursday that it will not expand its operations at Zaventem airport outside Brussels, a move that is likely to mean the loss of up to 1,700 jobs.

In a statement, DHL explained why it had decided to scrap its plans to expand its Zaventem operations.

“DHL regrets that despite intensive involvement of the government and major efforts by DHL, no official nor adequate proposal has been sent to the company’s management,” it said.

“This will prevent DHL from implementing its long-term expansion plan at Brussels National Airport and from creating an intercontinental hub,” the firm added.

In a joint statement Belgium’s regional and federal governments said they were “disappointed” by DHL’s decision.

They said they, “regretted the fact that DHL was not prepared to make the extra efforts needed to reduce the noise distrubance that their expansion would have caused.”

The company’s stance meant that DHL’s expansion plans, “had become impossibe,” the governments added.

DHL’s announcement marks the end of a seemingly endless saga that has seen Belgium’s regional governments engaged in months of bitter and fruitless wrangling with the federal administration.

And despite Thursday’s efforts to put a brave face on the news, the firm’s decision will come as a huge blow to the Belgian federal government in general and Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt in particular.

Verhofstadt has on numerous occassions said he would do all he could to ensure DHL stayed stayed at Zaventem.

Some political analysts have even suggested Verhofstadt’s government could fall as a result of the DHL pullout.

DHL workers came out on strike immediatley after hearing Thursday’s news, blocking access the Zaventem airport and to the DHL sorting centre at Dieghem.

DHL will not scale down its operations at Zaventem immediately.

It will continue to use the airport as its European hub until 2008, when it will relocate.

It is not yet sure where the courier firm will set up its new European base, but Leipzig in Germany and Vatry in France have both been suggested.

DHL also stressed in its statement that it was not planning to pull out of Belgium altogether in 2008 and that it would remain “an important employer,” in the country.

The row over DHL’s expansion plans centred on aircraft noise.

People living near Zaventem said the company’s plans to increase the number of flights it made in and out of the airport, particularly at night, would have made their lives unbearable.

Their cause was taken up by the regional authorities in Brussels as well as local politicians in the Zaventem area.

The residents were pitched against DHL and the company’s employees.

[Copyright Expatica 2004]

Subject: Belgian news