20 June 2005
The weekend's heat was featured in word and picture on Monday, but Belgian media also continued to focus on the problems around Zaventem Airport and the nation's traffic congestion.
Heat proves fatal
The hottest day of the year proved fatal for a 67-year-old man on Sunday who collapsed and died on an Oostende street. Medical authorities were also kept busy elsewhere along the coast as the heat caused problems for several people. The mercury hit 31.9 degrees Celsius on Sunday. Two swimming deaths were reported across the country during the weekend, including a 15-year-old girl who mysteriously drowned in just 60cm of water in a backyard swimming pool, ‘Het Nieuwsblad’ reported. Coastal towns were popular over the weekend and large numbers of people were seen at water sports locations across the country. Temperatures above 30 degrees are expected again on Monday.
Call to decentralise Zaventem
Federal Finance Minister Didier Reynders has suggested setting up a second international airport to relieve some of the pressure on Brussels. He said Zaventem flights could be diverted to Charleroi, Bierset (Luik) or Oostende. Wallonian Transport Minister André Antoine reacted favourably to the proposal, but warned that the French-speaking region should not become the air pollution bin of Belgium, ‘La Libre’ reported. Federal Transport Minister Renaat Landuyt will meet with the Brussels government to discuss the future of Zaventem this week. Air pollution concerns are placing the airport’s existence at threat.
Trucks face 80kmh speed limit
Flemish Transport Minister Kathleen van Brempt has proposed limiting trucks to a maximum speed of 80kmh. She said the lower speed limit will improve road safety and be better for the environment, ‘Het Laatste Nieuws’ reported. To prevent delays, a takeover ban imposed on trucks should also be expanded, especially on motorways with only two lanes, she said. The Royal Federation of Belgian Transporters has rejected the proposal, warning that more trucks will start using the nation’s motorways if the speed limit is reduced. Van Brempt needs the support of her Wallonian colleague, André Antoine, to implement her plans. Antoine is open to discussion.
Brussels universities plan co-operation
The rector of the Brussels Catholic University (KUB) wants to guarantee the institute’s future by establishing a co-operative relationship with the much larger and liberal Brussels Free University (VUB). The VUB is positive about the proposal, but the rector of the Catholic University in Leuven is less enthusiastic, ‘De Standaard’ reported. For the co-operative deal to go-ahead, KUB must win approval at its general meeting, but due to its existing links with the Leuven university, Leuven officials are expected to be in the majority.
Early retirement could prove costly
Under federal government plans, workers who take early retirement will have to accept a 4 percent cut to the normal pension in future, ‘De Tijd’ reported. Employees who work beyond the retirement age will be rewarded with a pension bonus of a maximum of EUR 125. The government, unions and employers will meet again this week to discuss the Council of Minister’s plans, which are aimed at reducing the cost of the aging population.
3.5m cigarettes seized
Almost 3.5 million illegal British cigarettes were seized at a shed in Oudenburg last week. Four people found in the shed at the time were questioned by police, but were not arrested, the Finance Ministry said on Saturday. The raid took place after police followed a truck with a Ukrainian number plate to the shed, ‘Het Gazet van Antwerpen’ reported. The cigarettes were of the Superking brand.
[Copyright Expatica News 2005]
Subject: Belgian news