Dutch MPs question possible Belgian claim

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Opposition parties D66 and Green Left want an explanation from the cabinet over a possible legal claim against the Netherlands by Belgium because of the Hedwige polder.

Back in 2005, the Dutch had promised to flood the reclaimed agricultural land as compensation for dredging the Schelde river which leads to the port of Antwerp so that larger ships could reach the harbour. The costs were to be for the Belgian authorities.

The Dutch government backed down on the deal after local protests. Belgium is believed to be preparing a claim because the Dutch cabinet failed to keep to its promise to flood the polder causing delay and making it necessary to seek an alternative more expensive site. Deputy Agricultural Minister Henk Bleker has indicated two alternatives.

Television station RTL Nieuws reported on Friday that according to a confidential Belgian government document the costs for the Belgians could be as much as 785 million euros. A sum of 250 million euros is quoted in the document as “a realistic starting point”. The Belgians are believed to want to claim for the difference back from the Dutch government.

D66 MP Stientje van Veldhoven accuses the minister of “throwing half a billion euros away”. She thinks the Hedwige polder is the best option for both nature and the treasury.

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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