Fighter jet decision sparks anger

Negotiators for a new federal government have decided that the army's old F16 fighter jets will be replaced. This could cost an estimated 4 billion euros in times of tight budgets and austerity measures. A concrete decision about which jets and how many, is only expected at a later stage, as the order will only take place around 2018. The jets have to be replaced by 2023.

The replacement of the old fighter jets has been an issue for some time. Supporters say Belgium has to buy a new type, to secure its contribution to international missions. NATO has urged Belgium on several occasions to take action in the matter.

Critics point to the cost of a new fleet, in times when the government is announcing one round of cuts after another. There are talks that 40 new jets will be purchased for about 100 million euros each, bringing the investment to at least 4 billion.

The socialist party was able to fence off the project in the previous government, but the socialists have now been ousted from the federal government talks and will have to be content with the opposition benches. Negotiators for a centre-right "Swedish" coalition have agreed the jets will be replaced after all. It has not yet been decided which type will be acquired, but outgoing Defence Minister Pieter De Crem is a supporter of the American Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).

 "4 billion is 3 times the total budget needed to get everyone out of poverty in Belgium", critics point out. They also claim that 3 in 4 Belgians are against the purchase, denouncing the "democratic" frame of the decision.

The decision has sparked anger among members of the Women's Council. The Flemish Peace Institute thinks the decision is premature in this phase. Director Tomas Baum says that a profound debate is needed on the matter, both in parliament and in society.