Noise norms: "Brussels is irresponsible"

The Flemish PM Geert Bourgeois has called on the Brussels Region to ditch strict noise norms for airplanes after it emerged that two cargo carriers are quitting Brussels Airport because they are not allowed to overfly Brussels. The decision could result in the loss of 3,500 jobs.

Starting 1 January Brussels is introducing zero tolerance for planes that exceed the noise norms. Airlines flouting the norms risk hefty fines. The Flemish government is raising the matter with the other Belgian authorities invoking a procedure that suspends any new action by Brussels, but two freight carriers have already announced they are off: Saudi Arabian Cargo is moving to Frankfurt (Germany), while China's Yangtze River Express is switching to Amsterdam (The Netherlands).

Three other operators flying noisy Boeing 747's are looking at their options: Air Cargo Global, Asiana and Singapore Airlines Cargo. Speaking in business magazine Trends Geert Keirens of Air Cargo Belgium, the organisation that defends the interests of logistic businesses at Zaventem, says: "If there is no political solution in the course of January, they will leave."

Directly at least 1,250 jobs would then be under threat, indirectly 2,500.

Flemish PM Bourgeois today accused the Brussels government of being irresponsible: "After Antwerp, Zaventem is the second most important economic pole in the country creating jobs for 60,000 people."

Brussels PM Rudi Vervoort rejects Mr Bourgeois' attack saying that other Belgian regions should take account of the quality of life of the people of Brussels.