International commission to probe Belgian Antarctic antics

Several Flemish newspapers today report that the international community is to get involved in the row over the Belgian base in Antarctica where Belgian Antarctic explorer Alain Hubert is at loggerheads with the Belgian authorities.

Several countries, members of the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM), have been fed up with the Belgian antics at the Elisabeth Base for some time now and are establishing an international commission of enquiry.

A spokesman for the Belgian science policy minister Elke Sleurs says that countries have been worried about the Belgian activities in Antarctica for some time now. Norway and Belgium are to head the enquiry.

Alain Hubert, who led the base for many years, is said to support the creation of a new runway and have plans to organise tourist trips to the Antarctic. The latter is said to conflict with the Antarctic treaty. The Belgian science policy minister, Elke Sleurs, backs the idea of an international enquiry and has pledged full co-operation.

Belgium is eager to maintain Antarctica in its natural state and continue scientific research. Because of the bickering with Alain Hubert no Belgian scientific mission will travel to the continent this year. The international commission of enquiry could set out soon, because otherwise the start of the Antarctic winter will prevent it reaching its destination.