Flemish Government reaches agreement after 20 hours of talks

After a marathon meeting lasting some 20 hours, the minister in the Flemish Government have reached agreement on 180 points that were on the agenda of the final cabinet meeting before the summer recess. A compromise has been reached on the so-called “Waste Plan” and Ministers from the three parties that make up the Flemish Government coalition have agreed that a deposit system for cans and plastic bottle won’t be introduced for the time being at least.

The Environment Minister Joke Schauvliege’s (Christian democrat) “Packaging Plan” or “Waste Plan” as it is often called wasn’t on the agenda. However, under pressure from the Nationalists and Liberals the plan was brought to the table. The Flemish Government says that a “far-reaching” accord has been reached. The measures agreed up on range from a ban on plastic bags to making the use of re-usable beakers at events and tough goals to be met by the packaging industry.   

The introduction of a deposit system for cans and plastic bottles like what has already been in place in Germany for many years’ remains a source of discord within the Flemish Government. The Christian democrats are in favour while the nationalists and liberals are against as they believe that this won’t solve the issue of litter. A deposit system won’t be introduced. However, as a compromise stricter rules packaging will be introduced. Only if and when it is shown that these measures aren’t working would a system of deposits on cans and plastic bottles be introduced.     

Also on the agenda were proposals to limit building on land that that is not yet built on and the so-called “Woodland map”. Anyone that wants to clear trees from building plots or land designated industrial use that they own must first ask for a special permit. If the permit is not granted they will be compensated for 100% of the value of the land. The same is true of those that own building plots in flood plain areas where construction is no longer allowed.     

Climate change and air quality

A number of important measures were approved concerning climate change and air quality. Road charging measures won’t be introduced until 2020. Incentives will be introduced to encourage local authorities to launch low emission zones like that already in existence in Antwerp.

Measures will be introduce to promote sustainable a renewable energy. The sale of new heating oil tanks will be stopped from 2021. Also from 2021, new homes built on new developments will no longer be allowed to be connected to the gas distribution network. The percentage of energy produced by solar power will be doubled in 10 years. This equates to 2 solar panels per Fleming.

Flemish PM pleased with the agreement

Speaking after the marathon cabinet meeting, the Flemish Prime Minister Geert Bourgeois (Nationalist) told VRT News that he was pleased with the agreement "We have amongst other things been able to agree to a raft of measures for a clear, sustainable and carbon-poor Flanders. Agreement has been reached on amongst other things The Flemish Spatial Policy Plan. The Flemish Energy and Climate Accord, the Air Quality Plan, the Packaging Plan…” Mr Bourgeois said.