(c) Bram Saeys/Hollandse Hoogte

What's new on 1 April?

The start of a new month always heralds a number of changes in Belgium and as tomorrow is April Fool's we thought we ought to bring you abreast today.  Otherwise you might not believe us!

Starting tomorrow it will no longer be possible to get married in a civil ceremony at the town hall on Sundays!  Holidays are out too.  If you persist and still want to tie the knot on such a day, you will have to apply to the town council that can give you a dispensation.  The change isn't expected to have a big impact as few are the Belgians that get hitched on a Sunday!

For Ryanair employees greater changes are afoot. Starting 1 April Belgian and not Irish labour laws will apply to Ryanair staff in this country.  This means an improvement in the staff's employment conditions.  Staff working for Ryanair, who are based in Belgium, will now benefit from the more generous Belgian regime.  By 1 May all 350 Crewlink staff working indirectly for Ryanair will get a Ryanair contract.

Belgian town and municipal halls are embracing digitalisation.  In future digital birth and marriage certificates will be issued and they will bear a civil servant's digital signature.  The innovation is good news for municipal halls that will no longer have to store tons of paper.  Certificates will no longer be printed out either.  The innovation should save storage costs as well as an awful lot of paper!

In future Belgium's state register will automatically be updated when a certificate is issued.

1 April is also good news for those of us enlisting the services of a garden contractor.  VAT on plants and flowers purchased from garden contractors is being slashed from 21% to a mere 6%. Other garden contracting work stays at the 21% tariff.

Belgium is promoting voluntary work too.  Starting 1 April people doing voluntary work will enjoy greater protection through their insurance and it will be easier to apply for.

Finally, your GP who keeps your medical records up-to-date, is getting a fee increase and will receive 31.80 euros a year for most patients.  Don't worry, the increase is being completely refunded by the health insurance fund.  After all this is still Belgium!