Nationalists’ proposal for a new army base in East or West Flanders enjoys the support of other parties

An idea launched by the Flemish nationalist politician Theo Francken during a debate at Brussels’ Dutch-Medium Free University on Thursday evening has received the backing of a number of other parties standing in Sunday’s elections.  Under Mr Francken’s proposals a new army base would be built in either East or West Flanders. 

The Belgian Land Component is seriously under-staffed. The former Federal Secretary of State Theo Francken (Flemish nationalist) suggests that more new recruits could be persuaded to join the army’s Land Component if a new base were to open in East Flanders or West Flanders.

Currently the Land Component only has bases in Limburg province and in Wallonia. This means that potential recruits from for example Ghent, Bruges and Kortrijk are put off by the long distance that they would have to travel to work.    

"The army currently makes impossible demands with regard to home to work travel. This is why there is a real need for a new army barracks in East Flanders or West Flanders.” 

Support from other parties

Mr Francken’s plan enjoys the support of a number of other parties.  The Flemish Christian democrats are also in favour of a new base for the Land Component, although they suggest that it could maybe be housed in existing barracks.

The Navy, the Air Force and the Medical Corps all have barracks in East and West Flanders.  The Flemish Christian Democrat Federal MP Hendrik Bogaert said “Maybe existing facilities could be expanded before we start digging up fields or chopping down woods to build new barracks”. The Flemish socialists, the Flemish liberals and the Flemish greens also back the proposals.

The parties also agree that the next Federal Government will have to look at the pay and conditions of military personnel.  The Flemish socialists believe that soldiers wages need to increase. There was also a consensus that there should be no further cuts in military spending.   

However, the army union ACMP is critical of the proposal to build a new barracks. The union’s Yves Huwart told VRT News that building a new barracks would take at least a couple of years. Mr Huwart added that the recruitment problem is so acute that a quicker solution needs to be found. The union believes that improved conditions of employment and better pay for military personnel could go a long way to resolving the staffing issues.