Nationalists offer alternative majority to block closure of Belgium’s nuclear power plants

In an interview with VRT Radio 1’s morning news and current affairs programme ‘De Ochtend’ the leader of the Flemish Nationalist Party (N-VA) Bart De Wever said that he is prepared to offer his party’s support to parties in federal coalition that want to keep Belgium’s two nuclear power stations open beyond 2025. The federal coalition agreement states the intent to close the power stations at Doel (East Flanders) and Tihange (Liège Province) in 2025. However, a binding decision on this won’t be taken for another year. Earlier this week it emerged that the company that runs the nuclear power plants, the French-owned utilities group Engie Electrabel, is preparing for their closure.

 

 

In Saturday morning’s interview Mr De Wever heaped criticism on the Federal Energy Minister Tinne Van der Straeten (Flemish green). Earlier this week, Ms Van der Straeten said that she is pleased that Engie Electrabel is preparing for the plants’ eventual closure. However, Mr De Wever says that to abandon nuclear power in 2025 would be a disaster.

“We really need to avert this. This would mean that with the exception of Poland we would have the dirtiest electricity production and it would result in enormous price increases for consumers and companies. Moreover, there will be uncertainty concerning electricity supply. This is so disastrous that we need to avoid it at all cost. I offer our votes without any price”, Mr De Wever said.  

The use of an alternative majority to pass legislation or prevent legislation getting through is highly unusual, not least because it serves to destabilise coalition governments. This begs that question of whether Mr De Wever’s offer should be taken at face value or if it is a ploy by the leader of largest opposition party to destabilise the coalition that is made up of Flemish and Francophone socialists, liberals and greens and Flemish Christian democrats.  

Mr De Wever says that his offer has come as he is aware that apart from the greens the parties in the coalition are not in favour of abandoning nuclear power in 2025.

Referring to his talks with the leaders of the socialists and Christian democrats earlier this year, Mr De Wever said "During the federal coalition negotiations we discussed keeping the nuclear power stations open. Three seconds later we had an agreement. It was the easiest negation that I have ever been involved in”.

"They are being dragged into the abyss by the greens. I think that the other parties will have been dumbfounded by the dexterity with which Tinne Van der Straeten, who knows this subject very well, was able to move quickly. However, this is completely irresponsible and they know it”.

Flemish Christian democrat leader "Understand concern, but an evaluation is planned”

 

 

In a reaction the leader of the Flemish Christian democrats Joachim Coens stressed that the closure of the nuclear power stations is part of the coalition agreement. “I understand Mr De Wever’s concern, but the coalition agreement only confirms earlier agreements to abandon nuclear power. This had already been decided. What is important for us is that the coalition agreement provides for an evaluation of security of supply and the impact on energy price in November 2021”.

Mr Coens confirms that the socialists, Flemish nationalists and Christian democrats agreed that some reactors should remain open beyond 2025.

However, the motivation for this was concerns about security of supply and energy prices and these issues will be examined during next year’s evaluation.

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