Mr De Croo conceded the situation was now serious. Rising energy prices form a threat to the economy. The premier insists any cap on gas prices needs to be agreed at the European level. European energy ministers meet next Friday.
The premier expressed his anger at the fact that Europe had failed to act with speed. Belgium alone can’t sort it he noted: “At long last the European commission is now signalling comprehension: citizens need to be protected”.
The premier spoke of the willingness of bankers to offer mortgage holidays to struggling families. On Monday representatives of Belgium’s various governments will see business leaders with a view to organising support.
Mr De Croo believes the present crisis triggered by the war in Ukraine is far more profound than that caused by the pandemic: “We will not allow our society and our economic tissue to be destroyed. My message to Europe is the following: this is about more than the economy. It’s about the stability and security of the entire continent”.
The Belgian leader has been accused of fuelling panic by suggesting the next five to ten winters will be difficult. Mr De Croo refused to withdraw his words: “This is the reality. If we can get a grip on this, we’re in for five difficult years. If we fail due to poor policies, it’s ten difficult years. As a country and as a continent we can sort it, if we get all our ducks in a row. We can leap forward twenty years by loosening ties with fossil fuels and countries we prefer not to trade with”.
“Our reliance on Russian gas has already decreased enormously. We thought it would take years. If we do a good job, it will be a matter of months. During these months we will do our utmost to the chart a course through the crisis for everybody. People need to understand this is a temporary solution. We won’t leave people in the cold or allow them to lose their jobs. We will take action”.