Antwerp cedes part of port to East Flanders amid municipality merger
The merged municipality of Beveren-Kruibeke-Zwijndrecht, which currently straddles two provinces, will belong to East Flanders and not to Antwerp, the Flemish government has decided. This means that, with the town of Zwijndrecht, part of the port of Antwerp will be transferred to a different province despite objections by Antwerp.
The planned merger between Kruibeke, Beveren (East Flanders) and Zwijndrecht (Antwerp) has caused controversy. In September, 80 per cent of voters in Zwijndrecht rejected the merger, but Zwijndrecht's municipal council gave the go-ahead for merger talks in October.
Until now, it was unclear which province the municipality would belong to. Antwerp wanted to incorporate it, and provincial deputy Luk Lemmens had argued for an attachment to Antwerp "in the interests of the port".
Provincial deputy Luk Lemmens argued for an attachment to Antwerp "in the interests of the port"
Provincial governor Cathy Berx also suggested that the port was best managed as "one area and not fragmented", especially in terms of "civil and police security". East Flanders governor Carina Van Cauter, however, insisted that a transfer to East Flanders was "the logical decision".
In addition to losing part of Europe's second-largest port - which is already partly on East Flanders territory - Antwerp would lose more than 2 million euros annually if the merged municipality went to East Flanders, due to the loss of business tax revenue from the many port companies in Zwijndrecht.
The Flemish government has now decided, in principle, to assign the merged municipality to East Flanders. The decision still needs to be submitted to the Council of State, Belgium's highest administrative court.
For several years, the Flemish government has been actively encouraging mergers of municipalities, including several financial incentives for local authorities. The regional government wants to reduce the number of municipalities from 300 to 100.
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