Belgian government reaches agreement on measures to reduce energy bill

The Belgian federal government reached an agreement on Friday on additional support to reduce household energy bills. Prime Minister Alexander De Croo reported this via Twitter. The measures involve a cheap basic package for the months of November and December, with an allowance of 135 euros per month for gas and 61 euros per month for electricity.

The government will also provide additional support for businesses and the self-employed. These include payment deferrals for social contributions and taxes, the introduction of a temporary unemployment 'energy' system and minimum excise duties on gas and electricity in November and December.

Voka, the Flemish network of enterprises, and the Federation of Enterprises in Belgium (FEB) are satisfied with the federal government's decisions to address the impact of the energy crisis on companies. The FEB calls for not just crisis measures but structural changes to address rising wage costs, loss of competitiveness and a yawning trade deficit as well.

Nevertheless, VBO remains cautious. "The decided measures have given our companies breathing space in the short term, especially the measure on temporary unemployment is an important step forward," says Pieter Timmermans, CEO of VBO. "We now urgently need to work towards a global agreement in which we safeguard the competitiveness of our companies, otherwise this will lead to production stoppages, relocations and ultimately job losses."

Voka is calling on the Flemish government to also work quickly on a workable energy support package. "Flanders must - as our neighbouring countries already did - implement the European TCF framework. In doing so, Europe allows temporary and targeted state aid to companies that are in difficulties due to high [energy] prices," echoes Hans Maertens, managing director of Voka. "Companies have been waiting for this for several weeks. Now there must be no further procrastination."

The government is also exploring the option for a last-minute life extension of the Doel 3 nuclear reactor. But the Belgian Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (FANC) is critical of the idea: "A possible and very belated decision to possibly proceed with a long-term decommissioning of this power plant at this stage does not demonstrate good governance," writes FANC general director Frank Hardeman.

"Today, the FANC cannot guarantee that a late and unprepared scenario (adjustment of the planning for post-operational phase and/or freezing of the facility barely a few days from the final shutdown of Doel 3) does not pose a risk to nuclear safety," reads the advice. The watchdog also points out that no preparatory activity has taken place, and therefore a possible restart is not possible in the short term. "There is uncertainty whether it can be done at all, and we are talking about a timeframe of many years." 




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