Belgian ports warn: without a united response, industry will leave Europe

The CEOs of Belgian, Dutch and German ports are calling on government leaders to find a solution to the deteriorating position of the industry, ahead of a two-day summit in Brussels. Without it, they say, Europe will lose autonomy and prosperity.

The manufacturing industry in the triangle between the Flemish-Dutch ports and the German Ruhr area is responsible for a large part of European production. It enables electronics, medicines and mattresses to be made in Europe, as well as windmills, insulation materials and solar cells. But as large emitters of CO2, still largely relying on fossil fuels, they wonder if there is a future for them in Europe. 

To become more sustainable, these energy-intensive companies face much higher costs than in other parts of the world. The US, for example, has introduced the Inflation Reduction Act, a support package to make it attractive for companies to invest in the necessary innovation.

Industrial deal

European governments, however, have thus far failed to offer similar measures. As a result, investments in sustainability fail to materialise and industry moves outside Europe. That means more imports from outside Europe, with negative consequences for the climate, strategic autonomy and prosperity.

Investing in an industry that is still so dependent on fossil fuels and has high CO2 emissions is unpopular. But it is necessary, according to the ports' CEOs. Industry, alongside logistics and the energy sector, is a crucial arm of the ports. It involves some 63 billion euros of added value and more than half a million jobs. 

They say it is therefore important that heads of government reflect on the future of the industry in Europe at the summit on 17 and 18 April. Prime minister Alexander De Croo has previously called for an Industrial Deal alongside a Green Deal if Europe wants a viable industry that can compete internationally.


A Greenpeace protester blocks an oil tanker in the port of Antwerp, April 2022 © BELGA PHOTO JASPER JACOBS

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