Belgium postpones EU Recovery Funds application
Belgium has decided to delay applying for €850 million in EU recovery funds it could have applied for on Friday. The country's Recovery State Secretary Thomas Dermine (PS, French-speaking socialists) first wants to achieve all 20 milestones put forward by the European Commission.
Belgium is entitled to 4.5 billion euros from the European Union's NextGenerationEU recovery fund set up to help member states relaunch their economies after the Covid-19 crisis. The country could have applied for a first instalment of €850 million on Friday, but has decided to postpone its application.
In exchange for the funds, the Belgian federal government had agreed with the Commission to achieve 20 milestones. The country achieved 18 of those 20 milestones, including greening its company car fleet and installing scanners at the port of Antwerp in the fight against drug trafficking. The main milestone that remains unmet is pension reform.
Long-term pension affordability in particular remains a sticking point, Dermine explained during a Radio 1 interview. According to the State Secretary, his party is willing to look for a new compromise, noting that the European Commission is "not asking for a super-strict reform."
Dermine hopes the Belgian federal government can reach an agreement soon. Prime Minister Alexander De Croo earlier expressed the ambition to finalize a series of reforms in March, including on pensions. Belgium is also not the only country asking for a deadline postponement, Dermine pointed out. Germany is in the same predicament.
Belgian State Secretary for Economic Recovery and Strategic Investments Thomas Dermine © BELGA PHOTO ERIC LALMAND