Environment permit for Brussels Airport prompts mixed reactions

On Friday morning, Flemish Environment minister Zuhal Demir announced that she had approved the new environmental permit for Brussels Airport. According to Demir, the permit strikes a balance between all interests. But judging by the reactions, not everyone seems to agree.

The permit guarantees "the balance between the economic interests of the airport and the quality of life of the surrounding area," Demir said on Friday. Night flights will not be banned, but noise pollution for residents will be taken into account and the number of flights per year will be capped at 240,000 by 2032.

Unhappy mayors

The mayors of towns near Zaventem are unhappy that night flights will not be banned. "The airport operator and the economy are the big winners, the quality of life and the health of the citizens are the losers," said Walter Vansteenkiste, mayor of Wemmel. And Benoît Cerexhe, mayor of the Brussels municipality of Woluwe-Saint-Pierre, said he would use "all legal means" to stop the permit.

On the other hand, Brussels Airport itself believes that the permit places too many restrictions on the airport. "The limitation of the number of movements (...) affects the future of the whole ecosystem at the airport," Brussels Airport said in a statement, adding that these restrictions could severely affect its 64,000 direct and indirect employees.

"The airport operator and the economy are the big winners, the quality of life and the health of the citizens are the losers"

Airport unions reacted with mixed feelings to the approval. The socialist union BTB-ABVV is satisfied that the ban on night flights has not been lifted. "Numerous companies in Flanders, Brussels and Wallonia need them to secure and develop their activities in the future". ACV Transcom was also positive, but warned that the restrictions would have "an undeniable impact on employment and economic growth for the region and our country".

Divided politicians

Politicians are also divided. Mieke Schauvliege of the Belgian green party Groen criticised Demir for "sacrificing the health of the local population, with all the risks and costs that entails". Meanwhile, Open VLD leader Tom Ongena agrees with Brussels Airport's opinion. "Zaventem is our country's biggest economic pole after the port of Antwerp. It is incomprehensible that the minister is putting it at risk," the liberal politician wrote on X.

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