Nitrogen: Two out of three majority partners submit proposal, as nitrogen dossier continues to divide Flemish government
Majority parties N-VA and Open VLD submitted a decree on the Flemish government's nitrogen policy to the Flemish parliament on Thursday - without including coalition partner CD&V. Both parties stress the urgency of resolving the long-standing issue, but the move appears to deepen the rift between coalition partners.
In submitting the proposal, the N-VA (Flemish nationalists) and Open VLD (liberals) are immediately seeking the opinion of the Council of State (Belgium's highest administrative court) in order to save time, they say. According to the two parties, the intervention is intended to "move up a gear and unblock the nitrogen dossier". CD&V (Christian Democrats) are not co-sponsoring the motion because the party has made its support for the agreement conditional on a pending environmental impact study regarding its own demands.
According to CD&V MP Bart Dochy, his party was blindsided by its own coalition partners. "The decree was tabled to get the opinion of the Council of State, but once tabled it can be put on the agenda for a vote - we know that". Dochy reiterates that CD&V will not approve the text without compensation measures and a relaxation of the emission thresholds - concerns shared by the country's farming unions.
"In this dossier, there is one unprecedented situation after another"
The Flemish government's continued lack of unity on the long-standing nitrogen issue has again provoked strong criticism from the opposition. "In this dossier, there is one unprecedented situation after another," said Green party leader Mieke Schauvliege, calling the move a case of "political jousting". Far-right Vlaams Belang, in turn, called for an emergency session of the Flemish parliament. "There is clearly no Flemish government anymore," said party leader Chris Janssens. "This definitely shatters the coalition."
Opposition party Vooruit (Social Democrats), on the other hand, does not rule out supporting Thursday's nitrogen decree, provided it meets a number of principles such as "compensation for farmers and a leap forward in terms of public health and nature".
After a long period of political deadlock on a dossier that has plagued the Flemish government for well over a year, the majority partners reached an agreement on reducing nitrogen emissions in March 2023. However, the agreement has yet to be translated into legislation. While the agricultural sector considered the proposed legislation too strict, environmental organisations felt it did not go far enough. The thorny issue has already brought the regional government to the brink of collapse.
#FlandersNewsService | Flemish minister of Environment Zuhal Demir (N-VA) © BELGA PHOTO JAMES ARTHUR GEKIERE