In a joint initiative, employers and trade unions at Brussels Airport have launched an appeal to the powers that be to consider the dramatic impact of the stringent noise regulations to be imposed by the government of the Brussels region. The Flemish Transport Minister Ben Weyts is considering invoking another conflict of interest. Time is pressing!
A dedicated website ‘keepourairportjobs.be’ points out that over 60,000 jobs may be at stake if the Brussels regulation becomes effective as from 22 February. Originally, this would have been the
case on 1 January, but thanks to Mr Weyts’s intervention, the deadline was postponed until this Wednesday.
The issue has - again - provoked a lot of mutual antagonism between the Flemish and the Brussels communities and has since moved on to the agenda of Belgium’s federal Prime Minister Charles Michel. What is needed most is a federal aviation law that would settle the problem once and for all. However, so far the Federal Transport Minister François Bellot has failed to produce one at short notice.
After another weekend of failed negotiations between the two regional governments, Ben Weyts is very likely to invoke another conflict of interests, if only to gain more time to reach an agreement.
Liege Airport on the move
The omnipresent fear of the Flemish government that the tighter Brussels noise regulations are another step in a campaign to move both the important passenger and cargo operations to Brussels South Charleroi and Liege Airport were fueled by an open letter sent out by the latter.
Addressing the Prime Minister, Liege Airport presents itself as the premier Belgian alternative for the noise problems at Brussels Airport. “We ask the federal and regional authorities to seize the all too clear opportunities Liege Airport offers as a solution for the noise problems resulting from the activities at Brussels Airport,” the letter says. “Liege Airport is open 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. It boasts a 3,700 m runway as well as important operational capacities both during the day and at night.”
Liege Airport claims that it can easily maintain the cargo activities now at Brussels Airport. “In the past the federal authorities have allowed DHL to relocate to Germany, regardless of the fact
that there are solutions for these companies - such as LGG - which can safeguard employment in our country. The continuous blackmailing of Brussels Airport on employment is redundant if the
Belgian authorities would take the effort to study the existing possibilities in our country to accommodate the traffic that today is the most important source of noise problems around
True to the ever present absurdist tradition governing Belgian politics, the letter was co-signed by representatives of the same trade unions supporting ‘keepourairportjobs.be’ in Brussels.
In a reaction Geert Keirens, director of the umbrella organisation Air Cargo Belgium points out that Brussels Airport has no ambition to extend its night operations. “We are talking about daytime flights.” Their numbers would be thinned out should the stiffer noise regulation become practical, keeping aircraft like the B747-400 out of BRU completely. According to Geert, it is the airlines that decide on where to fly to, not the airports nor the government. “It is not because Brussels may be a problem that every airline is willing to relocate to Liege or Ostend. Unfortunately, it is not that simple.”
The ACB director also stresses that cargo generates more added value at Brussels Airport thanks to the BRUcargo, logistics village at the airport. “That is the reason why cargo generates more jobs at Brussels Airport than on Liege Airport as a whole. This logistics zone can only be maintained in Belgium thanks to the combined offer of belly and freighter cargo. These two are inseparable.”
Marcel Schoeters in Brussels