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A wind of discord between Belgium and France

The establishment of a wind farm off Dunkirk threatens to block the horizon of some Belgian seaside resorts.

The establishment of a wind farm off Dunkirk threatens to block the horizon of some Belgian seaside resorts.

From our correspondent, Max Helleff (Brussels) – It is called the Nimby syndrome for “not in my backyard”. It goes for the glass bubble in which everyone intends to throw their oil as long as they don’t have it under their window, but also for the wind turbines which poetically stir the wind as long as they don’t block your horizon.

However, this is what is happening today between Belgium and France. The first criticizes the second of wanting to set up a stone’s throw from its southern maritime border some 46 wind turbines of an impressive size since they will reach 260 to 300 meters high. If they will be erected facing Dunkirk and all the same 11.5 kilometers from the coast, their elevation will impose them in the sight of the Belgians of De Panne, Koksijde and Nieuport.

The objective of this wind farm is to help France meet its European commitments in terms of renewable energy. It will spread over an area of ​​73 km2 and will be part of a string of settlements that will stretch to Brittany. The project has been mentioned since 2016. But the Belgian public has only just learned that its landscape will change significantly by 2026, when the park comes into operation.

Study the possibility

The supposed nuisances are multiple. The fauna and the seabed could suffer. Environmentalists are on the alert. Ships, pleasure boats and planes will have to review their route to avoid giant wind turbines.

The authorities of the Belgian seaside resorts concerned plead in favor of a decline in establishments. For Bram Degrieck, the mayor of De Panne, “we know that there are other places further away where it is possible to put a wind farm. The Belgians will do it, about thirty kilometers away. We must at least study the possibility of a Franco-Belgian park ”. Representatives of the Minister for the North Sea, the Flemish liberal Vincent Van Quickenborne, are stepping up discussions with the French authorities. The minister himself discussed the file with the French ambassador. The case went up to Prime Minister Alexander De Croo who slipped a word in December to President Macron.

According to RTL-TVI, “Belgium hopes to have a French opening for discussions. Indeed, to preserve its maritime traffic and its airspace, the Belgians are ready to mobilize legal means. A diplomatic battle in sight! ” For ‘La Libre Belgique’, it is not wind power that is in question. A solution is possible if this park is built further offshore, on an alternative site. “Belgium would then be ready to cooperate with France to develop it. Translation: it is not the wind farm off Dunkirk that inconveniences its closest neighbor, but its location, ”assures the Brussels daily.

This case inevitably calls out insofar as it opposes two Member States as to the means used to meet European objectives in terms of renewable energies. But it is not unique to the Belgian coast: until recently there was no question of creating an artificial island off the coast of Knokke-Heist to protect the coast from storms. But, in 2018, the former Federal Secretary of State for the North Sea Philippe De Backer put an end to it, indicating that the conditions of the marine spatial development plan were not sufficiently met for his liking.

Nearby, the very select seaside resort of Knokke-le-Zoute can breathe. Unless obviously a headwind comes to change the plans of the policy of the flat country.


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