Corona approach collides with privacy limits: drones in the air, cars in front of the door, access to the home …

The corona approach is increasingly colliding with the boundaries of privacy: the police in Genk announcing that drones will be used, the West Flemish governor who is eager to introduce zero tolerance, and big questions about the entrance into the home that Minister of the Interior Annelies Verlinden (CD&V) defends. It is striking how all this happens without an explicit legal framework in the House, there is no corona emergency law: a complaint that constitution specialists have been formulating for some time now. But the political climate, fueled by the same “experts” over and over, is in the opposite direction.

In the news: Re-tighten? Report offenders? Harder repression for offenders? The same group of recurring experts is now arguing for that again.

The details: A new terminology has emerged: the “ten percent” that is going the extra mile.

  • The number of infections is no longer falling, it is stagnating. Has that to do with a adapted, broader testing strategy, or is there more to it? No one can say it clearly, but it is very clear that a number of the “experts” who have been presenting themselves throughout the crisis are coming back to the fore.
  • This time it is about a double plea, from Geert Molenbergs, Marc Van Ranst and Dirk Devroey, among others: on the one hand they want to tighten up again (there is now suddenly there are perimeters around the house, a maximum number of kilometers that you are not allowed to pass), on the other hand they now also insist on strict enforcement of the existing rules.
  • In addition, in the experts’ terminology, there is now also a group, apparently empirically set at “10 percent” (based on which sample is unclear), who are the “bad ones” and do not follow the rules, and they need to be addressed.
  • With that, for the umpteenth time, the politicians under heavy pressure. Because the enforcement of the corona measures is happening, but there are a number of serious legal comments to make.
  • Because a number of things now suddenly come together:
    • In West Flanders, of course, local governor Carl Decaluwé is back in business, to tighten the screw as hard as possible: he wants today enter a zero tolerance with his police chiefs and the attorneys, for the holidays, on complying with all corona rules.
    • In Genk, the local police announces that they are deploying extra men, but above all controls via drones. That reports Het Laatste Nieuws. The devices can then use thermal images to determine whether there are gatherings. The local chief inspector Yves Bosmans assures “that we will not look in people’s houses, only in the public spaces”. From a technical point of view that is of course perfectly possible.
    • The number of inspections at the workplace is being increased to see whether people are working safely or can do telework. In addition, the boss of the FPS Employment, Geert De Poorter, also called on employers who do not follow the rules to report: “When people know things, where things happen that are not according to the rules, they can always come to us. ”

The essence: Legal concerns are piling up, and the executive branch is on thin ice.

  • The Council of State fired a first piece of corona legislation this weekAfter being tested against the Constitution, freedom of religion was not protected enough, according to the government’s legal watchdog, when all worship services were banned.
  • A compromise was quickly reached: from now on, worship services with a maximum of fifteen people are allowed. The question is whether, among others, the Catholic Church, the largest in the country, will apply that: yesterday it turned out that the bishops were not exactly inquisitive. It was the Jewish community of faith that took the case and won.
  • But it is a solid legal crack in a broader approach by the governments of this country, although a number of fundamental rights do not seem to be fully respected. An important case in this respect: residential access.
  • A very symbolic file: in the previous reign screamed the opposition, but also the MR murder and firewhen, in the search for illegal residents, the Swedish coalition suggested allowing the police to enter homes where illegal residents might be staying.
  • That action, according to critics, was firmly in conflict with Article 15 of the Constitution: “The home is inviolable”. In the end, this residential entry did not come to the Michel I government for the search for illegal residents. This was explicitly confirmed in the coalition agreement by the Vivaldi coalition: no housing entry during searches for illegal immigrants.
  • Until further notice, the police must either explicit consent having occupants of a house, either a search warrant, or a caught in the act forcing.
  • But for the corona approach, people now clearly use completely different standards. It was Bart De Wever (N-VA), who wants to fight the illegal lockdown meetings in Antwerp, who was the first to provide legal substantiation to allow the police to enter a home without permission: in Antwerp they do this on the basis of Article 135 of the New Municipalities Act. It literally states that local authorities “can take appropriate measures to prevent disasters and plagues, such as fires and epidemics”.
  • That goes very far: but the Minister of the Interior, Annelies Verlinden (CD&V), herself a lawyer, refines today in De Tijd that she also wants to give the police the opportunity to enter based on the number of cars in front of the door.
  • Suddenly, Section 27 of the Police Office Act has also become an option, as a legal basis for entering a house: the police may enter a house according to that article “when they are at that place. reported danger is of an extremely serious and imminent nature that threatens the life or physical integrity of persons and cannot be averted in any other way. ”
  • This old article applied to hazards such as a fire or imminent explosion, it is questionable whether an infection with a coronavirus, which is not fatal in more than 99 percent of the cases, really falls under that law. Constitutional specialists, in the same De Tijd, have serious doubts about this.
  • Minister Verlinden seems to be communicative To deploy very hard on this strict enforcement, with a real media offensive. After visiting The appointment on Tuesday, there was another yesterday To the point, with the same message. In this way, CD&V continues the tradition of a “tough approach”, which was already given shape at the first lockdown under Pieter De Crem (CD&V).

The big picture: The question remains whether a legal framework in the Chamber is not necessary.

  • It is a question that has been around for some time, certainly from the academic world: why cannot the entire approach of the executive power, in the corona crisis, be legally propped up a bit more elegantly? A number of specialists in constitutional matters argue for this, a number of political scientists already repeated this plea. With little impact in the media, incidentally.
  • The reasoning behind it? Create a legal framework, a corona law, which temporarily lists the measures and clearly describes them, as well as legally substantiating them. This can then immediately be examined by the Council of State and tested against the Constitution. Plus a majority of MPs must ratify it, giving it democratic legitimacy.
  • At present, many decisions are taken in government, including enforcement, without a clear legal framework. At the start of the pandemic, this seemed necessary to be able to speed up. But in the meantime we have been in crisis for almost ten months, and it is clear that the virus does not suddenly disappear: why not an emergency law for corona, which much purer legally, the specialists argue.

In the margin: Georges-Louis Bouchez (MR) is annoyed by the unions.

  • While the debate about privacy is now in full swing, with the liberals always the defenders of the liberties of the citizen the chairman of the MR focuses on something else.
  • Because yesterday demonstrated in Liège some 700 militants from the FGTB, the socialist union, against a conviction of seventeen of their members. They prevented traffic in Liege during a strike, which left a surgeon stuck on his way to an operation and the patient died.
  • “It’s in our country prohibited to gather outside with more than four people, but apparently not for the FGTB! Some of the links need to understand that the law applies to everyone. Will they be verbalised? Two measures two weights should not become the norm ”, Bouchez sought out another discussion.

To follow: Brexit means Brexit. You know what that means on Sunday.

  • So it lasts and lasts, those negotiations between the EU and the UK now seem likely the final day to fall on Sunday, according to insiders.
  • It is and remains the main news of this week, this month: will there be a deal between the EU and the UK on trade? The exit of the latter country, from the European Union, will irrevocably take place on January 1, 2021. The question is what will replace it.
  • The UK and EU are negotiating an extensive free trade agreement. However, such an agreement is of course fundamentally against the underlying interest that the UK has in leaving the EU: that’s what Johnson and co wanted to do “to regain their sovereigntyAnd also to “be more competitive than the EU”.
  • But a far-reaching free trade agreement with the EU means that the British will have to adapt to the rules of the single European market, including accept automatic sanctions, if they don’t follow those rules. And that is exactly what Johnson has been crying out about for so long: an “usurper” who transcends his British constitutional law.
  • So, in the last straight line of the negotiations, there is a problem with that right of automatic sanctions. But it is actually about much more: it is difficult to leave the EU, and suddenly come to enforce all kinds of “privileges”. Because what message does the EU send to all its own current members?
  • In any case, the current political position does not bode well: German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke clear language in the German Bundestag yesterday. “We are never going to allow that no level playing field is, that there would be unfair competition, within the single European market, ”she stated firmly.
  • A dinner last night in Brussels, very appropriately they served a fish dish (because fishing rights in the North Sea are also still bickering), between British Prime Minister Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the Commission, and Michel Barnier, the EU chief negotiator, did not yield anything.
  • Johnson is also putting his heels in the sand via the British press. This morning’s headlines in London:
    • The Daily Mail: “Deadlock at Dinner“,“ Still very big obstacles, deal far away. ”
    • Daily Express: “Boris: Take it or Leave it!”“ Johnson stands firm against the attempt by the EU to punish the British because they leave the EU. ”
    • The Times: “PM refuses to back down in face or Brexit deadlockJohnson warns the EU, however Merkel destroys hope that Brussels is going to admit. ”
    • The Guardian: “Deal still possible, says PM after last-ditch Brexit dinner. ” Johnson makes his case, while the EU leaders warn of failure. ”
  • The focus for Brexit is now on Sunday, after the EU summit that will take place today and tomorrow, and where the main emphasis is on the climate agreements that the EU wants to forge internally, plus the final approval of the EU budgets for the gigantic corona support package. The latter was stopped by Poland and Hungary, but they now seem to be folding.
  • Sunday is immediately the umpteenth “day of the last chance”: if nothing comes out, then it is irrevocably a hard Brexit, with all its consequences.

The Belgian context: Elio Di Rupo (PS) got it on his hips yesterday, about Johnson. And then Bart De Wever (N-VA) got it on his hips.

  • It is an interesting riot on the margins of the Brexit negotiations. Because once again it points out a different position in north and south when it comes to talks with the United Kingdom.
  • Elio Di Rupo (PS), the Walloon Prime Minister, is sick of the attitude of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. So much so that, as with the CETA agreement between the EU and Canada, he threatens to “with his parliament”, as he put it himself, block possible trade agreements with the UK in the future, “When they cross our red lines”.
  • “That has been going on for months now we have to dance to the notes of Boris Johnson’s humor. But his attitude does not allow us to clearly see what the future of the relationship between the EU and the UK should look like ”, Di Rupo tweeted, after which he threatened to subject a possible deal to a strict Walloon look. and possibly boycott them, such as CETA. Although he also emphasized that the EU absolutely must find an agreement, “certainly for regions that would be proportionally affected, such as my sister region Flanders”.
  • At the N-VA they saw it with sorrow. The CETA dossier stirred up a lot at the time: trade with Canada was blocked for the whole of the EU from Wallonia because of that social, ecological and ethical concerns while Flanders, which is a much stronger exporter, also to Canada, wanted an agreement as soon as possible.
  • Ever split the power to export weapons for the exact opposite reason: Flanders had no arms industry but a question of conscience, Wallonia wanted to run FN Herstal. It was then decided that each had to arrange its own exports. But the federal states must each approve an EU trade agreement.
  • Bart De Wever (N-VA) already responded with a fierce tweet to Di Rupo: “Dear Elio, you are consistently against free trade … but you should not do it first ensure that you do more trade from Wallonia with other countries? ”

One day later: The discussion around Bpost was quickly closed.

  • There was a stir yesterday about the role of the state-owned company Bpost, which came with difficult news this week. Less dividends and fewer letters Worried.
  • CEO Jean-Paul Van Avermaet had announced in the same breath that his company would “diversify”, and thus also in the Bpost sales outlets. to develop other activities, over the next five years. At Van Avermaet, it was about “additional paying neighborhood and proximity services”, an expensive term to say that food, newspapers, magazines and sweets may also be sold and even “access to devices such as printers and scanners” can be given. .
  • Minister of Public Enterprises Petra De Sutter (Groen) first reacted like this in the Nieuwsblad: “It is certainly something we can investigate. We are going to look at the new management agreement that we want to conclude with Bpost at the end of next year what other social purposes the company could fulfill. This could fit in, but we will look at that. ”
  • That put Unizo, the newspaper traders and even government partner Open Vld on the cupboard, which is there unfair competition in sawing.
  • And look, less than 24 hours later, there was another corrected explanation from De Sutter. Suddenly it was one big misunderstanding, in the same newspaper: “Post offices will certainly not become subsidized local shops. It is not my view of what Bpost should do. But I have now understood that this is not how Bpost itself sees the future of its offices. I can reassure all local retailers: Bpost will not compete with you as a supermarket or convenience store. ”
  • Was there nothing to it, of what Van Avermaet wants with his company? Well, research is underway now, according to De Sutter, “how the valuable network of 660 offices throughout Belgium, right down to the smallest villages, can be used socially“. The details of this will be included in the following management agreement.


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