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Haro on curfew in Belgium

The Belgian calendar of health measures is controversial even in the government majority of Alexander De Croo.

The Belgian calendar of health measures is controversial even in the government majority of Alexander De Croo.

From our correspondent, Max Helleff (Brussels) – The lull will not last long. The pressure has picked up again on the De Croo government, guilty according to the Flemish nationalist N-VA of sacrificing the freedom of the Belgians to the health crisis. Main stumbling block: the curfew which, by virtue of the distribution of powers generated by successive state reforms, is a regional matter and can therefore vary depending on whether you are in Flanders, Wallonia or Brussels .

Throughout the winter as well, Walloons and Brussels residents were asked to empty regional public space earlier than the Flemings. However, since March 1, Wallonia has joined Flanders and only imposes a curfew from midnight to 5 a.m. In Brussels, the ban on being in the street still applies from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

This discrepancy gets on your nerves. “The curfew is a very serious attack on our freedom,” Flemish Minister-President Jan Jambon (N-VA) said on the public channel VRT. A bill has been tabled by his party to put an end to it. The next consultation committee which will discuss anti-covid measures should be animated.

What was only a rant immediately made other parties of the government majority react, which often feel cramped in the sanitary intransigence of Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and “his” minister of government. Health, the very rigorous Frank Vandenbroucke. “Nobody wants to keep the curfew longer than necessary,” said Joachim Coens, the president of the Flemish Christian Democrats. But we have to look at the evolution of the numbers. It is not because the catering industry will reopen that the curfew will no longer be necessary. Coens describes the curfew with variable hours as “problematic”.

This link between curfew and the reopening of the hotel and catering industry (restaurants and cafes) is not accidental. The French-speaking liberals of the Reform Movement (MR), another party of the majority led by Alexander De Croo, have made themselves the champions of the restorers and the bereaved cafetiers in recent months. Not a day goes by without the galley of the sector being brought to the fore. Georges-Louis Bouchez, the president of the MR, considers it reasonable “to lift the curfew in April since it is a strong restriction on our freedom. It seems necessary to us that it disappears the day the catering industry reopens its doors ”.

Reopen in April? However, it was decided last Friday that the hospitality industry would not reopen before May 1 … if the figures allow it. The sector has taken the extension of the measure which strikes it very badly. It is judged unfair by its adversaries. “We are in the weeks too many, denounces Thierry Neyens, the president of the Federation of the hospitality industry. Psychologically, the sector is at its wit’s end, our freelancers, our employees, our suppliers are. ” The difference in regional aid given to establishments is also controversial, Flanders being much more generous than Wallonia and Brussels with its cafetiers and restaurateurs.

Add to this the standoff between the De Croo government and the European Commission on the ban on non-essential travel abroad, and it will be understood that the climate is tense on certain days at 16, rue de la Loi. On Monday, the Commission was indeed “surprised” to learn, through the press, of the new extension of this measure. Officially, the Belgian ambassador to the EU, however, sent him a letter to this effect.


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