The week in brief: 15 June
Ghent mayor to be absent longer than expected, record number of storks born at Planckendael, butcher numbers down, and the rest of the week's headlines
An overview of the week's news
The number of butchers in Belgium fell by 10% from over 4,000 in 2009 to only 3,694 in 2014, the neutral syndicate of the self-employed NSZ said. According to the industry federation, the decline is partly due to the effect of competition from supermarkets, as well as the falling numbers of young people looking to enter the sector. Despite falling numbers, independent butchers still account for 30% of all meat sales.
National Lottery winners left €5.5 million in prize money unclaimed in 2014, the lottery said. The figure is less than in 2013 (€5.7 million) as the public is now better informed about the timing of draws and the results. The unclaimed winnings concern mainly small amounts; the last time a jackpot went unclaimed was in 2008.
Animal park Planckendael in Mechelen has seen the birth of a record number of more than 100 stork chicks this year, thanks to mild weather and a relatively dry spring, park authorities said. The storks are not part of the park’s year-round inhabitants; they arrive to nest every year atop platforms built especially for them. The chicks were ringed last week (pictured).
The Brussels-Capital Region has agreed on a tariff for road tolls for lorries, to be introduced next April at the same time as Flanders starts its tolls. For motorways – essentially only the Ring and approach roads – the same tariff will apply as in the Flemish region, between 7.4 and 20 cents per kilometre. Within the city, a higher tariff will apply, ranging from 9.9 cents per kilometre for the smallest, cleanest lorries to 29.2c/km for older, more polluting trucks.
Ticket windows in railway stations will be vacant on Friday, 19 June, because of industrial action by rail unions ACOD Spoor and ACV Transcom, in protest over the planned permanent closure of windows in 33 stations nationwide. Meanwhile, train drivers of the ASTB union have threatened to strike again if NMBS management is not prepared to sit down to talks about their demands regarding premiums and service pay rises. ASTB went on strike on 28 May, causing disruption to the whole network.
Internet telephone company Skype, a property of Microsoft, has filed a request with the Cassation Court to have a case against it moved out of Mechelen, after the judge there communicated details of the case. The case concerns Skype refusing to allow detectives to listen in on online communications. Skype argued that the judge’s remarks amount to bias.
Marine attraction Sea Life in Blankenberge has taken delivery of a trio of blacktip reef sharks (Carcharhinus melanopterus), which replace three of the same that were moved out because they had grown too large for their accommodation. The aquarium is also now home to a zebra shark and two nurse sharks.
Flanders’ energy minister, Annemie Turtelboom, has ordered an inventory of every roof in the region to find out which are suitable for the installation of solar panels or solar boilers, she told the Flemish parliament. The project will note the slope and orientation of the roof, shade and other obstacles, and estimate the potential output of energy available. A map of the region’s roofs should be available by next summer.
Flemish mobility minister Ben Weyts is considering making the collection of more minor speeding fines a job for a regional administration instead of the police courts. Weyts was responding to federal justice minister Koen Geens’ order to police zones to apply quotas to the fines issued for speeding offences detected by certain cameras. Cameras in some locations are too successful, and the volume of fines causes delays and extra cost. Weyts said the option of turning cameras off when they detect too many speeders was “unacceptable” and that an administrative system could take the pressure off prosecutors’ offices.
Works on the E40 motorway that started this week will continue until the end of the summer, the roads and traffic agency AWV said. The works involve resurfacing of the motorway between the Zwijnaarde interchange (junction 15) and Erpe-Mere (junction 18) on the Brussels-bound carriageway. To reduce disruption, works will be carried out only at night in August. The road will be reduced to two lanes in both directions, with a contraflow system in force.
The commune of Anderlecht in Brussels and the food market at the abattoir have agreed to introduce a ban on the use of plastic bags from March 2016, except for meat, fresh fish and other wet foodstuffs, the council announced. The market operates every weekend and welcomes some 100,000 shoppers to its 650 stalls, each one of which uses an average of 2,000 plastic bags a week for a total of 117 tonnes of plastic waste a year.