The week in brief: 22 November


Missing girl found, cyclist wins award and young couples struggle to get loan

An overview of the week's news

The government of Flanders has been given the green light by the EU Commission for a plan to provide government aid for the construction and renovation of football stadiums. The plan offers support to first- and second-class clubs and would provide a 10% subsidy up to a maximum of €2.5 million for new construction, and €750,000 for renovation works. The total budget for the scheme is €8 million. The support is conditional on the owners opening the facilities up for other groups around fitness and health, education and culture.

Flemish cyclist Sven Nys, the cyclocross world champion, has picked up the Kristallen Fiets (Crystal Bicycle) award as outstanding Belgian cyclist of the year for the second time in his career. Nys (pictured) won the award, given out by Flemish daily Het Laatste Nieuws and usually won by road riders, in 2007. “I’m very happy to win, because it’s not such an obvious thing to win it as a crosser,” Nys said.

The Bruges prosecutor has confirmed that the man found dead in the Bruges harbour on Thursday is that of Dries Scherrens, the football captain who had been missing from his home in Oostkamp for 10 days. Criminal intent has been tentatively ruled out, pending the autopsy report.

Architects Jaspers-Eyers, who have offices in Brussels, Leuven and Hasselt, have been awarded the contract to design a massive office complex for Nongfu Spring, China’s largest producer of bottled water, in the city of Hangzhou. The complex will provide accommodation for more than 4,000 staff, with office space of 68,000 square metres and underground parking of 25,400 square metres. It will include a restaurant, day-care facilities, a swimming pool and gym, a supermarket and a ballroom.

The government of Flanders needs to do more to help young couples with the purchase of their first house, the Flemish confederation of real estate professionals (CIB) said. According to the industry congress last week in Ostend, three out of four estate agents have had deals fall through because young couples cannot get loans. The organisation proposed the introduction of a starter-mortgage, an idea imported from the Netherlands, where the government portions part of the house price, repayable only after three years, to allow young couples to take their first steps on the property ladder.

A 17-year-old who lost control of his car and rammed a tram-stop in the Coupure in Ghent, injuring eight people, has been kept in detention under a clause of the law that allows minors to be imprisoned if they commit a hit-and-run accident. The teenager panicked, his lawyer said, and he now regrets leaving the scene of the accident. The charges he will face depend on the condition of the victims, the Ghent prosecutor’s office said.

The latest Albert Heijn supermarket opened its doors in Sint-Truiden last week – and promptly closed them again. Such was the public interest in the arrival of the Dutch retail giant for the first time in Limburg that security guards were forced to close the doors and only allow customers to enter when previous customers left the store, installed in the stadium of the local football club STVV. The store is the 19th opened by Albert Heijn in Flanders, currently providing more than 1,000 jobs.

The British low-cost airline EasyJet is to begin twice-weekly flights between Brussels Airport and London Gatwick, bringing its number of destinations out of Brussels to 10. The service will begin on 30 March, the company said, and is likely to provide stiff competition for both Brussels Airlines and British Airways, both of which fly from Brussels to Heathrow. 

More than one person in three would go back to paying for household help in the black if service cheques were made more expensive, according to the results of a poll carried out for Netto, the personal finance supplement to De Tijd. The cheques were introduced in 2003 to make it easier for customers to pay cleaning people legally, but the cost of the cheques has gone up constantly, with another 50-cent increase due on 1 January, bringing the price to €9 each for the first 400 cheques, and €10 each for the 100 after that. The cost of the cheques is tax-deductible.

Flemish singer Ozark Henry has composed a new song to front a campaign by the Belgian Institute for Road Safety (BIVV) to draw attention to the need to reduce the number of youth fatalities on the roads (see p2). The song, “21 Grams Short”, is based on the story of Kevin, who died in 2006 at age 22, and whose parents helped steer the new campaign. The accompanying video includes footage of Kevin and other young accident victims.

A 16-year-old girl from Kinrooi, Limburg province, who went missing on 14 November after leaving home to cycle to school in Maaseik, has been found safe and well in Germany, the Tongeren prosecutor said. Olga Pisters was suspected of having gone off with an acquaintance, at whose address she was discovered by German police. 

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons