The week in brief: 29 February


Dutch company ordered to pay for ship's salvage, emergency exercise carried out in Schuman tunnel, security response to terror alert judged adequate, and the rest of the week's headlines

An overview of the week's news

Belgian state security services performed their job adequately in relation to the terrorist attacks in Paris last November, the I Committee, which oversees the intelligence services, has concluded. The service did its job in collecting information on the terrorists – all of them French nationals – who had become known to the Belgian services.

Last week saw 300 people take part in a large-scale emergency exercise in the new Schuman-Josaphat tunnel in Brussels, ahead of the tunnel’s opening in April. The exercise took about four hours and was done in the presence of federal home affairs minister Jan Jambon, Brussels minister Cecile Jodogne and EU director of security Ilkka Salmi. The tunnel is monitored by a control room and 170 cameras in the Schuman station and tunnel.

The Dutch owners of the cargo ship Flinterstar (pictured), which sank off Zeebrugge last autumn, have to pay the costs of the ship’s salvage, the court of appeal in Ghent has ruled. The shipping company Flinter, of Barendrecht, had invoked the maritime rule of abandonment, where the owner of a wreck can refuse all responsibility for salvage, but that was contested by Belgium’s federal minister for the North Sea, Bart Tommelein. 

The Flemish cancer fund Kom op tegen Kanker has begun an action to allow cancer patients to carry on with their studies without losing the child allowance. At present, older students who sign up for fewer than 27 credits, or 17 hours per week, in an academic year lose the right to child allowance, even if their studies have been interrupted by illness and treatments.

Brussels-City council has approved works on the Stefania tunnel, which closed in January for safety reasons.  The works involve replacing concrete in a section 60 metres long and should be finished by the end of May. The Montgomery tunnel, meanwhile, which links the end of the E40 with Montgomery square, is the latest Brussels tunnel to close, after a slab of concrete rose by eight centimetres. The tunnel was closed in both directions, and the above-ground tram 81 diverted to prevent further damage to the tunnel on Montgomeryplein.

Flemish artist Wim Delvoye has lost an action against the placing of two wind turbines along the E40 and Brussels-Ghent railway line at Melle in East Flanders, after a decision by Flemish environment minister Joke Schauvliege. The minister was ruling on an objection to a permit granted by East Flemish authorities. The location is close to Delvoye’s home.

A director and psychiatrist of an institution and seven police officers, all involved in the 2010 death of Jonathan Jacobs, have had their sentences confirmed by a court in Antwerp. Jacobs died in a Mortsel cell while being restrained by police officers during a psychotic episode. He had previously been refused entry to a psychiatric hospital in Boechout. The accused were tried in absentia in May last year after they failed to show. The police officers were sentences to four months suspended for involuntary manslaughter. The two officials of the hospital were sentenced to six months suspended for criminal negligence.

The winter period for gas and electricity, during which utility companies may not cut off supply for non-payment of bills, has been extended until the end of March. Normally the period ends on 1 March.

Staff at Delhaize and Albert Heijn stores being closed by owner Ahold Delhaize – created through a merger last year – have begun protests. Last week saw actions at stores in Antwerp Groenplaats, Turnhout and Ghent Overpoort, each one nominated by the competition authorities for sale or closure in order to approve the merger on competition grounds. Eight Albert Heijn stores and an as-yet undisclosed number of Delhaize franchises must close.

The court of appeal in Ghent has refused to overturn a judgement of a lower court, which rejected a suit filed by victims of sexual assault by clergy. The action involved 36 victims of sexual abuse who tried to hold the Belgian bishops’ conference and the Vatican responsible for what they claimed was damages caused by the cover-up of sexual abuse in the church.

The new traffic plan for Ghent’s city centre has been passed after a marathon city council debate lasting eight hours. The plan divides the city centre into six zones, with the aim of diverting through traffic elsewhere. The dispute covered the question of citizen participation, which opposition parties CD&V and N-VA thought should be in the form of a referendum.

Consumer affairs minister Kris Peeters has announced the launch of a one-stop shop for all victims of scams and fraud, where they can find advice while registering their experience. The new reporting point does not investigate individual cases.  

Photo courtesy Belgian Navy