The week in brief: 8 November


Ford Genk suppliers move to Spain, new "e-gates" at Brussels Airport, funding for altarpiece restoration

An overview of the week's news

Flemish culture minister Joke Schauvliege has approved a subsidy of €8,518 for restoration work on a 16th-century triptych by the Master of Frankfurt, who, despite the name, was a leading Flemish artist of the period. The triptych, known as the “Nood Godsdrieluik”, is an altarpiece showing the Passion of Christ and is considered one of the most important artworks in Flanders after the Mystic Lamb altarpiece by the Van Eyck brothers. The work stands in the OLV Hemelvaart Church in Watervliet, East Flanders.

Plans by the government of Flanders to increase lanes on the Brussels Ring to ease the flow of traffic have been severely criticised by inspectors from the federal finance ministry. The report says that the government plans lack a “total vision” of the congestion problem, without which planned infrastructure solutions will not suffice. The report also says that no account has been taken of the arrival of a new national stadium at Heizel and the new shopping centre Uplace at Machelen. “This project could simply displace traffic black spots to other parts of the roads network,” the inspectors concluded.

Belgacom has denied allegations made by a CD&V member of parliament that the company snooped in the email inboxes of journalists and politicians, describing the charges as “completely pulled out of thin air”. According to MP Roel Desyn, Belgacom CEO Didier Bellens even keeps an email address with Yahoo in France “because he knows how leaky his own system is”.

Two of the main suppliers of Ford Genk, IAC and Lear, companies affected by the planned closure of Ford in December next year, have decided to move house to Valencia in Spain, where they will deliver parts for the Galaxy, Mondeo and S-Max cars produced there. The announcement was made by the director of human resources of Ford Spain in a local newspaper. According to the paper, existing suppliers will be replaced by two of the companies from Genk. The other two Genk-based suppliers, Syncreon and SML, will not be relocating.

A member of the Belgian military whose baby died when he accidentally left her in his car on the warmest day of 2012 will stand trial in Brussels, a court has decided. The man, who worked at the base in the Evere district of Brussels, faces charges of unintentional homicide by negligence, which carries a possible sentence of two years.

Unizo, the Flemish organisation that represents the self-employed, will offer advice to members on how to avoid a new government tax, director-general Karel Van Eetvelt said. The tax on the so-called liquidation bonus – money a self-employed person has left in the business that he or she then decides to liquidate at the end of a career – is to be increased from 10% to 25%, something Unizo described as “absolutely unacceptable”. Entrepreneurs who give up working before 1 January can avoid the increase, which Van Eetvelt said could see 15,000 businesses close. “Taxation is so high that business people have no alternative than to look for escape routes,” Van Eetvelt said.

Brussels Airport will be fitted next summer with six “e-gates” that can check passengers’ identity cards electronically, the federal police said. Last week an investigation by VRT consumer series Volt revealed that journalists were able to pass through security checks using each other’s ID cards. The e-gates are able to check electronic cards at the same time as scanning the physical appearance of the passenger to see if the two match up.

Animal rights activists demonstrated in front of Janssen Pharmaceutica in Beerse, Antwerp province, last week in opposition to the use of animals in drugs experiments. The protesters claim polling shows that 81% of Belgians oppose animal testing. A company spokesperson said that Janssen was sympathetic to the argument but that animal tests are mandatory by law and suitable alternatives are not always easy to find.

Communications provider Telenet has reacted to strong criticism from the public of its latest advertising campaign, which offers attractive gifts to new subscribers. The campaign has been attacked by existing Telenet customers, who argue that their loyalty deserves to be rewarded. A page on the issue on Facebook received 100,000 likes before the company replied. “It was never our intention to provoke such reactions,” a spokesperson said. “We are thinking hard about how to tackle this in the future.”

Listminut, a web platform that pairs up those who can perform small repair jobs around the house with those who need them done, will launch in Flanders after a successful trial in Brussels. Listminut is the brainchild of four former entrepreneur students. The platform already has 8,500 users in Brussels, evenly divided between supply and demand. The sudden increase in Dutch-speaking users convinced the company to offer the service in Flanders.

A man was seriously injured at a former industrial laundry in Deurne, near Antwerp, after he was electrocuted while trying to steal copper cable. Homes in the area were hit by a power cut, and residents eventually found the man, who had received a current of 15,000 volts. The man was taken to hospital suffering from severe burns.