September Declaration: Seven ambitions for a more resilient Flanders


Flemish minister-president Jan Jambon delivered the annual September Declaration today, announcing foreseen investments in health care, sustainable technologies and digital transformation

Health-care funding key

Seven broad priorities intended to make Flanders more resilient to challenges such as the coronavirus and Brexit were set out by Jan Jambon in the Septemberverklaring, or September Declaration. The speech is delivered every year by the minister-president of Flanders as a kind of state of the union address.

Priorities announced by Jambon (pictured) include bolstering the health-care system, improving government efficiency and supporting the digital transformation of Flanders. “In both the corona pandemic and in Brexit you can see how vulnerable and how dependent Flanders has become,” he said. “This could also cause problems for us in the future, so we have to protect ourselves much better as a community.”

This would naturally come at a cost. “We have never received prosperity ‘for free’,” he said. “We have to work hard to maintain our prosperity, and invest in it.”

Government and private initiatives must reinforce rather than counteract each other

- Jan Jambon

The seven overlapping ambitions of the Flemish Resilience recovery plan will be backed by government spending of €4.3 billion. The first ambition is to prop up the health-care system, whose weaknesses had been exposed by the coronavirus, Jambon said.

There will be extra investment of €525 million per year, in particular to improve pay and reduce workloads for care personnel. The bottom line is to make the care professions more attractive as a career.

Next, steps must be taken to make the government more effective, efficient and responsive. This will include streamlining procedures and reducing duplication. “Government and private initiatives must reinforce rather than counteract each other,” Jambon insisted.

He also promised a “thorough decentralisation exercise” to see which powers and resources can be passed on to the local level.

5G is vital

The third ambition is the digital transformation of Flanders, ensuring that data flows smoothly and securely, but is also put to good use. Jambon said a Flemish data utility company would be set up to promote this transformation.

He also said the government would throw its weight behind faster 5G networks. “In order to get the data flowing, we need 5G in Flanders as quickly as possible,” he said, adding that he expected the federal government to be an enthusiastic partner in this project.

But if it proven reluctant, Flanders was ready to go it alone. “Digital transformation is too important for our government, for the Flemish people and for our companies. This is one of the most important levers for the recovery.”

Digital transformation is one of the most important levers for a post-corona recovery

Sustainability measures that benefit society and the economy come next, with projects such as the Blue Deal on water scarcity, and investment in carbon capture, hydrogen energy and cycle infrastructure. The fifth ambition is government investment, in such key areas such as research infrastructure, school buildings, the 5G network and mobility projects.

The sixth ambition is to master the coronavirus. “The beast called Covid-19 will continue to punish us in 2020 and 2021,” Jambon said. The correct response must balance controlling the virus with maintaining a tolerable existence for people and companies.

The final ambition is to invest in people, for example though education and measures to support employment.

Photo ©Dirk Waem