Last week financial daily De Tijd reported that the European Commission was at the point of deciding against the government’s decision to go ahead with a contract awarded to the consortium Noriant for the construction of the roads and tunnels involved in the Oosterweel project. That report remained unconfirmed by official sources as Flanders Today went to press, but was unofficially confirmed at the weekend by EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht, a Fleming, speaking on VRT television.
In Belgium, unlike in any other European country, the law differentiates between arbeiders – originally manual labourers – and bedienden, which are generally white-collar workers. The distinction, created in the 19th century, effects employment rights in the areas of holiday entitlement, overtime pay, sick leave and notice required in the event of redundancy. As a general rule, employees receive better treatment than labourers. To take one example, employees are paid from the first day of sick leave, whereas labourers are not.
The problems with the train began immediately when the train came into service last December, with regular breakdowns, delays and cancellations. On top of mechanical problems, passengers complained the service was less frequent than the old Benelux train, reduced flexibility by requiring a reservation and cost too much.
A mini-job is a part-time job paying up to €450 a month. The salary is tax free but offers few to no social security benefits. While unemployment has remained at about 7.5% since 2007 – even as the EU average rose – the number of employed aged 20-64 is only 67%.
Greenpeace opposes the re-opening and has already filed suit against the government for not having a nuclear emergency plan. “That still hasn’t been produced,” the organisation’s energy manager Eloi Glorieux said. “On the contrary, the risk is now being increased by the re-opening of the reactors. The government is not taking its job – the protection of the population – at all seriously.”
The Economist calls them “Generation Jobless”. They are young people aged 15 to 24 of whom 290 million worldwide are neither working nor studying. That’s almost a quarter of the planet’s youth who are considered “inactive”.
Across Europe, as in Flanders, the euro crisis has hit young job seekers exceptionally hard. The continent’s average youth unemployment rate sits at 23.5%. Not surprisingly, unemployment rates are highest in Greece (58.4%), Spain (55.7%), Portugal (38%) and Italy (38%).
Last month, more than 16,000 visitors from 65 countries gathered in Chicago for the annual Bio International Convention, the world’s largest event for the biotech industry. It’s a little like the World’s Fair, with a Belgian pavilion that gathers the country’s participating companies. There, visitors to the convention – not tourists, but businessmen representing other biotech firms – were introduced to, apart from waffles, fries and beer, another of our prestigious exports: biotechnology.
Viktor, from Erembodegem, East Flanders, suffers from atypical haemolytic-uraemic syndrome, an immune system disorder caused by an E coli infection. The body destroys its own red bloods cells, which can lead to kidney failure. The disease affects mainly children, of whom there are only about a dozen in Belgium.
The document consists of 30 main points spread across six fields of activity. Goal number one is to increase the shipping traffic to Flanders. One way to do that will be to create added-value projects in the hinterland. Antwerp and Zeebrugge will work together to attract a greater share of the growing traffic from Asia to Northern Europe; Zeebrugge and Ostend will work to promote cruise traffic; and all four ports will combine their efforts to promote and market Flanders abroad, for example at trade fairs and on international missions.