Belgium risks 'ending up in a war economy' without EU help, warns De Croo

Belgium risks 'ending up in a war economy' without EU help, warns De Croo
Prime Minister Alexander De Croo. Credit: Belga/Laurie Dieffembacq

Belgium's various governments will pull out all the stops to protect citizens and companies against the ever-rising energy prices, but Prime Minister Alexander De Croo reiterated the warning that we can't pull this off alone.

The authorities will not let companies go bankrupt because of the impact of energy bills and will not allow thousands of people to be thrown out onto the street, De Croo emphasised on VRT's television programme 'De Zevende Dag' on Sunday.

"But this crisis is about much more than energy. This is about the stability and security of the European continent," he added. "If the European Commission does not intervene, we risk ending up in a real war economy."

Meanwhile, De Croo is still pushing for a ceiling on energy prices, but as he said during the press conference following the Consultative Committee on energy last week, such a price cap must be implemented at the European level.

'Ça suffit'

"There must be a ceiling on the price of Russian gas, otherwise the consequences may be incalculable. We have to form a block of 450 million people who say: Ça suffit, we will not pay this any longer."

In an effort to inject some optimism into the grim predictions, the Prime Minister said that "we can also jump forward 20 years by breaking away from fossil fuels and countries we do not like trading with."

Previously, experts and politicians had assumed that it would be years before the EU could curb its dependence on Russian gas. Now, this could happen in the space of a few months.

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Following the €65 billion support package that Germany announced over the weekend, Belgium's various governments and the social partners will meet on Monday (today) to look into measures to reduce the energy prices, such as the possibility of lowering mortgage payments during the winter months so energy bills can be paid and the system of temporary unemployment used during the Covid-19 pandemic.

With regard to the energy companies' excess profits, De Croo wants to extend the distribution contribution (which already applies to nuclear energy) to other energy sources, such as renewables and gas power stations. This would be used to help SMEs and the middle class.

On Friday 9 September, European energy ministers, including Belgian one Tinne Van der Straeten, will meet for an emergency summit to discuss possible measures and the European Commission will also present "concrete plans" by 14 September to curb energy prices, pending structural reform of the electricity market.

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