Belgium in Brief: ‘Deepest Regrets’ For Colonial Cruelties
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Belgium in Brief: ‘Deepest Regrets’ For Colonial Cruelties

Credit; Brussels Airlines/Belga

Belgium’s King Philippe has made international headlines today after he sent a letter expressing his “deepest regrets” to the Democratic Republic of Congo for the “humiliation and suffering” inflicted during Belgium’s colonial occupation of the country.

“Our history is made of common achievements but also of painful episodes,” Philippe wrote. “At the time of the independent State of the Congo, acts of violence and cruelty were committed that still weigh on our collective memory.”

“The colonial period that followed also called suffering and humiliation. I would like to express my deepest regrets for those wounds of the past, the pain of which is today revived by the discrimination that is still all too present in our societies.”

However, it is important to note that by using the words “deepest regrets,” the King foregoes official apologies. More on what that actually means below.

So, what else is new? Brussels Airlines reacts to uncertainty concerning flights out of the EU, a guide in how infections impact your summer, and the latest figures.

With so much information, and so little time to catch up before it potentially changes again, here are some of the top stories from around the country to get you up to speed.

Belgium in Brief is a free daily roundup of the top stories to get you through your lunch break conversations. To receive it straight to your inbox every day, sign up below:

1. Brussels Airlines postpones long-distance flights to August

As the European Union has not yet announced a decision about the reopening of its external borders, Brussels Airlines has pushed back the resumption of its long-haul flights to August.

“Due to the continuing travel restrictions, and the fact that we do not yet have authorisations to go to most countries, we are forced to postpone our commercial flights to Africa and America until August,” Wencke Lemmes, a spokesperson for Brussels Airlines, told The Brussels Times.

The airline’s initial plan was to restart long-distance flights on 22 June, first to Africa, and then also to America. Now, however, that’s not happening.

2. Belgian rail accused of ‘deliberately’ exporting coronavirus to the coast

The seaside municipality of Knokke-Heist is threatening legal action against Belgium’s national railway service, the SNCB.

In a press release sent on Monday, the municipality accuses the railway company of not having established a protocol to combat the spread of the new coronavirus (Covid-19) on the coast this summer. It also warns that it could close its doors during heat peaks.

The municipality is very concerned about the “disrespectful visitors and the enormous inconvenience” that came with the nice weather last week, according to Knokke-Heist Mayor Leopold Lippens. Read more.

In response,  SNCB has said it will place a link on its website to a barometer showing how busy it is at the coast. If it gets too bad, they might even cancel trains. Read about that here.

3. Four million people caught speeding in Belgium in 2019

There have never been as many speeding tickets issued in Belgium as there have been in the last year – 4,039,038 in total – according to figures from the Federal Highway Police.

“Compared to 2011, the police found one million more speeding offences last year. Speed is still one of the four ‘killers’ in terms of accidents and yet it is not decreasing,” explained Jean-Michel Tubetti of the Federal Highway Police. Driving under the influence, driving with a mobile phone and forgetting to wear a seatbelt are the three other fatal behaviours on the road. Read More.

4. Belgian king expresses ‘deepest regrets’ for colonial cruelties in Congo

King Philippe expressed his “deepest regrets” to the Democratic Republic of Congo for the “humiliation and suffering” inflicted during Belgium’s colonial occupation of the country.

The unexpected message, which stops short of an apology, was sent in a letter to Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi on the occasion of the DRC’s 60th anniversary of Congolese independence from Belgium.

In the letter, Philippe extended his “heartfelt congratulations” and reaffirmed Belgium’s “commitments” to the Congolese people, before addressing the legacy of Leopold II, who lay personal claim to the Congo in the late 1880s. Read More.

5. Coronavirus: Belgium averages 82 infections, 5 deaths per day

An average of 82 people per day tested positive for the new coronavirus (Covid-19) in Belgium, according to figures by the Federal Public Health Service on Tuesday.

The total number of confirmed cases in Belgium, since the beginning of the pandemic, is 61,427. The total reflects all people in Belgium who have been infected, and includes confirmed active cases as well as patients who have since recovered, or died from the consequences of the virus. Read more.

6. Brussels restaurant criticised for charging €5 Covid-19 supplement

The Brussels restaurant Viva M’Boma has drawn a lot of criticism for adding a €5 supplement for “anti-Covid-19 measures” per person to its checks.

To compensate for the investments made for the safety of both staff and clients since Belgium’s deconfinement, such as plexiglass, masks and hydroalcoholic gel, the Brussels’ restaurant introduced a Covid-19 charge.

After one client shared their ticket, dated 10 June 2020, on social media, many people criticised the practice, with one client saying that she did not mind paying a supplement but that €5 was too expensive, and another calling it “pure theft.” Read more.

7. What Phase 4 means for your summer

We’re keeping this story as it’s going to be relevant for tomorrow as much as it is today.

As our social bubble keeps growing, swimming pools will reopen and events can take place with an audience again, here’s some clarity about what Belgium’s Phase 4 actually means.

The country will enter into its next phase out of lockdown from 1 July, and even though there are fewer and fewer rules, it remains incredibly important that people keep following them, according to Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès. Read More.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times

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