A row is brewing over the division of European Union aid to the member states, and how it should be divided among the various governing entities in Belgium.
This week the minister-president of the French Community, Pierre-Yves Jeholet (MR), objected to a claim made by Flemish budget minister Matthias Diependaele (N-VA) for the lion’s share of the aid to be given to Flanders.
In July, EU leaders approved a recovery plan for the member states to help put them back on their feet as they come through the Covid-19 crisis. The plan includes a package of financial aid worth €750 billion.
When that is divided up, Belgium will receive €5.15 billion – on condition the federal government submits a recovery plan of its own, which in turn will include the provisions of the plans of the regional and community governments.
However Flanders has already laid claim to €3 billion of the total. Diependaele’s party argues that the pot should be shared according to the extent to which the various entities contribute to the economy. Those who produce more have lost more in the crisis, and therefore have more of a claim to aid.
Flanders makes up 58% of Belgium’s GDP; the region is therefore entitled to €2.987 billion, or three billion for argument’s sake.
For Jeholet, however, the GDP argument does not hold water. As minister-president of the French Community, he sees money going to more than just the regions.
“Three billion for Flanders?” he said this week. “I don’t know how we’re going to manage that with an envelope of five billion euros. Flanders is not alone.”
“Most of the powers involved for the recovery lie with the federated states,” Diependaele said, referring to the regions, “so it is logical that the money should go there”.
“It is only normal that the regions that lost the most GDP during the corona crisis receive the most support,” he said.
“If everyone does their own calculation, I think we will soon be above that 5 billion,” Jeholet countered.
“There is also the federal level, the Walloon and Brussels Region and the French Community. I predict some complicated discussions. We are going to make sure that as much as possible comes to the French community so that our concerns and projects are incorporated into the federal plan,” he said.