As Europe is rocked by the energy crisis, driven by high inflation and the Ukraine war, Belgium has seen fuel prices skyrocket which even saw petrol stations selling at a loss with their wholesale costs exceeding the maximum limits at the pump.
After a meeting on Thursday between Minister of Economy Pierre-Yves Dermagne (PS) and Energia – Belgium's federation for the petroleum sector – it was decided that consumers would be shielded from the increased costs by keeping the maximum prices for fuel at predetermined levels. These have already been on the rise for months, with diesel reaching almost €2.3 per litre on Friday – yet another record.
Whilst this may not give individuals much cause for celebration, with prices at the pumps still exorbitantly high, it will at least protect them from even higher hikes. However, for operators of fuel pumps, Dermagne has promised another system to "ensure that they are not forced to sell fuel at a loss."
Exactly how this will be arranged is still being decided, with discussions due to continue on Friday evening. The minister spoke of "adjusting the parameters", possibly by tweaking the tax levied on fuel traders.
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On Wednesday, around 100 service stations stopped selling petrol or diesel because they were running at a loss, the Belgian Federation of Fuel Traders (Brafco) confirmed.
"This Wednesday we gave the government, particularly the Energy Minister (Tinne Van der Sraeten) and Minister of the Economy, 24 hours to resolve the issue by proposing practical and immediate solutions," a spokesperson stated.
When questioned on the matter in Parliament, Van der Straeten acknowledged the urgent need for a solution and said that her cabinet was addressing the problem.