Long-term solution needed: Belgian government to convene in light of rising energy prices

Long-term solution needed: Belgian government to convene in light of rising energy prices
Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and Energy minister Tinne Van der Straeten during a press conference regarding the measures taken to reduce the energy costs in March. Credit: Belga

Prime Minister Alexander De Croo has confirmed he will be convening the Consultative Committee to discuss the ongoing energy crisis in light of the cost of electricity and gas reaching record-high levels. 

De Croo will likely hold the meeting to deal with the rising energy prices on Wednesday, according to Belga News Agency. The gathering was announced following a question from Vooruit chair Conner Rousseau, who pleaded with the government to convene ministers and discuss long-term solutions.

"It's all hands on deck. Winter is coming, we need to work with all governments and across all party lines to make bills affordable for people again," De Croo told VRT NWS.

Aside from the peaking electricity prices, the price of gas is also breaking record after record these days, and there doesn't seem to be an end to this in sight.

Discussing possibilities

De Croo already confirmed the fears, saying the next five to ten winters would be difficult, however, at the time, he failed to reveal any new measures to combat the disastrous situation households in Belgium will face. The announcement now sees a shift in the government's tactic.

The meeting would be to discuss the different initiatives of the governments and how they "can do the maximum to protect people as much as possible," he said. Efforts made by the consumer, such as looking at how people can limit their average consumption of energy, will also be discussed.

According to Finance Minister Vincent Van Peteghem, long-term solutions are necessary, such as tax reform, "whereby we ensure that people have more net income at the end of the month."

Meanwhile, the green party Groen argued that Belgium should look for a way to introduce a price cap on gas, something the federal government has long been a fan of, if no agreement is made on a European level to do so.

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De Croo told VRT NWS on Sunday that Belgium would look at all options to freeze energy prices on the national level if it cannot be arranged at the European level. However, he added that such a decision will not be easy at the Belgian level and will have a much smaller effect.

Several government parties also once again pointed at the usurious profits that various energy companies are currently making and that a solution for this based on increased taxing of these companies'  excess profits should also be on the table.

The federal government already took some measures earlier this year in light of the energy crisis, including a VAT reduction on gas and electricity (from 21% to 6%), an extension of the social rate and a heating bonus of €100.

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