'Act of war': Flanders and Brussels clash over Zaventem airport noise pollution

'Act of war': Flanders and Brussels clash over Zaventem airport noise pollution
Credit: Belga

Flanders is refusing to cooperate to tackle aircraft noise pollution and has pulled the plug on a new agreement, stated the Brussels Environment Minister, Alain Maron. According to his Flemish counterpart Zuhal Demir, however, such an agreement did not exist.

For decades, the Flemish and Brussels Governments have been arguing over the noise pollution caused by air traffic to and from Brussels Airport – which is actually located in the Flemish municipality of Zaventem, just outside of the Brussels-Capital Region.

"Our objective on overflights is clear: less nuisance for everyone – Brussels, Flemish and Walloon residents," said Brussels Minister Maron on Twitter. "To achieve this, we need measures on night flights, authorised aircraft models, or the use of runways."

While Brussels Airport is located in Flanders, it falls under the competency of the Federal Government. However, studies have repeatedly shown that Brussels residents are also heavily impacted by its noise pollution, resulting in the dossier being passed from government to government for years now.

In March 2022, however, Federal Mobility Minister Georges Gilkinet quietly initiated talks between the relevant federal and regional ministers. According to Maron, those talks even led to a preliminary agreement and in a "joint declaration," the different governments promised to look for a solution together and to set up an independent noise control body.

Now, Flanders is preventing this collaboration, said Maron. In one of the adjustments that the Flemish Government sent to his cabinet, Flanders demands the right to unilaterally cancel the joint statement – a "real act of war," he said.

According to Maron, a meeting at the end of June about the adjustments also had to be cancelled because the Flemish Government refused to attend. "However, the point is not to cause more noise nuisance in a certain region, but to reduce the number of flights in general, for example. The Flemish Government now clearly prefers the economic interests of Zaventem airport to the quality of life of its inhabitants.”

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The cabinet of Flemish Environment Minister Zuhal Demir, however, is telling a different story, saying that the "joint statement" was not a preliminary agreement negotiated by all parties, reports De Morgen. Instead, it was a proposal from Federal Minister Gilkinet to which all governments were allowed to submit their objections afterwards.

When asked why Flanders did not show up for the last consultation before the summer, Demir's spokesperson Andy Pieters told the newspaper that the meeting in question was cancelled by the Brussels Government itself.

"It is true that we disagreed with certain fundamental passages, such as those about the Brussels noise standards. But afterwards, we heard nothing more about it," he said. "The consultation on 29 June was cancelled by the Brussels Government itself. If Minister Maron really wants to solve the problem, he should consider calling the minister herself, instead of the press."


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