De Croo counts on speedy handling of Belgium’s pandemic law
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De Croo counts on speedy handling of Belgium’s pandemic law

Credit: Belga

The federal government is counting on its pandemic law being passed through parliament quickly, so as not to jeopardise the verdict of a Brussels court, which gave the government 30 days to provide a sound legal basis for the coronavirus measures.

On Wednesday afternoon, the government announced that it would appeal against the ruling from earlier that same day, which stated that Belgium had to lift all coronavirus measures within 30 days, with a €5,000 penalty for every day of delay.

According to the judge, the legal basis on which Belgium’s Ministerial Decrees are based is not sufficient, but Prime Minister Alexander De Croo stated in the Chamber on Thursday that the government will appeal “because we think we have a point to make.”

The government stressed that the judgment did not say anything about the legality of the measures themselves. “They are not questioned and remain valid,” he said.

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Additionally, De Croo and Interior Affairs Minister Annelies Verlinden stated several times that the Council of State – the highest administrative court in Belgium – repeatedly ruled that the legal basis for the Decrees is sufficient.

However, the government is also working on a solution in the meantime, according to De Croo. “A Russian proverb says: ‘pray to god, but always row to the shore’,” he said. “Have faith, but also work out a solution.”

That solution is Belgium’s pandemic law, of which the preliminary draft has been thoroughly discussed in Parliament in recent weeks, and will now return to the government table for possible amendments.

“It is abundantly clear that the timing will be a challenge, but I think that with healthy haste, it should be possible to finish the pandemic law in time,” De Croo said.

However, he added that the government has asked for the advice of the Council of State – which is expected later this month – and will also take the comments of the Chamber into account. “That involves more than 600 pages, which we will study in detail.”

Addressing the sharp criticism from the opposition yesterday, Interior Minister Verlinden stressed that politicians should not forget that they are trying to manage a crisis that threatens general public health.

“I invite everyone to continue working together constructively. There is only one fight, and that is the fight against the virus,” she added.

A more in-depth explanation about what the court ruling actually means for Belgium’s coronavirus measures can be found here.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times