“It falls under the local autonomy of our cities and municipalities to decide for themselves whether certain events can take place on their territory, but the Flemish government has been fighting with the goal of being possible again this summer,” Somers said in a press release.
“This sector has suffered heavily from the corona crisis and we have supported them with financial means to get through it, but from 13 August onwards it should be possible again to organise larger festivals. If Pukkelpop can go ahead, I am convinced Tomorrowland can too,” he added.
Although the festival organisation has not yet made an official statement about the news on its website, it has told several local media that this is a “very hard and unexpected decision”.
“We haven’t had a festival in two years, which is extremely hard on our entire team, both financially and emotionally. We were so keen on this, and it all looked positive,” spokesperson Debby Wilmsen told VRT News.
Ministerial Decree confusion
Although the coronavirus rules would allow the festival to go ahead, the event, which was completely sold out for both weekends, may still be in peril.
According to Boom mayor, Jeroen Baert, and mayor of Rumst, Jurgen Callaerts, one of the reasons for their decision is that the Ministerial Decree on events for up to 75,000 people has not yet been passed and that the police are uncomfortable with the additional work involved in checking the coronavirus certificates, which people in Belgium could start requesting on Wednesday.
“The risks for public safety and health are too great. That is why they refuse the permit for the dance festival on their territory,” the mayors said during a press conference on Thursday.
Federal Home Affairs Minister Annelies Verlinden agreed that it was up to the local authorities to decide on the organisation of the event, but argued that the reasoning was unjust.
“The ministerial decree cannot be a reason for a negative decision in Boom and Rumst,” she said on Radio 1.
“The ministerial decree that we know today runs until 30 June, it does not contain a ban on larger events. After today’s Consultative Committee, we will decide on the ministerial decree for the summer, which we had already announced some time ago,” Verlinden added.
However, according to Verlinden, it is possible to remove a number of obstacles in the coming days: freeing up extra police officers is one of the possibilities, and that private security personnel could also check whether people are presenting legitimate coronavirus certificates.
Tomorrowland’s Wilmsen has said the organisation will be communicating about the tickets in the coming days, but that it may still contest the decision. “If it really can’t go ahead, then probably a lot of people will transfer their ticket to 2022,” she said.