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Belgium must discourage use of cars, says Commission

Feb 8, 2017

Belgium must urgently address traffic congestion and discourage the use of cars if it is to meet its targets for air pollution, according to an analysis carried out by the European Commission. The study looked at the extent to which member states were progressing towards the targets set and the major challenges they face.

The section on Belgium covers matters such as nature and biodiversity, green space, air and water quality and noise pollution. According to the report, Belgium’s main challenges relate to air quality and levels of fine particles and nitrogen oxides. Air quality could be improved by tackling the traffic situation, the Commission said.

The country also needs to address water pollution by urban waste water and by run-off from agricultural sources. “Belgium is the most congested country in Europe in terms of lost working hours and delays, especially around Antwerp and Brussels,” the report reads.

In Flanders, 75% of all commuters travel by car, while 78.5% of all journeys are made by car. Belgium also pays out the most of all the members of the OECD in subsidies for company cars, which account for €3.75 billion a year in lost income, according to the report.

Belgium should also concentrate on environmental taxation, where it is second-lowest in the EU, above France. In 2014, Belgium’s environmental taxes accounted for only 2% of GDP, compared to an EU average of 2.5%.

That leaves Belgium some margin for shifting the burden of taxation from labour to pollution. By 2018, the report forecasts, environmental taxes could raise an extra €3.5 billion, rising to nearly €7 billion by 2030.

Photo: Dirk Waem/BELGA

R.Harris Feb 8, 2017 16:50

Since 60% of all trucks and 50% of all cars on Belgian highways are not Belgian, isn't this more of a European problem? Belgium has been known as the "crossroads of Europe" for a very long time and the geography is not going to change.

Mikek1300gt Feb 9, 2017 08:31

Does anybody know what efforts the commission has gone to in order to reduce car use by themselves? Or are they just fed up of the traffic between them and the airport?

Marc Slonik Feb 9, 2017 09:42

As in the recent weeks Eastern Europe has seen huge air pollution issues related to intensified coal burning in response to low temperatures, I started to monitor the Air Quality Index just out of curiosity and to have some comparison base. This was to find that in the outskirts of Brussels where I live (Woluwe SP) the air happens to be one of the best in Europe (I'm comparing large cities not skiing resorts). It's true that it has gone bad in the recent days, but still the question - how real is the problem? I mean not the polution problem as such, but Belgium problem in comparison with the rest of the developed world?

leonard.schrank Feb 9, 2017 09:51

Isn't it ironic that parallel to this article, The Bulletin also runs a story that there is a three day closure of the North-South rail link. If the Brussels region wants to improve "mobility" it needs a coordinated and professional approach to how to run ourcapital city. For example, traffic lights are not synchronized so traffic stalls and pollutes, construction is haphazard and uncoordinated, and there doesn't seem to be any professional approach to traffic management. Just more bike lanes and pedestrian zones is surely not going to make Brussels the great, business friendly city that it deserves to be.

Anon2 Feb 9, 2017 14:17

If the Commission wants to impose its ideas on Belgian traffic (like they did on the vital issue of limiting the power of home vacuum cleaners), then they should set an example as fine upstanding (gravy train) civil servants and leave THEIR cars at home and travel to work by bike or public transport. That alone would remove at least 70% of Brussels weekday traffic.

eric Feb 9, 2017 14:48

Where so many people have company cars with fuel paid for by employers what incentive is there for people to reduce the amount of car usage?

Bernard Sergant Feb 9, 2017 15:38

Here are two very simple facts to dwell upon: in order to reduce the traffic in Brussels by 3%, the offer of public transport would have to increase by 50% (source: Mobility Manager training offered by the Ministry). This cannot happen because the infrastructure simply is not there and never can be however much money we throw at it. This is an inconvenient truth for anti-car lobbyists. The second fact is that an estimated 30% of the traffic downtown is people riding around looking for parking space, which adds to the congestion, yet the Brussels Government is eliminating 40,000 parking spaces by 2018. The result will not be less congestion; it will be companies/jobs and the more affluent taxpayers leaving Brussels, never to return.

Mikek1300gt Feb 10, 2017 01:30

So true about the driving around looking for parking spaces.

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