The Belgian Debt Agency has published its 2012 annual report, in which it highlights the fa...
Belgium now ranks as the 5th most attractive European country, one place up from 2011, acco...
A British care worker is tackling living as someone with learning disabilities to get an in...
England Counties completed their tour of Belgium with a 57-5 victory over the hosts’ nation...
Today's Top Stories - August 1, 2012
Belgians have Europe’s shortest working lives
A new European report sheds some light on why Belgians receive relatively low state pensions. The answer is simple: the average working life in Belgium lasts 32.5 years (35 years for men; 29.9 years for women) – nowhere near the 45 years routinely regarded as the normal period to contribute to a retirement pension. In the neighbouring Netherlands, in contrast, the average working life is 41.6 years for men and 36.1 for women. One of the consequences of Belgium’s low state pensions is that many old age pensioners live below the poverty threshold. The European report concludes that the first step to take towards addressing this problem is simple: work longer. It should be pointed out, however, that not one European country boasts an average working life of 45 years.
Dutroux accomplice Michelle Martin’s conditional release from prison suspended by appeal court
The decision by the Mons enforcement court on Tuesday to conditionally free Michelle Martin has sparked a public and media debate. Martin was due to be released after serving more than half of her 30-year prison sentence for her complicity in the Dutroux. The 52-year-old ex-wife of notorious child killer Marc Dutroux had been authorised to join a convent near Namur on condition that she be kept away from the families of the victims. The highest appeal court in Belgium has 30 days to pronounce its judgement.
Two public demonstrations have been organised via social media sites, one outside the convent that Martin was due to join. The majority of Belgium’s newspapers recognise Martin’s legal right to liberty despite the emotional conflict it provokes. They also questioned sentencing laws and many cited a government agreement to reinforce the minimum length of time in prison for sentences of more than 30 years. The choice of a convent for Martin’s conditional release also raised questions of complicity between church and state.
This was the fifth attempt by her lawyers to gain her release, after previous requests had been rejected. Michelle Martin and Marc Dutroux were detained in 1996. Dutroux was given a life sentence in 2004 for the kidnap and rape of six girls. He killed two of the girls and caused the death of two others.
Universal Music seeks buyer for EMI Belgium
The music giant Universal Music Vivendi is looking to sell assets worth an estimated $250m. As part of the operation, the Belgian arm of record company EMI is up for sale. The takeover of EMI by Universal back in October 2011 at the European Antitrust Watchdog, not least because in certain countries (especially the United Kingdom, home of EMI), Universal’s market share would exceed 40%. Universal first proposed to the European Commission that they would sell off the legendary Parlophone imprint (Blur, Gorillaz, The Chemical Brothers, Beastie Boys, Norah Jones) while retaining its two biggest cash cows: The Beatles and Coldplay. As a result of this move, Universal will now also keep smaller imprints such as Chrysalis, Mute and Virgin. Conversely, Virgin Classics and EMI Classics will be sold off, along with many of EMI’s regional branches including France, Czech Republic, Poland, Portugal, Norway, Sweden and Belgium, where the likes of Novastar, Buscemi and Ozark Henry (pictured) have been big sellers in the past decade.
Insurance blacklist longest ever
The number of Belgians featured on insurance companies’ blacklists is longer than ever. The 2011 figure of 179,000 blacklisted people represents a 3% increase on the previous year – and a worrying 30% increase over the past five years. An insured person automatically becomes blacklisted when their policy is cancelled by the insurer. In 93% of cases, the blacklisting is the result of unpaid premiums. Placing non-payers on a blacklist does not give insurers the right to expel them, however; it allows them, mostly, to up their premiums. The rising number of non-payers is bad news for those who acquit themselves of their premiums, says René Dhondt, president of insurance brokers Datassur, because “in practice, the money lost by insurers because of non-payers and fraudsters is recouped through honest customers.”
A breathalyser commonly used by police on motorists over the past six years has not always been legally valid. Many motorists tested by the Dräger 8510 BE have been acquitted in courts, principally in Mons, Brussels and Nivelles. The device has been in use since the summer of 2006, but a royal decree authorising its use was only published in May 2011. Judges have declared that the alcohol test results do not meet legal requirements, although Belgium’s highest court in the land has swept aside defence lawyer’s arguments, saying that the element of the procedure in question does not change the reliability of the equipment.