The federal government approved its share of the post-covid stimulus package on Friday, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and Recovery Secretary Thomas Dermine announced on Friday. Like the other entities, it drew up a list of projects for an amount representing 130% of the envelope allocated to it, ie around 1.6 billion euros. The plan will be refined based on discussions with the European Commission and consultation with the federated entities by April.
This summer, the countries of the European Union agreed to distribute 337 billion euros in grants and 385 billion euros in loans to promote the post-coronavirus recovery of national economies. Belgium will benefit from 5.95 billion. On January 11, the federal, regional and community governments agreed on a distribution of resources between the entities. Each of them finalized the first version of their plan. The federal government handed in its duty on Friday. Four areas are highlighted: sustainable energy and mobility, digitization, research and innovation, and social cohesion. About 50% benefit the ecological transition and 20% the digitization, more than what the European Commission recommended (respectively 37% and 20%). In the first area, we will notably note the development of an energy island in the North Sea to deploy a second offshore wind zone, prepare interconnections with other countries and allow the storage of energy for an amount of 100 million. euros. In order to reduce CO2 emissions in sectors such as refining, steel or chemicals, and promote the transport of hydrogen, 95 million will be invested. In terms of mobility, 365 million euros will be invested in rail, in particular for freight in Antwerp and in the modernization of the Brussels-Luxembourg line. A tax incentive for the installation of electric charging stations accessible to the public will be provided to initiate the electrification of the vehicle fleet in the amount of 32 million.
The government also intends to allocate 170 million for the renovation of public buildings for which the needs are most urgent, in particular the Cinquantenaire museums and the Palais de Justice in Brussels. At the same time, a strategy will be pursued to achieve energy neutrality for all federal buildings in 2040 by relying in particular on energy performance contracts. The government intends to invest 100 million euros in “open military campuses” which will provide employment opportunities to young people by working with local businesses and educational establishments to promote the sharing of knowledge and technology.
Innovation and research will receive 165 million euros. This will include supporting nuclear research in cancer treatment and the production of more sustainable isotopes. To fight against drug trafficking in the port of Antwerp, 70 million euros are planned. Resources will also go to research in the field of climate and green aeronautics and the minimization of radioactive waste with a view to dismantling nuclear power plants.
As part of digitization, 380 million will be allocated to the amplification of the digitization of public services, in particular in justice and social security, and to cybersecurity. In terms of social cohesion, the focus will be on reducing the digital divide, e-health and the fight against recidivism. “This plan also guarantees the start of an ecological transition since more than half of the investments are directly devoted to achieving climate neutrality by 2050”, underlined Mr. De Croo (Open Vld). “The plan is also ambitious in terms of digitization since a quarter of investments are intended to ensure the digital transition. In this sense, this Belgian federal plan is greener and more digital than expected by Europe and allows our country towards a digital and ecological transition “, says Mr. Dermine (PS). On the side of environmentalists, we were also delighted at the outcome of this first phase of the process. “This is a new step in strengthening our rail network, as the backbone of the mobility of tomorrow. We are obviously not at the end of our efforts as the stakes are high, but it is an essential signal that will allow SNCB and Infrabel to plan strategic investments in the coming years, “said the Minister of Mobility, Georges Gilkinet. The Secretary of State for Digitization, Mathieu Michel (MR), for his part welcomed the fact that the recovery plan provides for an amount of 368 million euros devoted to digitization and contains “concrete projects” aimed at silplifying the lives of people and businesses. He also insisted on the attention paid to bridging the digital divide, so as not to leave anyone behind.
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