Category Archives: Belgium

Your name’s not on the list…

According to VRT, stricter identity checks are due to be introduced in Belgian airports by the end of this year. Specifically, the name on your ticket needs to be the same as the name on your passport.

The most surprising thing about this story is that they aren’t checking this already.

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Things you don’t miss until they’re gone

This is bad. The newspaper and website Flanders Today is due to shut down on 1st October.

Flanders Today is the product of a bid request issued by the Flemish government’s foreign affairs department. Media companies bid on the project, and the department uses a number of criteria to choose which company to award the contract to, including price, available resources and design.

After 10 years, the foreign affairs department has decided not to rebid the project. It said that the decision was based on an audit carried out earlier this year on available English-language products, which include the website Fans of Flanders, VRT’s English-language news site FlandersNews and Flanders Today.

The staff and management of the site have launched a website to support the paper and are working on proposals to continue the title in a limited form.

I hope they are successful. Flanders Today provides a unique overview of the region and I, for one, would certainly miss it.

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Hiding the complexity

Flanders News reports that the new tax form has 885 different field boxes, “but most people can do it in 5 minutes”. This is one of those headlines for which I knew what the story would say before I clicked on it:

Those working with Tax-on-Web, will automatically see a tax form which has been almost fully completed by the computer. This virtual knowledge applies to as many as 320 different boxes.

In other words, when using the online tax return it’s largely a question of just checking that the pre-filled numbers are correct and then clicking send.

That said, to use the online version you need an electronic ID card. When we first moved to Belgium, we didn’t have one. The paper tax form is so complex that we had to ask the bank to help us complete it.

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On the appeal of regional government

Last week I mentioned that the Belgian parliament has rejected advice from an independent integrity committee to ban the distribution of free beer and wine to MPs. Free booze was introduced in the late 1990 to discourage parliamentarians from sneaking off to the pub during debates.

This has become quite an issue over the past few days, with some saying that the free booze should be scrapped to improve the quality of debate while others (mainly MPs) have denied that there is any problem at all. However a compromise has now been reached and, while the federal parliament will continue to serve beer and wine, MPs will now be expected to pay for it.

Coffee remains free, as it should. For everyone.

However, as Politico notes:

It is unclear how much drinks will cost. Alcohol will remain free of charge in the regional parliament of Flanders, which had a similar policy, its speaker said last week.

Cheers!

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Cheers!

corsendonk Politico reports that the Belgian beer culture was added on Wednesday to UNESCO’s cultural heritage list for being deep-rooted in the country with breweries, beer tasting associations, museums and events in every province of Belgium.

“It is the unparalleled diversity of the art of brewing and the intensity of the beer culture, as a part of our daily lives and at festivals in our country, that make this beer culture a part of the identity and the cultural heritage of the entire country,” a statement from the culture ministers from the French, German, and Dutch speaking communities of Belgium said.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel called upon people to visit the country to taste the beers.

With 214 breweries (PDF) in the country, visitors may find it best to extend their stay.

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Panorama freedom update

atomium Back in August, I mentioned that a couple of Liberal MPs in Belgium were seeking to implement “panorama rights” in the country. These would ensure that copyright claims could not made for works placed in public.

In short, if an artist puts a work in a public space, they have already conceded that people can take photos of it.

And now:

The Belgian parliament’s business commission has just finalised proposals for legislation on ‘panorama freedom’ and this will mean that everyone gets the right to take photographs of such landmarks without having to fear the full force of the law.

Flemish liberal lawmakers Patricia Ceysens and Frank Wilryck argue that the individual’s right to take snaps should prevail above copyright that offers protection to works of art and buildings in the public domain: “This is simple logic, especially because many of these works of art have been purchased using monies from the public purse.”

Under the bill that has the backing of other government parties everybody will have the right to take snaps of and share images of such landmarks as well publish photographs in books and on the internet. The works must be on permanent display in the public domain. Works of art in museums will still be protected.

With luck, I will be able to legally take a photo of the Atomium before I die.

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