Make Zaventem Airport a Flemish airport

16 June 2022

N-VA MPs Theo Francken, Sander Loones and Bert Wollants are submitting a bill to fully regionalise Zaventem airport. “In contrast to the other airports in Flanders, Zaventem National Airport is still under the federal government’s jurisdiction. That is absurd,” say the MPs. “Our airport deserves a dynamic policy, and our federal government cannot provide that.”

It is no secret that Zaventem Airport plays an important role in the Flemish economy and the employment of its inhabitants. But since the regionalisation of all other airports in Flanders and Wallonia, such as those of Antwerp, Charleroi and Ostend, it has mainly been faced with an uneven playing field.

No ambition whatsoever

Nevertheless, the De Croo government showed no ambition whatsoever to strengthen the position of Zaventem airport. The coalition agreement just has a short paragraph about Zaventem airport, specifically about noise nuisance. However, the airport accounts for most of the EUR 6 billion and 60,000 full-time employees that our aviation sector contributes to our economy.

“The federal government treats ‘Brussels National’ as a second-class airport. The Entry-Exit-System dossier proves this, with tenders being awarded far too late, poor rail interconnectivity and a shortage of airport police. To top it all off, dirty political games are being played for the chairmanship of the board of directors of Brussels Airport. It is a purely political settlement by a government that prides itself on a ‘new political culture’,” Theo Francken says.

Solving labour shortages, facilitating mobility

Regionalisation would not only benefit the airport’s economic future, but also ensure a more efficient policy. The Flemish Region is not responsible for policy in the airport, but it is responsible for all the challenges that the presence of the airport entails, for example, distorted spatial planning, noise nuisance and traffic jams.

“With regionalisation, we would immediately be able to assess every decision concerning the airport against the needs and concerns of the surrounding area,” Sander Loones explains. “We can no longer accept that the federal government decides and Flanders pays the price.”

“In addition, the airport has been struggling with two major challenges for years: mobility and finding enough workers. By making Zaventem Airport Flemish, it will be possible to work more efficiently on activating people and filling vacancies and on public works; after all, both are already Flemish competences,” continues Sander Loones.

A better balance

Recently, we have also received many reports of strikes, overburdened ground staff and, consequently, many cancelled passenger flights. The N-VA believes that regionalisation can also bring a glimmer of hope there.

“If Zaventem joins the regional airports, that will give us the tools to work more efficiently as well. That way, we can make optimal use of the capacity of these airports, so that we can take more account of, for example, ground staff who are really under too much pressure at peak times. We can then operate each of the airports to their strengths, which is to everyone’s advantage. Regionalisation therefore also means a more flexible and efficient airport policy for the benefit of staff and passengers,” added MP Bert Wollants.

What are we waiting for?

Finally, regionalisation does not require any amendments to the constitution. “This concerns a power that we can transfer through a special law. The reform can take place without any changes to the constitution. So what are we waiting for?” Sander Loones concludes.

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