Massive protests against Belgium's austerity plans

The Belgian unions are protesting against the austerity policy of the centre-right government under Prime Minister Charles Michel. Several thousand demonstrators have staged a protest in Brussels and public sector and transport services have been limited by strikes. How can the deadlock be broken?

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De Morgen (BE) /

Dialogue between unions and government needed

The strikes are an expression of a crisis of trust, De Morgen observes and calls on the government to take action:

“Most people understand that something has to be done to maintain our welfare state. For example that there are jobs in which working longer hours is inevitable while in other jobs it would be inhumane or dangerous to make this compulsory. … On these nuances a dialogue between the government and the unions must be possible. But there is a lack of trust. Particularly on the Francophone side people are convinced that no one in government speaks or understands their language. This is not an apology for the impudence of the prison guards but these feelings are not entirely unjustified. To eliminate the distrust the government must give up its false mantra that there is 'no alternative' to its policies”

La Libre Belgique (BE) /

Protests miss their mark

The strikes of recent days are counterproductive, La Libre Belgique believes:

“Of course protests are sometimes useful. ... But chaos harms everyone. What have the unions' heated outbursts achieved? They've messed up the university exams. ... Aside from that they've added grist to the mill of [leader of the separatist N-VA] Bart De Wever, who can now take even more satisfaction in stressing the differences between the Flemish north and the Walloon south. And they've weakened the 'reasonable' union leaders who have been overtaken by the grassroots of the party - itself infiltrated by the Workers' Party of Belgium. But: are they perturbing the government's work? No. On the contrary, the strike has welded together the team under Prime Minister Michel and strengthened its resolve to continue the reforms.”