For an apparently abandoned village, Doel certainly seems to have a life, and it’s not just tourists. Despite many inhabitants taking up offers of cash premiums and selling voluntarily around 2000, Doel still has residents who have endured, residents who are once again legally allowed to stay there.
“Court bailiffs appearing at doors used to be a fairly normal occurrence; and so was dealing with vandalism because the municipality wouldn’t provide the appropriate measures to help,” said Brian Waterschoot. Waterschoot is a member of Doel2020, a group responsible for promoting and representing the village through dialogue discussions about its future. “Looting, arson; these were all things that Doel regularly had to deal with, with little done to prevent them from happening,” he explained. While there might not be many of them, the village’s few remaining inhabitants have a certain pride in their houses. As a result, there is a surreal contrast in the village between quaint homes and buildings left exposed to the elements and the whims of vandals. “We settled with the authorities to stop further deterioration of buildings and vandalism by allowing people to live there. Metal plates have been installed to prevent access to abandoned houses, and a barrier that requires a Belgian ID card has been set up on the main road. People now feel a bit safer,” said Waterschoot. There are many buildings that could be habitable or that could be assigned a new function with a minimum of effort, he added. “The current situation is that we’re just trying to live in relative peace. Everyone has different reasons for being in the area, but we all share a common concern,” said Waterschoot. That concern is crystal-clear: What comes next?
The future of Doel
While it has existed in a state of administrative deadlock for years, progress is being made on the issue of Doel with a view towards the long term. After years of uncertainty, some things have changed for the better. One important reason for this is the “complex project”, which aims to create a framework to be implemented by 2030. This is the first opportunity we’ve had in years to sit together and discuss Doel, said Waterschoot. In May 2019, the Flemish government announced that it had selected the so-called ninth alternative for the expansion of the port of Antwerp, which combines a limited new dock that connects to the existing Deurganck dock with new container capacity via a more compact building strategy. In this scenario, Doel is safe, said Waterschoot. The future of Doel and the form the village can take are now the things that need to be researched carefully. Doel can never become the village it once was but the potential is enormous, explained Waterschoot. Its location close to the River Schelde, the port, the history of the village and the historic buildings that are left are all important features which a future Doel could be proud of, he added. One further plan for the future of Doel is a project being developed by the architects of the University of Leuven. The students have prepared detailed repair schedules for three valuable historic buildings in the derelict village. In this way, the students hope to warm the government and the people from the neighborhood to the idea of the reconstruction of the village.
Another question that is yet to be answered is what would be done with the destroyed buildings. “In a way, it could make sense to keep some of these buildings in their current state, as they indeed show the impact of a government failing to act,” said Waterschoot. This decision may have given a reprieve to the people of Doel, but what happens next remains unknown. For now, the future of the village is similar to its past, uncertain, hopeful and well supported by a few loyal residents refusing to give it up.
ROTTERDAM, July 27 -- On Friday, more temperature records are falling in parts of Europe as the historic heat wave that brought the hottest weather ever recorded in Paris, London, Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany shifts northward.
In a few days, the weather system responsible for the heat wave will stretch all the way across the top of the globe. It's what this system, characterized by a strong area of high pressure aloft — often referred to as a heat dome — will do to the Arctic that has some scientists increasingly concerned. First, Norway, Sweden, and Finland will be the focus of unusually high temperatures through the weekend, as a potentially record strong area of high pressure in the mid-levels of the atmosphere sets up over the region, blocking any cold fronts or other storm systems from moving into the area, like a traffic light in the sky. Temperatures in parts of Scandinavia will reach into the 90s or higher, on the heels of an intense heat wave in 2018 that led to an outbreak of damaging wildfires on parts of the region. Bergen, Norway, already set an all-time record high on Friday with a temperature of 91 degrees (32.8 Celsius). So far this year, Arctic sea ice extent has hovered at record lows during the melt season. Weather patterns favorable for increased melt have predominated in this region, and an unusually mild summer has also increased melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet. Unlike with sea ice melt, runoff from the Greenland Ice Sheet increases sea levels, since it adds new water to the oceans. If the entire ice sheet were to melt, it would raise global average sea levels by 23 feet. Ruth Mottram, a researcher with the Danish Meteorological Institute, tells The Washington Post that as the high-pressure area, also referred to as a "blocking ridge," sets up over Greenland, it could promote a widespread and significant melt event last seen in 2012. During that summer, nearly all of the ice sheet experienced melting, including the highest elevations that rarely exceed 32 degrees.
"... Assuming this comes off (and it seems likely) we would expect a very large melt event over the ice sheet," Mottram said via email. "This was a very similar situation to 2012 where melt reached all the way up to Summit station. As you have probably seen the Arctic sea ice is already at record low for the time of year so clearly we may be looking at a situation where both Arctic sea ice and Greenland ice sheet have record losses even over and above 2012 — though we won't know for sure until after the event."
Zack Labe, a climate researcher at the University of California at Irvine who focuses on Arctic climate change, said the upcoming Arctic heat wave could have major ramifications and may push sea ice to another record low at the end of the melt season. "This appears to be a very significant event for the Arctic," he said of the upcoming weather pattern. "A massive upper-level ridge will position itself across the North Atlantic and eventually Greenland in the next few days. This negative North Atlantic Oscillation-like pattern will be associated with well above average temperatures in Greenland. In fact, simulations from the MARv3.9 model suggest this may be the largest surface melt event of the summer," Labe said, referring to a computer model projection of surface ice melt in Greenland. "Whether or not we set a new record low this year, the timing and extent of open water on the Pacific side of the Arctic has been unprecedented in our satellite record. This is already having significant impacts to coastal communities in Alaska and marine ecosystems," Labe said.
Elsewhere in the Arctic, this summer has been similarly extreme. Alaska had its warmest June on record, and more than 2 million acres have gone up in flames across the state as a result of a long stretch of above-average temperatures. Arcticwide, an unusual spate of wildfires is burning, affecting vast stretches of Siberia as well. Smoke from these fires is circling the globe, tracked via satellite imagery. These fires are a positive feedback in the climate system, since they are emitting greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.
Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, a Boeing-777 passenger plane traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was shot down on July 17, 2014, over Ukraine’s eastern region of Donetsk. The crash killed all the 283 passengers, citizens of 10 countries, and 15 crew members. In spite of the active armed conflict on the ground, Kiev didn't close its airspace over the Donbass region to international passenger flights. The Joint Investigation Team (JIT), consisting of representatives from Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine, was set up to investigate the tragedy. In June 2017, the JIT countries made a decision that the hearing will be held in a Dutch court under the Dutch laws. The Netherlands’ prosecution heads the JIT and will be responsible for filing the case and presenting the details. In accordance with the decision of the Dutch Ministry of Justice and Security, the case will be heard at the Schiphol Judicial Complex in the town of Badhoevedorp. In May 2018, Australia and the Netherlands said that they would seek to hold Russia responsible for complicity in the plane crash on the grounds of the provisional report published by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) claiming that the missile system that was used to down Flight MH17 could have been transferred from Russia and be a part of the Russian 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile brigade near Kursk. Moscow rejects the JIT accusations. Particularly, the Russian Defense Ministry said that no Russian army missile system had ever crossed the Ukrainian border. Moreover, the defense ministry’s representatives reported that they had identified the missile that was launched to down the Boeing and established that it was transferred over to the Ukrainian troops back in 1986 and had never returned to Russia since.
DEN HAAG, June 11 -- Two Dutch-Belgian orphans of Islamic State fighters were amongst a group of fourteen others to have been flown into Europe from Syria on Monday, according to reports.
A French military airplane carrying two Dutch-Belgian children and twelve French orphans landed in a Paris airport on Monday. The orphans lived in the Ain Issa refugee camp in Syria, close to the country’s Turkish border, and were said to be in a “particularly vulnerable” situation. The two orphans are thought to be the children of a late Antillean-Dutch woman and a now-deceased Belgian Islamic State (IS) fighter. Dutch authorities were present when the airplane landed in Paris, and will reportedly entrust both children to a Dutch guardian. The French orphans will be handed over to social security services in the country. Around 250 children are thought to be still living in refugee camps and other locations across Syria, according to Reuters. In May, a group of academics signed an open letter calling for Belgium to honour a 2017 commitment to repatriate the orphans of all jihadist fighters. That year, a court ruling had obliged Belgium to repatriate all orphans under the age of ten. With the recent repatriations, France has now brought back 17 IS orphans from Syria.
MADRID, June 8 -- Eden Hazard completed his long-awaited move from Chelsea to Real Madrid on Friday (June 7) and could become the Spanish club's most expensive signing in their history.
Real said Hazard, 28, had signed a five-year contract. His contract at the Premier League club was due to expire next year but the Blues drove a hard bargain for the forward, who will reportedly cost Madrid an initial €100 million (S$154 million), with another 45 million in potential add-ons. The full amount would trump the €101 million Madrid paid Tottenham for Gareth Bale and the €91 million they spent to sign Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United. An unveiling at the Santiago Bernabeu is expected next week, once Hazard returns from international duty with Belgium, who play Euro 2020 qualifiers against Kazakhstan on Saturday and Scotland on Tuesday. It means Madrid's spending spree is picking up pace following the arrivals of defender Eder Militao and striker Luka Jovic from Porto and Eintracht Frankfurt respectively. But Hazard is the gem Zinedine Zidane can build his new team around and brings the kind of stardust Madrid fans have craved ever since the sale of Ronaldo to Juventus last summer. Ronaldo's departure created a void up front that Madrid failed to fill last season, the team struggling for goals en route to finishing 19 points behind Barcelona in La Liga and crashing out to Ajax in the last 16 of the Champions League. Hazard, who scored 110 goals in seven seasons at Chelsea, will be expected to help plug the gap has long-been admired by Zidane and Madrid president Florentino Perez. "We have wanted to sign Hazard for several years and I hope he will come this year," Perez told Spanish radio station Onda Cero last month. Less clear is where Hazard will fit into Zidane's starting line-up. Assuming he plays in his favoured position on the left of a front three, it would mean displacing the 18-year-old Brazilian, Vinicius Junior, who enjoyed a brilliant breakthrough year last season. Chelsea said the club had tried to persuade Hazard to stay. "Although it is with sadness we say goodbye to Eden - and we made it absolutely clear to him the club wished him to stay - we respect the decision he has made to take on a new challenge in a different country and follow his childhood dream of playing for Real Madrid," Chelsea club director Marina Granovskaia said in a statement.
Hazard's arrival also adds more uncertainty around the future of Gareth Bale, who has played both on the left and right of the attacking trio in recent months but is clearly not part of Zidane's plans. Madrid want to sell Bale to raise money for more signings, with French left-back Ferland Mendy the next player expected to arrive, from Lyon. But the Wales international will not be forced out and has so far shown no interest in the handful of clubs that have shown interest. Neither Bale nor his agent Jonathan Barnett have spoken to the club since the end of the season. Hazard though would do well to match Bale's record in Madrid as he looks to add to the trophies he won at Chelsea, which included two Premier League and two Europa League titles, as well as one FA Cup and one League Cup. At the end of the 2014-15 season, in which Chelsea won the league, Hazard was awarded both the PFA Players' Player of the Year and the Premier League Player of the Season. He was named in the PFA Premier League team of the year four times, in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017. If Madrid pay the full amount, Chelsea stand to make a profit of more than €100 million, having signed Hazard for close to €40 million from Lille in 2012. Chelsea had just won the Champions League when Hazard chose them over several other clubs but they have failed to replicate the success in the competition. After reaching the semi-finals in 2014, Chelsea have not gone past the last 16 in the last five seasons.
BRUSSELS, June 4 -- On Tuesday a public online consultation on the National Energy Climate Plan (PNEC) will be launched by the “caretaker” government, the cabinet of Federal Minister of Energy Marie Christine Marghem confirmed on Wednesday.
The questionnaire will give citizens the opportunity to comment on the PNEC commitments made by Belgium’s various authorities. The questions will be published on the FPS Economy (Federal public service) website, Directorate General for energy and will remain online for six weeks, the cabinet said.
The questions are not yet known. De Morgen evoked on Wednesday a series of fifteen questions, such as “do you want more offshore wind turbines?” Or “how can you reduce your energy consumption?”. In parallel to these questions, comments can be added. The consultation follows a request from the European Commission, which asked all Member States to question their population on their country’s climate plan. Belgium had therefore indicated in the PNEC that a public consultation would be held “in the first quarter of 2019”. The slight delay is partly due to the coordination of Belgium’s levels of power (Federal State and three Regions).
Citizens will be informed of this consultation via the Internet, Twitter and the media, among others, Marghem’s cabinet ensured. According to WWF spokesperson Julie Vandenberghe, quoted in De Morgen, “it is clear that the government prefers that as few people as possible address this climate plan.” “Europe expects broad public consultation, but what do we get? A simple questionnaire to be published on a website during the summer, with no publicity,” she said. The final text of the Climate Energy National Plan must be submitted to the European Commission by the end of 2019. Based on the national plans, the Commission will then assess and monitor progress towards achieving 2030 climate and energy goals, recommending when deemed necessary additional measures to be adopted.
BRUSSELS, December 18 -- Belgian Prime minister Charles Michel lost his majority after a clash with the right-wing N-VA party over the UN Migration Pact.
A dispute in Belgium's center-right government about the UN Migration Pact ended with the Flemish nationalists of N-VA leaving the ruling coalition. Prime Minister Charles Michel was left with a minority cabinet, but still went to Marrakesh to ratify the UN pact with the support of the Parliament. According to the opposition, he should face a vote of confidence in the Parliament, and if this happens he will probably lose. Constitutional experts are divided about the situation. Michel is trying to save his government and avoid a national election five months earlier than scheduled.
But considering how antagonistic the N-VA has become towards its former coalition partners, every scenario is possible.
BRUSSELS, December 9 -- Prime minister Charles Michel takes a plane for Marrakesh today, determined to communicate Belgium’s support for the United Nations’ migration pact, despite the fact that he leaves behind the collapse of his majority government over that very issue.
Michel (pictured) and his supporters are adamant that the N-VA – the largest party in the government coalition – has forced the issue by offering the ultimatum to Michel: travel to Marrakesh and you government without us. The N-VA, on the other hand, insist that Michel has forced them out of the government by his intransigence. “If prime minister Michel leaves for Marrakesh, he is de facto sacking us from the government,” N-VA president Bart De Wever told a press conference on Saturday evening. “Then he is pushing us out of the government.”
The distinction is crucial to N-VA: as past events have shown, parties who bring about the premature fall of a government in Belgium pay for it at the ballot box, the last example being Open VLD as led by Alexander De Croo. N-VA is currently, according to the latest poll, the largest party in Flanders, but any loss of public support would still be a loss. But it is now a battle of words. The demise of this majority has been on the cards since N-VA made its position clear on the UN pact. With a list of 30 objections that essentially boil down to an opposition to unregulated mass migration, the party set a collision course with every other party in parliament other than the Vlaams Belang.
When Michel received assurances that he could count on the support on this issue of even opposition parties CD&V and the Ecolo-Groen alliance, it was clear that N-VA would not be able to stop the Pact from being signed. Once that was established, they could no longer serve in the government – particularly as they were supplying the country’s minister in charge of migration. The matter dragged on and on, however. A meeting of key ministers was postponed when N-VA released an online campaign expressing opposition to the Pact in inflammatory terms that were welcomed by Vlaams Belang – who immediately picked up the baton when N-VA scrapped the campaign. Michel took the question to the parliament’s foreign affairs committee and then to the plenary session of members, receiving majority support both times. Friday’s ministerial meeting did not broach the subject, which was picked up again on Saturday evening, when Michel forced the issue – he would be getting on a plane to Marrakesh on Sunday, and let the chips fall where they may.
The question now is how Michel can go on governing with a minority coalition, in order to avoid a snap election just months before regular parliamentary elections are due. He may be able to rely on N-VA support on some matters, and opposition support on others, but each matter that is raised between now and May will have to be dealt with on an ad hoc basis.
The posts held until now by N-VA politicians, including the job of secretary of state for asylum and migration, face no shortage of place-fillers. Among those being mentioned are Pieter De Crem, who will leave parliament at the elections, but whose experience ensures he is a safe pair of hands for home affairs in the place of Jan Jambon. Migration could go to the ever-popular Maggie De Block, who held the job before, while secretary of state for agriculture and social integration, Denis Ducarme, could step into the shoes of defence minister Sander Loones, who only got the job in November.