Holland to honour Westerschelde deal: PM

The Netherlands will honour its commitments to deepen the Dutch side of the Westerschelde estuary to allow bigger ships to reach Antwerp port, prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende said after Friday’s weekly cabinet meeting.

Balkenende said he wanted the debate over the estuary to be solved as quickly as possible and that he understood Belgium’s frustrations at the delays on the Dutch side.
However, the Netherlands does have to take a recent decision by the council of state which further delays the Dutch work into account, the PM was quoted as saying. The council of state halted dredging because of concerns about the environmental impact of the project.
Earlier on Friday, Liberal (VVD) MPs called on the government to introduce emergency legislation in a bid to end the diplomatic confrontation.
‘If the minister does not do it, I will,’VVD MP Helma Neppérus told news agency ANP. ‘We have to stick to the rules and agreements.’
The two countries signed an agreement to deepen the estuary in 2005. Flanders claims the problems are costing Antwerp port €70m in lost income a year.
Last week, the Flemish regional government took the unusual step of summoning the Dutch ambassador in Belgium to a meeting to formally express its irritation at the delays.

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