Netherlands assures Belgium on estuary

The Netherlands will make sure its side of the Westerschelde estuary is deepened this year as planned, foreign minister Maxime Verhagen told his Belgian counterpart Yves Leterme on Wednesday.

‘A treaty is a treaty. The Westerschelde will be deepened,’ Verhagen is quoted as saying.
‘Minister Verhagen has promised the dredging will go ahead, without delay,’ Leterme told reporters after the meeting.
Dutch delays in the project, which will give bigger ships access to Antwerp port, have caused a minor diplomatic row between the two countries. The Dutch council of state has halted the dredging process because of worries about its effect on the environment.
And plans to flood an area of land known as the Hedwigepolder to compensate, which did form part of the original treaty, have also been stopped.
Verhagen did not tell reporters how the Netherlands could resume work on the estuary.
But Leterme said he expected the polder would be flooded. ‘I favour the complete treaty being enacted,’ he was quoted by the Financieele Dagblad as saying.

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