Prime minister urged to solve Belgian dispute

Prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende has been urged to get involved in the dispute between Belgium and the Netherlands over the Westerschelde estuary which separates the two countries.

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 continuing delays in deepening the Dutch section of the estuary.
The project was due to be finished this year and Flanders claims delays are costing Antwerp port €70m in lost income a year. The two countries signed a deal to deepen the estuary in 2005.
The Flemish side of the work has been completed but delays on the Dutch side continue. The Dutch council of state recently dismissed a licence for dredging work because of environmental considerations, leading to a further delays.
MPs from the left-wing green party GroenLinks told news agency ANP there is a ‘deafening silence’ from the Dutch cabinet. Balkenende should stress that the Netherlands will do its part, while taking EU rules on compensating for any disruption to nature into account, they said .
Flemish political party VLD last week called for a boycott of Dutch mussels and oysters in Belgian restaurants.
However, a survey by newspaper Het Laaste Nieuws shows a slim majority of the population oppose a boycott and most restaurants in Antwerp are ignoring it as well, news agency ANP said.

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