Belgium’s situation is dramatic. While our neighbors have taken and are taking measures to cushion the energy crisis, maintain their budgetary health and guarantee their energy supply, Belgium is in a situation of clear and obvious failure on all three counts. I will only deal here with the energy misery, which is entirely avoidable and caused by the anti-nuclear tendencies of two environmentalist political parties, Ecolo and The Greens.
Security of energy supply seems, for some officials, to be an abstract concept. It is anything but. In practice, when energy security is not guaranteed, it means load-shedding, blackouts and an explosion in energy costs, as well as, for many, having to choose between “heat or eat”.
Flanders’ prosperity is largely due to its industry, and more specifically to the port of Antwerp, in whose success the chemical industry plays a decisive role. In contrast to politicians, who are prone to grand declarations that are not always followed by action, industry does not “declare” anything. At most, it whispers and noses around at the margins. When energy costs become insane — even higher than neighboring countries — industrial companies stops investing. Then they stop maintaining the existing productive apparatus. In the end, they leave the country. They do not necessarily move very far away: crossing the Dutch border is always a temptation, especially when it reduces energy costs and the tax burden by 25%.
For half a century, what remains of Wallonia’s residual prosperity, in this unfortunate socialist region, it has owed to direct and indirect financial transfers from Flanders: €6 billion per year. Considering the Walloon economic figures, these amounts that are astronomical and vital. If those transfers dry up, Wallonia will immediately plunge into abject poverty, with the inevitable political unrest and violence that will follow.
The responsibility of the Ecolo and Greens parties in this accelerated energy suicide is overwhelming. The destruction of civil nuclear power capacity seems to be the raison d’être in the politics of environmentalists, and often possibly the reason for their entry into politics. Environmentalists — perhaps based on memories of Chernobyl and recently events in Ukraine — appear to have a hatred of civil nuclear power: What if something goes wrong? No arguments about improvements in nuclear energy safety seem able to shake such a concern.
Since the invasion of Ukraine, Belgium is the only Western country that has shut down a fully operational nuclear reactor, which met the highest standards in the world, and which could and should have continued operating for another 20 years. It was an amortized source of energy, one of the cheapest imaginable, non-polluting, and non-CO2-emitting. The closure of a second nuclear reactor, under exactly the same conditions, and without the slightest operational alternative, is planned for the beginning of 2023.
All this is being implemented without any serious alternative, except for the urgent construction of natural gas-fired power stations that emit large amounts of CO2 and that, out of necessity, will be fueled by gas imports from authoritarian regimes. Environmentalists apparently do not care about real global ecology. Above all, Belgium will become slavishly dependent on its neighbors, who are themselves in great need of energy. That is to say, France, which has partially destroyed its nuclear power network under pressure from environmentalists, as has Germany, which now prefers coal-fired power stations to civil nuclear power. Many of Germany’s power plants in fact burn the most polluting CO2-emitting fuel of all: lignite — a soft brownish coal showing traces of plant structure, intermediate between bituminous coal and peat.
It should be remembered that, according to the Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, and former U.S. Secretary of State of Hillary Clinton, as well as by the admission of German environmentalists, that most of the major environmentalist organizations have been actively supported and financed by the Russian Federation, with Russia hoping that if they could discourage the West from developing energy sources, the West would turn to Russia for energy imports — as it did. This financial support did not have to be direct: it was enough to create “environmental foundations“, headed by the leaders of the major environmental organizations, and massively financed by Moscow.
It should also be remembered that the current Belgian Minister of Energy, Tinne Van der Straeten (Greens Party), was a 50% partner in the law firm BLIXT, which represented, in Belgium, the interests of Russia’s state-controlled Gazprom, the country’s main energy company.
Voters have short memories. The last time environmentalists came to power, they ended up with another disaster — “green certificates“, subsidies for the production of photovoltaic energy. The fact that 46% of Belgian journalists voted for Ecolo gives this political party a kind of impunity, in word and deed. Where were the famous “fact-checkers,” often known not to be strict adherentsto the truth, when the environmentalists were spreading the worst lies about nuclear energy in the media?
Voters also, however, have eyes to see their dwindling bank accounts and their 17-degree living rooms in the winter. Belgian voters see the winter bristling with precarious load-shedding and looming blackouts, leading to darkness and cold. They also see unemployment and the accelerated disappearance of their savings. They feel misery coming and understand the overwhelming responsibility of the environmentalists in this state of affairs. The latest polls show a collapse of the environmentalist parties, who, if elections were held today, would only receive 16 seats out of 150 in the federal Chamber of Representatives (Belgium’s lower house of parliament).
Belgium’s energy suicide is not inevitable. Parliamentarians such as the conservative Marie-Christine Marghem are aware of this. There is an overwhelming majority in the Chamber to repeal the 2003 law on the destruction of Belgian civil nuclear power. The repeal would allow the government to enter into serious negotiations with ENGIE-Electrabel for the extension of the entire Belgian nuclear power system. The government could then decide whether or not to allocate massive investments in the construction of new nuclear reactors, after the example of what has recently been approved in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Sweden.
Is it not high time for a new parliamentary majority, supported by an overwhelming majority of the Belgian population, to accept the responsibility to avoid returning to “the cold and the dark”?
Drieu Godefridi is a jurist (Saint-Louis University of Louvain), a philosopher (Saint-Louis University of Louvain) and a doctor in legal theory (Paris IV-Sorbonne). He is the author of The Green Reich.