Today in the Flemish Parliament, the Brussels Policy Note and the related budget section were presented. Competent minister Benjamin Dalle is convinced that investments in Brussels have increased significantly. “I remember the headlines at the start of the legislature about the savings from the Flemish government. And those reports were also correct. It wasn’t an easy start for me. But today we are investing more than ever in Brussels.”
For example, there is the Flemish Brussels Fund. “The Flemish-Brussels Fund was the ‘pot’ with which the Brussels minister could finance ad hoc projects. For example, if organizations were left out of a subsidy round. Well, I have turned it into a real investment fund. It is now mainly intended for infrastructure.”
‘More than Smet and Gatz’
And the resources have increased, the minister insists. In the period 2010-2014, under then minister Pascal Smet (Vooruit), the Flemish Brussels Fund spent 28 million euros and 23.3 million euros under minister Sven Gatz (Open VLD, 2015-2019). “This legislature we will have invested 33.7 million euros from that fund,” says Dalle.
Dalle agrees that this increase is partly due to recovery money after the corona crisis, “but we had to fight for that.”
With the additional resources in the Flemish-Brussels Fund, Dalle has invested in twelve so-called ‘breeding sites’. It is a combination of better use of space in the city and community building. Organizations that have too much space have started sharing space with organizations that are looking for a spot. This formula of ‘breeding grounds’, for which Dalle developed his inspiration in foreign cities, should provide more connection and cohesion. It is Dalle’s belief that investing in Brussels civil society pays off. For Brussels and for Flanders, it says.
In addition, together with the Flemish Community Commission, investments were also made in the buildings of the Part-time Art Education. Some music schools and academies were in a rather neglected state.
Dalle has also defended Brussels projects with other ministers. Dalle: “The ‘Brussels test’ is an important task for the Brussels minister.” Ensure that at least 5 percent of community resources flow to the Brussels Capital Region.
The Flemish government has been doing more than that 5 percent in the field of culture for years, due to the rich Dutch-language cultural offer in Brussels. But apart from that, there is also an increase to be noted, says Dalle. In 2022, 26.1 percent of Flemish resources went to Brussels cultural organizations. In 2023 that will be 28.1 percent.
Flanders has also done more in childcare than the 5 percent that the Flemish government is committed to. “Ten percent of the resources go to Brussels. This will create another 200 places in childcare next year,” says Dalle.
Finally, another scoop. For the first time, money from the Flemish Region, from Housing, has also gone to Brussels, which seems to be on the edge of what is constitutionally possible. Housing is in principle an exclusive competence of the Brussels Region. Nevertheless, Minister Matthias Diependaele (N-VA) allows 5 percent of the funds for student housing to flow to Brik, the service desk for Brussels students. It is a non-profit organization for which Benjamin Dalle is responsible. The 1.3 million euros can be used to purchase land to build student housing.
‘Too optimistic figures’
For MP Stijn Bex (Green, opposition) is satisfied that Flanders is investing more in Brussels, but wants to temper Dalle’s optimistic figures. “The total Flemish budget has increased from 47 to 64 billion during this legislature. That is an increase of 36 percent. You will not achieve that increase,” he replied in the Flemish Parliament.
For the opposition party Vooruit, the increase in Brussels resources from Flanders can mainly be explained by inflation. Member of Parliament Thijs Verbeurgt: “And at the same time we know that the 5 percent standard is not being achieved in the field of Welfare. The question is therefore whether you have enough weight within the Flemish government.”