“It may be the spirit of the Armistice, but the optimism is great,” says a government source about the nitrogen negotiations within the Flemish government. These are in a final phase and on Saturday, November 11, the Flemish ministers will meet for the final negotiation. From the afternoon onwards they will continue – in principle – until an agreement is reached.
Ministers Demir, Brouns and Rutten sit around the negotiating table, supplemented by MPs Wilfried Vandaele (N-VA), Steven Coenengrachts (Open VLD) and Peter Van Rompuy (CD&V). Once they reach an agreement, the full Council of Ministers would then meet.
“The intention is to reach a political agreement on the contours,” says another government source. “The texts then have to be sent to the working group that also includes members of parliament and finally to parliament. Moreover, everything still has to be worked out legally.”
An agreement that has been fully worked out down to the last detail cannot yet be expected, but if a political agreement is reached that both CD&V and N-VA agree with, the biggest obstacle will immediately be removed.
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The input of brand new Open VLD Deputy Prime Minister Gwendolyn Rutten may also become visible. She previously advocated a different approach to the nitrogen problem. The potential nitrogen deposition in nature reserves now serves as a reference for a permit. Rutten proposed to turn this around and only rely on the possible emissions by the (agricultural) company involved. (read more below the photo)
There is now a proposal on the negotiating table to effectively apply this different approach in Flanders from 2030. The Flemish government would enter into negotiations with Europe for this, just as the Netherlands may do. This would mean that the decree, and therefore the system of threshold values, might only apply until 2030. Although several government sources have said that this still needs to be clarified legally.
That would offer the agricultural sector perspective from 2030, but there is no comparison with the current decree. There are still some bottlenecks that the negotiators must eliminate. These primarily concern the different threshold values between agriculture and industry. A compromise is that these would remain in place, but agricultural companies could possibly deviate through a so-called appropriate assessment.
Another bottleneck remains so-called external netting, whereby agricultural companies can take over the emission rights of colleagues who stop doing so.
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But there is great optimism in finding a comparison about these bottlenecks. The two prime ministers, Brouns and Demir, have also found each other in recent weeks, with Brouns visiting Demir’s home during the autumn holidays to discuss the matter. But it remains to be seen whether the parties will actually succeed in stepping over their shadow.
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