Brussels : social claims from the Midi Committee

Thursday 6 December 2007

(source : MKL Koksal forAlterecho)

A presse conference took place at Rue de Mérode, 53 (St Gilles, Brussels) , a artists house just expropriated for "public utility" (construction of hotels and offices) with Bral (Raad voor het Brusselse Leefmilieu), Interenvironnement Brussels (IEB), the Human Rights League and Brussels Union for the right to housing (RBDH) to demand the arrest of a new plan of expropriation (the fifth since 1992) to be passed by the government in the South Station neightborhood. Considering the permanent social disaster, associations presented a list of social claims in the aim to lobby the policy makers.

"The purpose of the housing plan from Mrs. Dupuis (Secretary of State for Regional Housing) was to build new housing. What seems strange in this matter is that public funds are used to demolish inhabited homes for building offices, hostels and only a little bit of housing… what does not in any way create new housing! After a recent meeting at the Ministry with Dupuis’staff, it became evident they are still nowhere in this matter then it is difficult to understand the need to expropriate in extreme emergency as envisaged in the new plan of expropriation. And is it really necessary to rebuild after demolishing homes? We believe it is still possible to renovate inhabited housing , "said Werner Van Mieghem (RBDH).

On behalf of the Human Rights League, Manuel Lambert said that "this is the first time the League has been involved in a conciliation committee. The commitment of the League in this matter stems from the condamnation of the Region in a judgment of 30/05/2007 for violation of several human rights of an owner in the district. In addition, while the Commission on Economic and Social Rights of the United Nations is concerned about the shortage of social housing in Belgium, the policy pursued in the Brussels region is totally contrary to the recommendations of the United Nations. There isn’t a real need for offices in our region while we are experiencing a severe housing crisis. If the authorities persist in wanting to expropriate, we need a clear schedule and a fair and equitable compensation in the context of this plan to avoid 10 more years of suffering and insecurity in the district caused mainly by the government. The administration must also justify the extreme urgency and in case of more violations of human rights, the authorities will face new legal prosecutions. "

Who said "public interest" and "extreme urgency" ?

For Mathieu Sonck of Interenvironnement Brussels, "a same thing brings together the various transformation projects of the city (Northern District South District, Leopold district, Marolles district…) : absence of political resistance to the wall of the money. As Father Vanderbiest says ’to make money, it is necessary that the city keeps moving on’ and that demolition and reconstruction are decided. The quiet management of public space would be a disaster for the capitalist economy. We must revise the special expropriation law of 1962 and limit its usage to specific cases. The public utility and extreme emergency should be defined and discussed publicly because currently the implementation of a plan of expropriation has no democratic guarantee and no real check and balance. "

"From the regional development plan (RDP) of 1992 and the International Development Plan (PDI) from 2007 through the RDP II in 1995, Bral sees an evolution from endogenous urban development, based on the specific needs of neighborhoods, to a exogenous development plan, which responds primarily to the specific needs arising from the implementation of the international TGV (High Speed Train) station n the neighborhood" says Maarten Roels (Bral). « "We clearly reclaim policies to come back to the specific needs of inhabitants. We also believe it is imperative to revise the 1962 special law. We are not against a change in the city, but rather against a change that does not take into account the needs of peoples. "

"Building offices to finance housing and public space", has always been the leitmotif of Charles Picqué, Brussels’ President and from the Regional public private company SA BRUSSELS SOUTH. But when the public space will be paid with federal money (Beliris), and housing construction is taken in hand by the Housing Plan, what role is supposed to have taht company ? What will the profit (if any) made by that the company used for ? are wondering associations.

Gwenaël Breës from South district Committee believes that the renovation of houses would be the best solution. Otherwise, it is imperative to have a real schedule : "before issuing a extreme urgency expropriation plan, the expropriating power must have the means to match its ambitions prior to the demolition of an entire neighborhood. We therefore have proposed 6 months from the date of entry into force of the new plan of expropriation. In addition, there is still no guarantee for a just and fair compensation for the owners at risk and so far, it has always been more interesting to be expropriated by the judge than to negotiate with the authorities. And there is also the case of tenants. We call for rehousing of all of them instead of what we have now, a very small amount of so called social welfare without rehousing. The authorities must also stop to use the tenants to put pressure on the owners. "

"The end of Self-censorship!"

Answering a question about civil society (LDH, Bral, IEB, RBDH) mobilizing very late on the South District issue the representative of Bral responded by saying "that both the Bral and IEB took action more than one time in the past years about the issue, and it would be unfair to say that the associations have not responded. However, it is true that we have a little neglected this area because we are linked to the government through granting. Ainsi, sur le site Tour et Taxis, le Bral bénéficie des subsides provenant du cabinet…Thus, on the site of Tour and Taxis, Bral receives subsidies from Picqué and we may have practiced too much self-censorship to be able to react in time in this case. Our now complete commitment must also be interpreted as an attempt to repair our past lack of cmmitment, "said Maarten Roels without wanting to clarify whether political pressure had been exerted effectively against Bral in this case.

For Inter-Environnment Brussels, Mathieu Sonck said to have "taken fonction for only 3 months, and that self-censorship is over for the time I will be there! An association is always at risk to have its subsidies cut but I believe we are here for action, to be a counterweight and to really work for the general interest. I have not yet witnessed direct pressure "added the representative of IEB adding that Charles Picqué has already expressed his "discomfort" on the position of Inter Brussels about South District.

1. Comité du quartier Midi : Neighborhood Committee Noon:
- courriel : Email:

2. Brusselse Raad voor het Leefmilieu (Bral) : Brusselse Raad voor het Leefmilieu (Bral):
- contact : Maarten Roels Contact: Maarten Roels
- tél. : 02 217 56 33 Tel.: 0221756 33
- courriel : Email:

3. Inter-Environnement Bruxelles (IEB) – Mathieu Sonck Inter Brussels (IEB) - Mathieu Sonck
- tél. : 02 548 39 39 Tel.: 0254839 39
- courriel : Email: mathieu.sonck @

4. Ligue des Droits de l’Homme (LDH) League of Human Rights (LDH)
- contact : Manuel Lambert Contact: Manuel Lambert
- tél. : 02 209 62 87 Tel.: 0220962 87
- courriel : Email:

5. Rassemblement bruxellois pour le droit à l’habitat (RBDH) Brussels Rally for the Right to Housing (RBDH)
- contact : Werner Van Mieghem ou Nathalie Delaleeuwe Contact: Werner Van Mieghem or Nathalie Delaleeuwe
- GSM : 0484 26 67 89 GSM: 0484 26 67 89
- courriel : Email:

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