Belgium embarrassed by arms delivery to UK

A new point of contention has emerged within the Belgian government and the Prime Minister, Alexander De Croo, who called it a ” sensitive “will have to show imagination to solve it, preserve the cohesion of its fragile majority, but also the relations of its country with the United Kingdom.

In question, an arms contract negotiated by London with a Belgian firm, but now blocked by a dispute between the environmental left and the French-speaking liberal right, members of the federal government, because it would contravene the legislation on the export of equipment to dual use (civilian and military) in the nuclear field.

“At the time of the war in Ukraine, while the Prime Minister is returning from kyiv, we must absolutely avoid any controversy with an ally”, stormed, Monday, November 28, a deputy of the majority. A resurgence of tension is, however, very perceptible within the coalition, since the information revealed on November 23 by the channel LN24 about this file classified secret-defence.

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The United Kingdom intends to acquire Belgian high-tech equipment, namely an isostatic press, an apparatus that reduces the porosity of metal parts and increases their density. EPSI, a company from East Flanders, has become a leader in this field, long dominated by American firms.

“Very important business partners”

The British authorities refer to an order with the aim of ” research “, no doubt military, but the equipment they hope to acquire can also be used for propulsion in the nuclear field. According to Belgian sources, the British Army would also like to use this tool for the maintenance of its atomic weapons.

Hence the current deadlock. Environmentalists and the French-speaking PS are based on a 1981 law, revised in 2010, which prohibits the export of dual-use materials if they can help the development of “non-peaceful” nuclear power. The Flemish Region – where EPSI has its headquarters – has certainly granted the export license – necessary, since the United Kingdom is no longer a member of the European Union – but the federal government must also give its approval, after evaluating the contract’s compliance with nuclear non-proliferation treaties.

An evaluation commission, bringing together representatives of a dozen ministries, first declared itself incompetent a few weeks ago. The Prime Minister indicated on November 24 that it would meet again soon and “decide in accordance with the law”. At the same time, the head of government insisted on the fact that “The British are our neighbours, our partners in many areas; very important commercial partners, important also in the field of energy, and of course in NATO”.

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