Annemie Turtelboom, Minister of Finance, Budget, and Energy for Flanders, discusses current projects. She also highlights the reasons Flanders is an ideal choice for investors.
European Times: What are some of your ministry’s most important projects?
Annemie Turtelboom: The Oosterweel project, a €3,3 billion infrastructure-development initiative which includes new tunnels under Antwerp’s docks and the river Scheldt, is very important for Europe as well as for Flanders since the Port of Antwerp is a major European and international transport link. The project will have a huge impact on the economy of Flanders, since 30% of the region’s revenues are generated by the port and by companies active there. We have divided the project into five parts; each budgeted from €277 million up to €921 million. Belgian and international companies can bid for tenders.
European Times: What are some of your current projects in the energy sector?
Annemie Turtelboom: We have many investors interested in getting involved in below-ground energy infrastructure. We are also supporting renewable energies, particularly solar and wind energy, where advanced technologies can be developed without major government investment. We expect the private sector to take the lead. When people install solar panels on their roofs, they can generate a 4% to 5% yield without any subsidies from the government. Many Belgian companies are active in the Flanders energy sector but we also welcome investors from other countries.
European Times: Why should investors choose Flanders?
Annemie Turtelboom: Flanders offers an ideal location with 28% of the purchasing power of Europe located within 500 km. Thanks to Europe’s open borders, companies can operate here and have access to this purchasing power as well as to the Port of Antwerp, the second-busiest port in Europe. Flanders is the business heart of Europe, the political heart of Europe, and the economic heart of Europe.
European Times: What changes would you like to see in Flanders over the coming five years?
Annemie Turtelboom: I would like to see great progress achieved in transitioning from a centralised energy sector dominated by nuclear power and fossil fuels to a more decentralised one focusing on renewable energy. To reach this goal, we are promoting more efficient energy use as well as more “green” energy production. I also expect private market actors to come up with innovative solutions for energy storage. Energy storage, such as home batteries, will prove to be an essential puzzle piece of the decentralised energy sector.