Monday’s meeting of EU leaders is meant to focus on growth and jobs, which makes it all the more ironic that it will likely be heavily disrupted by a general strike called by Belgian unions on the same day.
The timing of the strike is a coincidence, unions claim: this is a Belgian rather than a European strike. It was called for in response to clumsy pensions reforms by the new government, led by the Socialist Elio Di Rupo, rather than as a protest against the EU’s austerity measures (though the unions don’t like those much either.)
The impact of the strike is unclear. One high-ranking official in the secretariat of the Council, which organises the event, told Brussels Blog yesterday that there had been serious talk of moving the entire meeting to Luxembourg, where some EU ministerial-level meetings are regularly held.
But assurances from the Belgian government that the show could go on convinced Herman Van Rompuy, who chairs the summits, to push ahead. As a Belgian who championed (and partly enacted as premier) the reforms that are being disputed, he was perhaps unlikely to yield to the street.
“Inside the building, it will be business as usual,” the source said. The subtext is that outside the Justus Lipsius venue it will be impossible to get to Brussels, find a taxi or even a sandwich. Read more