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22 changes to daily life in Belgium in 2022
1. New flexible season tickets are to be launched by national rail service SNCB during 2022. The offer reflects the rise in home-working during the coronavirus pandemic and is designed for rail commuters who only travel to the office two or three days a week.
2. Police have new powers to impose an immediate fine of €250 on bicycle thieves they catch in the act from 1 January. The fine will be collected either immediately via Bancontact or a QR Code, or by bank transfer within 15 days, in addition to having to return the bike and pay any damages. Every day around 230 bicycles are reported stolen in Belgium. The actual figure is likely to be even higher as police believe that many thefts go unreported.
3. Brussels public transport operator Stib will start to introduce 90 next-generation trams to its network, eventually increasing capacity on the network by about 15% or some 10,000 seats. The first tram was delivered this autumn and is being tested out at the Stib depot in Haren. Another five are on their way. The rest will arrive at a rate of one every two weeks.
4. Some 28 new speed cameras will be installed at fixed spots around the Brussels region from February. A new average speed camera, which measures how fast a vehicle travels over a long stretch of road instead of at a fixed point, will be installed on the Chaussée de Gand. Another 50 speeding hotspots will have "preventative" radars - which warn drivers of how fast they are travelling, but do not issue fines.
5. A further 90,000 diesel vehicles will be banned from driving in Brussels from 1 January, as the region extends the criteria for its low emission zone (LEZ). The LEZ ban, which was first introduced in 2018, will now be extended to cover the Euro 4 standard, meaning no diesel vehicles registered before January 2011 can travel within the Brussels region.
6. A pilot project will be rolled out in May that aims to improve biodiversity in the Brussels Canal. Green ‘islands’ will be anchored in the middle of the canal in the area of the Brussels Yacht Club in Laeken. The islands will be fortified with plants and flowers that attract bees and birds and with roots known to help purify water. Cages will be attached underneath the floating islands to hold oyster shells, which will offer protection to some underwater life and a spawning area for fish.
7. The results of a major citizen-led air quality measurement project in Brussels will be published in March. Some 3,000 households took part in the survey in the autumn, placing nitrogen dioxide sensors outside their homes. Participants included King Philippe, prime minister Alexander de Croo and 83 schools.
8. A Walloon parliamentary investigation into last summer's deadly floods, which began in September, will run until at least 28 February. The commission was initially due to deliver its conclusions by the end of 2021, but over the course of the hearings, it became clear that the timetable could not be met.
9. From 1 January, banks are required to commission an independent valuation of a property before granting a mortgage. The loan amount will be based on the estimated value and not on the actual purchase price. For example, if a house is bought for €320,000 but it is estimated at €300,000, the mortgage will not cover the €20,000 difference.
10. The new year, naturally, brings price rises everywhere. Proximus and Orange are increasing the prices of many of their home internet/TV/phone packages. Household energy prices are expected to continue rising well into mid-2022. Homes on variable gas contracts face substantially higher bills until then. Installers of solar panels have reported a surge in demand, with long waiting lists. Meanwhile, Brussels water regulator Brugel has warned that water prices will increase by 15% in 2022. The increase is the same for domestic customers as businesses. Water supplier Vivaqua said prices were not revised between 2014 and 2019 and it is €877 million in debt.
Society and health
11. The City of Brussels will open four new facilities where homeless young people from the LGBTQI+ community will be able to find shelter. The buildings are expected to be ready to accept people seeking shelter from as early as the beginning of 2022.
12. The federal government will put forward a law in 2022 that will see references to a person's gender removed from Belgian identity cards. However, gender data will still be stored on the national register. It can be modified upon request in the event of a gender transition.
13. A new "mega-prison" complex in Haren, north-east Brussels, is expected to welcome its first inmates in 2022. Occupying 15 hectares, it will replace the prisons of Saint-Gilles, Forest and Berkendael. The site has been designed as a "prison village", with separate, smaller facilities each housing about 30 people and a "town hall" with a court and visitor centre. The mega-prison will have capacity for 1,190 detainees.
14. The principle of "third party payment" for healthcare will become the norm in 2022. At present, a patient visiting a doctor or dentist generally has to pay the consultation fee upfront and then claim it back from their health insurer. This system has been called into question for several years. Under the new system, patients would only pay the difference between the fee charged and the amount reimbursed - typically a few euros.
Business and money
15. More than 450,000 employees in Belgium will see their pay increased by about 3.5% on 1 January. The inflation-linked wage increase applies to workers whose jobs are covered by CP 200, the most common labour agreement in the country. It is the biggest annual increase in 10 years.
16. Paper eco-cheques are being phased out from the new year. They can now only be issued electronically - but paper cheques issued before 31 December will remain valid for two years.
17. From 2022, the Belgian tax authorities will be able to more easily consult the balance of any bank account, in the event of suspected fraud or money laundering. Banks will have to communicate account balances to the Central Contact Point for Financial Accounts and Contracts twice a year.
18. A series of new measures will come into force in the new year for companies exporting goods to the UK. From 1 January, the UK introduces a new set of controls for exports to the country with full customs declarations required for all goods. For sanitary and phytosanitary products, a pre-notification will be compulsory. From 1 July, a Safety and Security Declaration will be required for goods entering the UK.
19. Self-employed women will benefit from an increase in maternity allowances from 1 January. For the first four weeks of maternity leave, the amount will rise to €752.34 (full-time). From the fifth week, it is €688.12.
20. A new code of conduct for insurers introduces a "right to be forgotten" for people who have recovered from cancer. Ten years after the end of successful treatment, insurers cannot keep a record on their files of a policyholder's cancer history when calculating premiums.
Culture and sport
21. After a six-year absence, Belgian music star Stromae will release his comeback album, Multitude, on 4 March. The release is accompanied by a series of concerts and summer festival appearances, including Werchter Boutique and Les Ardentes in Liège.
22. The 2022 Tour de France will again pass through Belgium. The sixth stage, on 7 July, will see cyclists set off from Binche, as last happened in 2019.