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How daily life in Belgium will change in 2020
From 1 January, residents across the country will experience a raft of changes, from bank charges and beer prices, to postage stamps and doctor’s fees…
1. The majority of banks are raising their fees – with the cost of certain accounts and security boxes set to rise as well as posted bank statements. Check with your bank for full details.
2. Family allowance payments will vary depending on your region with a new system being introduced in Brussels and Wallonia. The highest base payment will be in Flanders, while in Wallonia, the system will differ for children born before or after 1 January 2020. In Brussels, the amount will vary depending on the child’s date of birth.
3. The level of sustainable biofuels in fossil fuels – diesel and petrol - rises according to a ratified decision by cabinet ministers at the beginning of November. The new rules follow compulsory EU directives (8.5% biofuels in one litre). Belgium goes a step further in its climate goals, increasing from 5% (lead 98) and 7% (diesel) to 9.6% biofuels per litre. The price of petrol and diesel will rise by one to two cents a litre.
4. Beers brewed by AB InBev and Alken-Maes increase in price at supermarkets and in cafes and restaurants, although non-alcoholic beers escape the price hike. A barrel of Stella climbs to €6, Jupiler €2.70. Overall, AB InBev increases prices by two cents a glass. Alken-Maes increases the price of its products from 1 January in shops and supermarkets, but from 1 February in the catering trade.
5. Electronic prescriptions for medication become obligatory for outpatients. Paper prescriptions can still be issued during home visits or in emergencies. The new rule applies to GPs and specialist doctors.
6. Postage stamps will be more expensive with priority stamps costing €1.21 (21% rise compared to 2019) and non-priority €1.01 (6.32% rise).
7. All general and university hospitals have to be part of a healthcare network following a rationalisation project adopted by the government in February.
8. Banks need to exercise more caution in granting mortgage loans after the BNB and European Systemic Risk Board (ESRB) found an increased vulnerability in the Belgian mortgage market.
9. All consultation fees for doctors increase, although the extra cost will be reimbursed by medical insurance companies (mutuelles), insuring patients will not be out of pocket.
10. Cigarette and tobacco packaging becomes neutral in an aim to make smoking less appealing to young people. This generic packaging applies to packets of cigarettes, rolled tobacco, e-cigarette tobacco and tubes for rolled cigarettes. All tobacco products on sale will be packaged identically and plainly in a green-brown colour with only the brand and quantity varying, although this will be printed in the same character type. The use of logos, brands and colour is now forbidden. Belgium is the 5th country to adopt the measure, following France and the UK in 2017 and Norway and Ireland in 2018.
11. Proximus increases charges for subscription packages for some customers: Internet+TV pack (+€1/month), Tuttimus (+€1.5/month) and Familus (+€1.5/month), for example. Telephone tariffs by the provider also rise and the annual cost for a land line increases by 50 cents.
12. The ban on individuals’ use of certain pesticides comes into effect following the ban on their sale to individuals from 1 January 2019.
13. An accessibility coordinator is due to start work at SNCB/NMBS in January applying new policies improving access for people with reduced mobility. The rail network plans on doubling the number of accessible stations by 2025. At the moment, only 71 out of 554 stations are equipped for reduced-mobility passengers.
14. Members of parliament risk being fined if they are absent too often. Absences without justification for more than 20% of plenary sessions, or committees, could result in a 10% reduction in payment.
15. Water bills rise in the capital as the region’s supplier Vivaqua indexes its tariffs for the first time since 2014. Brussels residents can expect bills to climb by 2.19% in 2020.
16. It will be impossible to drive a diesel car dating from before 2005 in the Low-emissions zone (LEZ) covering all 19 communes in the Brussels region. An adaptation period means no fines will be issued before 1 April.
17. There’s no longer the possibility of receiving compensation for the installation of solar panels (power lower than 5kW). But compensation will continue to apply for the energy part of bills.
18. New parking rules in streets surrounding Forest National on concert evenings come into effect via an ‘event’ zone. Visitors to Forest National will have to pay €5/hour when they park in a nearby street to the arena with a maximum stay of 4 hours 30 minutes. The new tariff will only apply on concert evenings from 18.00 to midnight. Resident parking permit holders are exonerated from the extra charge.
19. Disposable cups, tin cans and plastic bottles are now banned from public events. No more drinks will be served in throwaway recipients at gatherings such as school fetes or festivals. Event organisers can buy drinks in bottles or cans, but they need to serve them in recyclable containers. Recycling will be obligatory behind counters and organisers will be obliged to prove that they have collected at least 90% of the containers. From 2022, this figure will be 95%. The rules will be more strict for events organised by local authorities or government institutions than schools or hospitals. From 2022, disposable plates and cutlery will also be banned from events.
20. There’s no longer a housing bonus for people taking out a loan for a new home or a home renovation project in Flanders. On the upside, registration fees drop from 7% to 6%. Anyone building a new home in the region from January will have to conform to stricter energy demands.
21. Farm leases now need to be written down and registered, thereby guaranteeing a beginning and end date. Up to now, 75% of contracts were oral. An inventory will also be necessary.