Sometimes in Brussels it can feel that we are living in the world of David Bowie's "Ground control to Major Tom" rather than the real world. Brussels itself is not an unidentified flying object, but it is a place where many so-called "Expats" - formerly known as foreign workers – converge, but luckily not as internally displaced people.
This week has seen a huge national mobilisation of workers and their trade unions fighting to preserve pension rights. Are we concerned? Apparently not, as only few Belgian-based CSO networks clearly supported the social movement. However, in the absence of a European Status for our European Associations, that we have been calling for since 1982, we have ASBl, or not-for-profit, status and fall under the social legislation of this country. Pension reductions and longer working time concerns us!
When crossing the border to Aachen, you would have to be blind not to see the numerous anti-nuclear signs (Stop Thiange) in shops and on cars referring to one of Belgium’s nuclear plants that has been suspended and is inactive because of something falling not from heaven, but from the ceilings: concrete blocks! At the same time there is hysteria in the media, with warnings of a possible electricity supply problem in winter leading to electricity cuts and a 40% increase in electricity bills. Nicely done.
With the Flemish nationalists in government, we also see a Minister in action who seeks to prosecute and criminalise solidarity, who stands against European values, who shows he thinks that articles of the Declaration of Human Rights should be suspended.
Who is reacting to all this in our Brussels bubble? All too few of us. It is time to understand that the campaign "I vote where I live " around the local elections in Belgium on 14 October is an opportunity to make a difference and vote for progressives from other EU Member States who are not living on another planet, but in the real world with a Belgian government of so-called liberals and real illiberals. Social decline and nuclear worst-case scenarios concern us even more than reduced mobility.
It is time to wake up for the upcoming local elections in Belgium! Those of us who are working for the EU institutions are not Expats, just migrant workers in an EU Member State called Belgium! Be Belgian – and not only when it comes to football and the Red Devils!