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Commission authorizes Belgian aid worth €290 million to support #BrusselsAirlines in context of #Coronavirus pandemic

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In the context of the coronavirus pandemic, the European Commission has authorized an aid measure of €290 million in favour of the SN group, which consists of SN Airholding and its sole subsidiary, Brussels Airlines. The aid was authorized under the Temporary State Aid Framework. Brussels Airlines is a leading airline whose main hub is located at Brussels International Airport.

Together with its parent company SN Airholding, it belongs to the SN group, itself 100% owned by Deutsche Lufthansa AG (DLH). Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Brussels Airlines and, more broadly, the SN group have suffered from the significant reduction in their services, which has resulted in an increase in operating losses and a significant shortage of liquidity. Belgium has notified the Commission, under the temporary framework, of a package of aid measures in favor of the SN group for an amount of €290m, which includes: (i) a loan at interest rate '' interest subsidized for a period of six years and for an amount of up to €287.1m, not convertible into equity, which can be used on request for minimum disbursements of €30m, and ( ii) a recapitalization of €2.9m in the form of “profit shares”, a hybrid instrument considered to constitute equity under Belgian accounting rules.

The Commission noted that the measure notified by Belgium complies with the conditions set in the temporary framework. The Commission has concluded that the measure is necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a member state, in accordance with Article 107 (3) (b) TFEU and the general principles set out in temporary supervision. On this basis, the Commission cleared the measure under EU state aid rules.

Competition Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager said: “Brussels Airlines plays an important role for jobs and connectivity in Belgium. This airline has suffered significant losses as a result of travel restrictions Belgium and other governments have had to impose to limit the spread of the virus.

"Thanks to this package of support measures of €290m, which essentially takes the form of a loan at subsidized interest rates, but which also includes a modest injection of equity, Belgium will provide the SN group, to which belongs to Brussels Airlines, the liquidity it urgently needs to withstand the repercussions of the current crisis. In addition, Belgium will be sufficiently remunerated for the risk borne by its taxpayers, and the aid will be accompanied by restrictions aimed at limiting distortions of competition."

Belgium

Belgium tightens COVID-19 measures, hopes to avoid lockdown

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Belgium, one of the European countries worst hit by COVID-19, has tightened curbs on social contacts by banning fans from sports matches and limiting numbers in cultural spaces, while officials in Wallonia imposed a stricter night curfew on residents, write and

The local government in the French-speaking region, among the hardest-hit parts of the country, has told people to stay at home from 10pm to 6am and made remote working mandatory for students until Nov. 19.

Belgium, which has Europe’s second highest infection rate per capita after the Czech Republic, had already closed cafes, bars and restaurants and imposed a shorter night curfew. New infections hit a peak of 10,500 on Thursday.

But the government has resisted calls from medical experts to order a new lockdown to avoid causing more economic pain.

The restrictions - running until 19 November - also include stricter social distancing. They are intended to avoid crowding on public transport, and impose a limit of 200 people in theatres, concert halls and cinemas.

“We are pressing the pause button...we have a single objective, which is to limit contacts that are not strictly necessary,” Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo told a news conference. “There’s no law that can stop the virus, the only ones who can stop it are us...all together.”

Epidemiologist Marius Gilbert wrote on Twitter that hospitals were on the brink of collapse.

Calling for people to act responsibly, he said the protective mask was the “condom” of the coronavirus - “something...we have in our pocket and that we take out when we love or respect the person we are talking to”.

Belgium is expected to record a daily rate of 20,000 new infections by next week, a spokesperson for the Sciensano health institute said.

The nation of 11 million people had 1,013 new COVID-19 infections per 100,000 residents over the past week and its death tally since the pandemic began is 10,588, according to official figures.

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Belgium

Coronavirus likely to affect Belgium Poppy Remembrance appeal

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It is feared that the health pandemic could affect this year's Remembrance Sunday commemorations in Belgium. The coronavirus crisis is likely to have a financial impact on the local Poppy Appeal, given that it is feared the public may well be cautious about the risks of touching collection tins and the poppies themselves. 

Even so, the Legion's Brussels branch plans to go ahead with holding a social distanced/masked ceremony at Heverlee Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery at Leuven on 8 November (11am).

This will be in the presence of British Ambassador Martin Shearman, UK Ambassador to NATO Dame Sarah Macintosh, as well as top brass from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Poland, and Belgium.

Belgian rules currently allow for the event to proceed.

The Brussels branch, which celebrates its centenary in 2022, will be represented by Zoe White MBE (pictured), a former major in the British Army and the first female chair in its history.

White joined the international staff at NATO HQ in Brussels as an executive officer in 2017. She said she moved to NATO "to develop my political knowledge of defence and security matters and, most importantly, to continue to serve in an organization whose ethos and values I truly believe in."

She entered the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in 2000, after a short stint in her home unit, the Royal Gibraltar Regiment. She was commissioned into the Royal Signals and served in the Army for 17 years.

White has considerable operational experience. She deployed to Kosovo on Op Agricola, Iraq on Op Telic (three times), Afghanistan on Op Herrick (three times) and Northern Ireland on Op Banner (for two years).

She specialized in providing lifesaving measures to counter radio controlled explosive devices and was awarded the MBE for her work in Iraq, Afghanistan and Northern Ireland.

During her last nine-month operational tour of Afghanistan she was embedded with the US Marine Corps and among other tasks, was responsible for mentoring and training the communications directors across the local uniformed services (Army, Police, Border Patrol) in Helmand - a role, she says, that taught her much about the value of authentic dialogue (and left her with a love of cardamom tea and dates).

Looking back at her military career, she says: "I was privileged to command soldiers who were technical experts and absolute forces of nature. It was a joy to serve with them."

A self-confessed "defence geek", Zoe studied Battlespace Technology at Cranfield University where she expanded her knowledge of heavy armour and "exquisite" weaponry.  She is currently studying for an MBA in her spare time.

Zoe, whose husband David is also a retired Royal Signals officer ,was elected Chair of the Brussels branch of the Royal British Legion in September 2020, succeeding Commodore Darren Bone RN. She is the first female chair of the branch since its launch in 1922.

The Prince of Wales and future King Edward VIII met founding members of the branch in June 1922.

White adds, “I am delighted to take custody of the Branch chair role. It is both a way to meaningfully continue my service to veterans and those still serving, and to continue the tradition of Remembrance in a country where so many made the ultimate sacrifice for the lives we live today.”

Branch website & contact details. 

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Belgium

Commission approves €15.8 million Belgian scheme to support hotels and aparthotels in Brussels in context of coronavirus outbreak

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The European Commission approved a €15.8 million Belgian scheme to support hotels and aparthotels in the Brussels-Capital Region in the context of the coronavirus outbreak. The measure was approved under the state aid Temporary Framework. The public support will take the form of direct grants of €20,000 minimum or €200,000 maximum per hotel or aparthotel. The grants aim to provide support to affected hotels and aparthotels for lost income and ongoing operating costs, such as costs for insurance, maintenance and security.

The purpose of the measure is to mitigate the sudden liquidity shortages that these companies are facing because of the restrictive measures imposed by the government to limit the spread of the virus and to ensure continuity of their economic activity. The Commission found that the Belgian measure is in line with the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. In particular, the support (i) will not exceed €800,000 per company; and (ii) will be granted no later than 31 December 2020.

On this basis, the Commission approved the measure under EU state aid rules. More information on the Temporary Framework and other actions taken by the Commission to address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.58763 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.

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