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Belgian report
by Euro Reporter
2014-02-19 09:32:35
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Lawmakers vote for children's 'right to die' euthanasia law

belgium_400The lower house of the Belgian Parliament adopted a bill that extends the right to euthanasia for minors, the Parliament said Thursday on its official Twitter account. The law passed 86 to 44 with 12 abstentions. That followed a vote by the country's Senate in December supporting the measure. The next step would see the bill go to the king, Philippe, to be signed into law. The euthanasia bill is widely supported -- but has stoked fierce opposition from critics.

Belgium legalized euthanasia in 2002 for those in "constant and unbearable physical or mental suffering that cannot be alleviated." Minors were included in the original proposals but were left out of the final legislation for political reasons. The new bill would extend the "right to die" to those under the age of 18 only under certain strict conditions, including that the child is judged able to understand what euthanasia means. Consent of parents or guardians must also be given.

Mother Linda van Roy, from Schilde, Belgium, is among those backing the bill. She could do nothing to help her terminally ill baby, Ella-Louise, in the last hours of her life. Ella-Louise, who was 10 months old when she died just over two years ago, would never have qualified for euthanasia. But her mother had to watch as her baby -- who had Krabbe disease, a rare and terminal genetic mutation that damages the nervous system -- slowly faded away under palliative sedation, food and liquid withheld so her suffering was not further prolonged.


Belgium sends ‘burden’ EU citizens letters asking them to leave the country

Some 2,712 citizens of other EU countries have been asked to leave Belgium for being an unreasonable burden on the welfare system. The number of people being told to go has more than tripled in three years. Even having a job is not enough to be allowed to stay, as is the case with Italian accordion player Silvia Gurria, who has lived in Brussels for three years. Gurria has an integration work contract and 30 percent of her salary is funded by the state.  “When you receive an eviction notice, you cannot work; you don’t have an identity because they take away your identity card. So you don’t qualify for, and can’t access, a range of administrative benefits and activities. I think we should denounce this situation,” said Gurria.

According to the 2004 European directive on the free movement of workers: “Persons exercising their right of residence should not, however, become an unreasonable burden on the social assistance system of the host member State during an initial period of residence.” This gives EU member countries the right to expel EU citizens. Those asked to leave include people who have lost their jobs and students no longer studying.

“It is not particularly severe. It’s just, it’s reasonable and it’s in keeping with European legislation. Even if there is currently a large number of people whose stays have been refused, the law entitles us to make these decisions. So I think we have correctly and objectively applied European and national legislation,” said Dominique Ernould from the Belgian Office for Foreigners. Most of the notices have been sent to Romanians and Bulgarians. Third and fourth are people from Spain and Italy respectively. “You have the right to go to another EU country and stay there for up to three months without any obligations and also without any rights to claim benefits during these three months. Up to six months, you can stay only if you really can prove that you are looking for a job actively in this other EU state. And afterwards you cannot stay unless you have the financial means to support yourself and you have comprehensive sickness insurance,” spokesperson for the European Commission Mina Andreeva told euronews.


Belgium continues to support energy and health sectors

Rwanda and Belgium have signed two agreements worth a total of €22 million in support of the electricity rollout program. €17 million are dedicated to access to electricity in the districts of Kirehe, Gatsibo and Kayonza in Eastern province, and will supply electricity to an estimated 21,000 households in rural areas.

The remaining €5 million will be used for capacity building among EWSA staff, according to the Minister of State in charge of Energy and Water in Mininfra, Emma Francoise Isumbingabo. Finance Minister Claver Gatete commended the grant from Belgium. "Energy is very critical," he said, adding that electricity plays a great role in the development of the population and the country at large as it gives way to different economic and development activities.

For his part, Jean Pascal Labille, Belgian Minister for Development Cooperation, indicated that energy is one of the priorities of the Belgian cooperation. "Energy and public service is crucial to improve the conditions of the people," he said, adding that he is satisfied with the ongoing bilateral cooperation between his country and Rwanda. The two energy-related deals are part of the four year cooperation agreement that was signed by the two parties in 2011 for a total amount of €160 million for the three priority sectors namely health, energy, and decentralization.


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