Belgium. Belgium's newly-appointed government in January
froze payments for, among other things. rail maintenance and
procurement to the defense in accordance with EU demands for
reduced budget deficits. At the end of the month, the major
unions organized a 24-day general strike, the first in the
country in six years. The protest was directed at austerity
policy, and not least plans to raise the actual retirement
age. The strike caused severe traffic disruptions.
In February, it was found that Belgium was the first euro
area country to formally go into recession as growth was
negative two quarters in a row.
A national mourning day was held in Belgium in March
following a severe bus accident in Switzerland. Most of the
28 victims were Belgians, and 22 of them were sixth-graders
who had been on a school trip in the Alps.
countryaah, the wounds of the old pedophile heritage that shook the
country in the 1990s were rediscovered when the country's
highest court in August gave Michelle Martin the go-ahead to
settle in a nunnery. Many Belgians raged that a woman who
let two eight-year-old girls starve to death and allowed
horrific abuse to other children was allowed to leave
prison. Martin was sentenced in 2004 to 30 years in prison
for assisting in murder and sex abuse of children along with
then husband Marc Dutroux.
The municipal elections in October became a new success
for the Flemish separatists in the N-VA (New Flemish
Alliance), which was already the largest party in the
national parliament and now became the largest in Flanders.
The leader Bart De Wever was elected mayor of Antwerp.
Car manufacturer Ford announced plans in October to close
its Genk plant with 4,300 employees. According to union
representatives, an additional 5,000 jobs were risked by