Current mayor of the commune of Koekelberg Ahmed Laaouej (L), wants a new mobility policy in Brussels. (Photo by Thierry Monasse/Getty Images)


Socialists turn on Greens’ Brussels mobility project


With around three weeks to go to June’s Belgian national elections, Brussels Socialists are distancing themselves from the Greens, trashing its flagship Good Move project.

Ahmed Laaouej, leading the Francophone Socialist PS list in the Brussels-Capital Region and aspiring minister-president, has stated his intention to repeal the local urban mobility plan advocated by the Greens.

“Good Move crashed. It’s a failure,” Laaouej said of the proposal.

That did not sit well with the Greens – it was the party’s pet project to achieve sustainable mobility and… fewer vehicles in the city, more bicycles and more public transport.

In a reaction, the office of Green minister of mobility Elke Van den Brandt told Brussels Signal that the Socialists could have chosen “to defend the accomplishments and brave political of from the Brussels Government” but didn’t.

The minister’s office noted that public transport company MIVB offered to increase service capacity by 15 per cent with new buses and trams and provide children and the elderly with cheap subscriptions. In addition, it said 70 kilometres of extra bike lanes were introduced and the number of regular cyclists had tripled.

Ministry officials said alongside that, 20,000 trees and bushes were planted in Brussels in poor and densely populated neighbourhoods, extra and free park-and-ride schemes were introduced, the number of traffic deaths had dropped while air quality improved.

“But rather than defending this, the PS chooses to attack,” the ministry said.

“The PS could choose to stand up for the most vulnerable, offering safe and efficient alternatives to the car and creating space there. We know that most families in Brussels do not own a car, and car ownership is particularly low among families in poverty and in precarious situations.

“It is precisely this group that suffers most from noise pollution, poor air quality, unsafe roads and a lack of public space … but they [the PS] always choose the car over everything else,” it said.

“Instead of defending a progressive project, the PS is opting for a negative, conservative campaign that is harmful to Brussels residents. The PS has been in power in Brussels since its inception and now they seem to be in opposition. We are truly witnessing the ‘Bouchezisation’ [referring to the way the leader of the Liberal party, MR, engages in politics] of the Brussels PS.

“Change always requires courage. Those who choose more quality of life and better health should choose the Greens,” the ministry said.

Despite these proclaimed accomplishments, the banning of cars never sat well with large numbers of local residents. It led to major, sometimes violent protests by angry self-employed residents who needed their vehicles for work.

By reducing access for cars, creating more one-way streets, bike lanes and such like, Brussels has suffered an increase in traffic jams.

Now, Socialists are distancing themselves from the mobility policy. “Traffic jams are not the mark of success of a mobility plan,” said Laaouej, who is also the Mayor of the Brussels municipality of Koekelberg.

Speaking to LN24 on May 14, he said: “The Good Move plan must be completely reviewed.”

Socialists in Brussels want what they termed a “good mobility plan, that guarantees safety, smooth traffic and offer alternative transport”.

Laaouej also targeted another Green flagship – the fight against emissions. He said he wanted to postpone the next deadline for removing the most-polluting vehicles from city streets by one or two years.

“Not all families can afford to change vehicles,” he said.

He also took a swipe at Van Den Brandt, saying she did not defend Brussels’ interests regarding Flanders.

On May 10, Laaouej said during a debate at a Brussels educational establishment that a per-kilometre levy, also proposed by Greens, would not work, calling it “a bad idea”.

“There are already €20 billion of taxes, duties and charges on cars. And yet people are not driving less. It is proof that taxation does not discourage,” he said.

Other parties jumped on the conflict. George-Louis Bouchez, president of the francophone Liberal Party, said on X he saw a “big panic” within the PS. “They try to turn around policies, three weeks ahead of the elections, after defending it for 20 years.”

He added: “What do the Greens think about this?” Van den Brandt replied online, pointing to the Greens’ accomplishments and saying PS and MR were “parties of standstill”.

Bob De Brabandere, who leads the list for Vlaams Belang in Brussels, told Brussels Signal: “The elections are approaching and suddenly the Brussels Government is no longer responsible for anything.

“That the PS, as the largest party in government no less, is now undermining the Good Move plan is ridiculous.

“Good Move is indeed a disaster but it is the shared responsibility of all governmental parties. The same applies to the catastrophic budget and the completely deteriorating security situation,” he concluded.