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Brussels Airport taxi drivers given extra year to improve their Dutch

09:37 10/02/2024

A good level of Dutch will be essential for any taxi driver working in Flanders - including those serving Brussels Airport - but not yet, Flemish mobility and public works minister Lydia Peeters has announced.

Initially, under the new decree on taxis adopted in March 2020 to make these vehicles “an attractive and accessible means of transport”, all licensed taxi drivers would need to pass an intermediate Dutch exam (B1 level) by the end of June.

But, faced with protests from many drivers who feared losing their jobs, the Flemish government has approved, in principle, an extension to this deadline until 30 June 2025.

"Unfortunately, we realise that a large group of drivers will not master the required level by the previously proposed June deadline," said Peeters, announcing the one-year extension.

"Many taxi drivers would risk losing their mandatory drivers’ card, meaning they could no longer work.

"Taxis play an important part in our mobility system. To support a sector struggling to find the necessary staff, we have taken this transitionary measure so every taxi still has a driver.

"At the same time, we are showing that it is still important all taxi drivers work towards achieving the obligatory level."

This means that in this transition period, drivers must enrol for a CVO adult education course before 30 June 2024, she said.

If not, they would risk losing their drivers’ cards, obligatory to work in Flanders, under the Flemish decree.

Pierre Steenberghen, secretary general of the GTL taxi and private hire-car federation, welcomed the extension to the law.

But he warned against the long-term consequences of the ruling, arguing that the B1 level demanded was too advanced. “One in five taxi drivers in Flanders do not have this level,” he said.

The Flemish government decree on taxis aims to reform the sector, notably by ending fixed tariffs and so reducing fares.

The decree also requires all taxi drivers working in Flanders to reach a good level of Dutch so that they can express themselves properly with their customers.

Since October 2023, taxi drivers who have not reached the required Dutch standard can also enrol for an online course specially designed by two CVO centres for the sector. This training, focusing on the language needed by taxi drivers, in two modules, can be fitted in around drivers’ work schedules.

Meanwhile, following the Flemish government’s provisional approval of the measure to extend the language deadline, the text has been passed to the Council of State.

This body must give its verdict within 30 days. If, as expected, it agrees the measure, the proposal will go back to the Flemish government for final approval.

Photo: Eric Lalmand/Belga

Written by Liz Newmark