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Brussels bans fireworks but keeps annual display

10:27 22/12/2023

Anyone setting off a firework in Brussels during the festive season will risk a fine and even a prison sentence of up to 14 days.

That is the message of a decree signed by Brussels minister-president Rudi Vervoort. The ban, which runs from 15 December to 3 January, applies to fireworks and pyrotechnics and sound cannons, but does not affect professionals holding the required licences.

There are nuances in the new law as the blanket ban does not cover the whole period. The possession and transport of fireworks is prohibited from Saturday 23 to Monday 25 December and on 31 December and 1 January.

On other dates, the ban on possession and transport only applies from 16.00 to 10.00 the next day, allowing trading to continue.

The ban was called for by local police to ensure their safety and that of the emergency services.

“Festive moments must take place in a climate of safety, both for citizens and for law enforcement and emergency services,” said Vervoort.

The minister noted that the ban on fireworks in public places has been introduced to stop police being victims of pyrotechnic abuse.

Last year, despite a similar ban, police officers and paramedics were targeted with fireworks and police cars caught fire.

Brussels – which is, despite the ban, allowing its official annual New Year’s Eve fireworks display to go ahead, on the Place des Palais – takes a stricter approach than that followed by the rest of the country.


In Flanders, despite pleas from emergency services and aftercare burns centre Oscare vzw/asbl, half of municipalities still allow fireworks on 31 December, with or without the mayor’s permission.

Big differences however remain across the region – with 78% of municipalities allowing fireworks in East Flanders, but only 23% of communes permitting them in Antwerp province, according to Oscare.

Municipalities opposing a ban, notably in West Flanders, argue that fireworks are deeply rooted in tradition and should be preserved.


There is no generalised ban in Wallonia, with rules varying according to the commune. Namur, for example, bans fireworks in public places, but not for private use at home.

Other towns such as Herstal, near Liège, prohibit fireworks everywhere unless they are managed by a professional.

The Walloon government also gives communes €2,000 if they put in place rules to make fireworks safer and quieter, if used at all.

One main aim is to protect animals. Walloon environment minister Céline Tellier has called for “uniform legislation that would better protect animals from these avoidable problems”.

“Loud and repeated bangs cause enormous stress to animals,” Tellier said.

“The magic of the end-of-year celebrations is also being able to find new solutions, so that these moments are pleasant for everyone, including animals.”

General rules

Meanwhile, Belgium is looking to tighten up general restrictions on buying fireworks in the country, with the federal government noting that they cause many accidents every year as well as difficulties for the police, stress for animals and pollution from pyrotechnic waste.

In 2022, at least 155 people were hurt by fireworks between Christmas and New Year, according to statistics released by the Wezembeek-Oppem-based Burns Foundation.

Belgium’s economy minister Pierre-Yves Dermagne has called to make the sale of fireworks illegal to the under-18s.

He also wants to introduce a “pyropass” obligatory for anyone wanting to buy the most powerful fireworks used by professionals.

These proposals are being discussed in parliament and resulting royal decrees could come into force next year.

Dermagne will also raise this question of firework safety and potential bans at a European level early next year, when Belgium begins its six-month session, until 30 June, at the head of the rotating European Union presidency.

For now, there are three main restrictions around the buying and selling of fireworks. Out of the four different fireworks categories (T1, T2, T3 and T4), only T3 and T4 (the most powerful) can be purchased by professionals.

T1 fireworks can only be bought by the over-12s, with sales of T2 category fireworks only possible to the over-16s.

Shopkeepers can not sell more than 1kg of fireworks to a single customer.

Written by Liz Newmark