A protracted conflict between the Netherlands and Belgium is coming to an end on Friday as ministers from both countries officially start dredging works in the shipping lanes of the Scheldt river. Dutch Deputy Transport Minister Tineke Huizinga and Flemish Prime Minister Kris Peeters are meeting in Antwerp for the ceremony.
The river passing through the south of the Netherlands is Antwerp harbour's only connection with the North Sea. It will be deepened to thirteen metres, allowing larger ships to reach the Belgian harbour facilities.
The start of the work to deepen the river and its estuary were delayed for months because the Dutch government withdrew its approval over environmental concerns, to the chagrin of its southerly neighbours. The Flemish prime minister even summoned the Dutch ambassador. Critics in Belgium suggested at the time that the Dutch were dragging their feet because Antwerp is in fierce competition with the Dutch port of Rotterdam.
The Netherlands government reconsidered its withdrawal and gave the go-ahead in October.
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