The president of the French-speaking Socialist Party has called for an end to e-commerce in Belgium, saying that he wants ‘real shops’ to operate in the country instead.
Paul Magnette, who serves as the president of the Francophone Socialist Party in Belgium and is a former Minister-President of Belgian region Wallonia, has called for the central European state to be one of the first without e-commerce, saying that he wants a return to “real shops” instead.
The radical suggestion has led to widespread criticism, with one right-leaning politician criticising Magnette for suggesting that Belgium turns the 19th century into a social project.
The policy is a radical re-imagining of the much-discussed ‘build back better’ that Western countries are expected to undergo post-pandemic, where e-commerce retailers like Amazon have further entrenched their massive commercial power during lockdowns while local shops have suffered worse than ever.
PS chairman Paul Magnette / BELGA PHOTO DIRK WAEM (Photo by DIRK WAEM/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images)
“I don’t think e-commerce is progress, but social and ecological degradation. Why do we have to let workers work in those warehouses at night?” Magnette said during the interview with the Belgian news outlet.
“Can we really not wait two days for a book?” Magnette — who also serves as Mayor of Charleroi — asked the interviewer.
“Order pickers and couriers are so rushed that they barely have time for a bathroom break. If we don’t act, they will be the long-term sick of tomorrow,” the politician continued. “Night work is terribly bad for your health. You should limit this to areas where it is strictly necessary, for example at the police and in hospitals.”
When asked about the risk of online shopping giants setting up abroad, Magnette was not receptive to the issue, arguing that it didn’t really matter, and he would rather Belgium return to a system of “real shops”.
“Let Belgium become a country without e-commerce, with real shops and vibrant cities,” Magnette told the tabloid.
“Our clothing shops and bookstores are finding it increasingly difficult to compete with the Amazons and Zalandos,” he continued.
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Magnette’s comments have earned him widespread criticism in Belgium, including from one outspoken conservative politician who accused the French-speaking socialist of suggesting that the 19th century be turned into a social project.
“The 19th century cannot be a social project. Progress is an opportunity,” wrote right-leaning senator Georges-Louis Bouchez online. “You have to have an open mind and the ability to adapt society for greater well-being.”
“E-commerce should not be left to foreign countries. We would lose hundreds of millions and jobs,” he continued.
However, Magnette hit back at the member of the Reformist Movement politician, saying that it was him who was supporting 19th-century working conditions.
“As far as I am concerned, I will always defend local trade and small independents,” the Belgian socialist said in reply to the post.
“The president of the MR is free to defend Jeff Bezos, the Amazon model and its working conditions worthy of the [19th century],” he continued.
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As Belgians ponder a hypothetical future free from online e-commerce, neighbouring country the Netherlands is meanwhile hotly debating whether or not to egg Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ new superyacht.
It comes as an iconic bridge in the country — known locally as De Hef — is set to be partly dismantled to allow the on-and-off world’s richest man to transport his newly constructed vessel, which is too tall to fit under the national landmark, to the sea.
While authorities in the country have reassured locals that they will benefit from the deconstruction, many have expressed anger at the measure, with nearly 17 thousand people at the time of writing responding to an event posted online calling for the egging of the vessel as it sails past the deconstructed bridge.
“Calling all Rotterdammers, bring a box of (rotten) eggs or if you want to keep it vegan, tomatoes and let’s throw them en masse to Jeff’s superyacht when it sails through the Hef in Rotterdam,” reads the description of the event.
“Rotterdam was built from the rubble by the people of Rotterdam, and we don’t just take that apart for the phallus symbol of a megalomaniac billionaire,” the event’s description continues. “Not without a fight!”