by Björn Schöpe
translated by Annika Backe
July 13, 2017 – The Royal Mint of Belgium will stop operations on January 1, 2018, despite Belgian media reports emphasizing how important this institution is for the cohesiveness of the divided country. After all, Belgium has started to mint coins in 1832, only two years after it was founded. And the nation considers itself one of the pioneers with regards to the introduction of the euro. It was Belgian chief engraver Luc Luycks who has designed the common side of all euro coins.
Since 2010, the Ministry of Finance has attempted to close the Brussels-based Belgian Mint, because utilization didn’t render business operation profitable. The resistance among both the people and the trade unions was considerable and put any decision on hold. In the autumn of 2016, however, it became clear to see that operations would be terminated as of January 1, 2018, and in March 2017, the government officially and ultimately approved the project.
Ideological or economic reasons?
But why does Belgium close its long-standing Mint? According to the official statement of the Ministry of Finance, the 68 million coins minted didn’t allow any commercial utilization. The trade union disagrees. It says that this number dated back to 2015, whereas in 2016 the total number of coins minted would have amounted to 90 million. In a statement, the Belgian trade union UNSP remarked: “Since several years, the personnel has made an effort to comply with the requirements. This has been done with a great success so that the Royal Mint is making profit.” To the UNSP, it’s thus “an ideological and not an economic decision.”
What does the future hold?
As newspapers report, the 25 highly specialized Mint employees were shocked when they learned about the closure. While the trade union fears for jobs, the government has announced that not a single member of staff would be sacked.
The Belgian government has not yet revealed information as to where and how the Belgian euro coins will be produced in the future. Media reports hypothesize that the Belgian Investment Group Groep Heylen might play a decisive role in all of this. Groep Heylen acquired the Royal Dutch Mint only recently; it might produce Belgian coins in the Netherlands or run the Royal Mint of Belgium as a private enterprise.
Cui bono? Who benefits from the closure?
Collector of euro coins can be happy, for the time being. The Mint announces a sellout on its website: Coins that were minted prior to June 19, 2016, are offered at a discount. Who will benefit from the closure in the long run, on the hand, remains to be seen.
You can check out the sellout at the Royal Mint of Belgium website.
The closure of the Belgian Mint has attracted almost no international media response. French-speaking media in Belgium, though, has widely reported on the issue, for instance La Libre, 7sur7, and the blog Numismatique Argenteuil.
The (French) statement of the trade union can be found here.