De crisis in de staalnijverheid : pogingen tot opvijzelen en beleidskeuzen

  • Jef Maton


The Belgian steel industry falls apart into four groups. The Flemish industry consists mainly of a very modern steel plant Sidmar near the port of Ghent controlled by the industrial holding Arbed. The Walloon industry falls apart into three basins : Cockerill in Liège; the holy triangle
of Charleroi, controlled by Frère-Bourgeois, Cobepa (Paribas) and Bruxelles-Lambert (this three holdings being associated in the Financière du Ruau) ; the independents.
In the Walloon industry the successive processes of steel making are distributed over a great number of plants, most of the equipment is outdated, labour relations are bad and so is management.
The finances required to renew this ancient industry are so large that the holdings cannot do so without the aid of the Belgian Government and the European Communities.
Beginning of 1977, Davignon (CEE), proposes to freeze the production and market shares of the member countries, and to increase the European steel price by EEC tariff measures, in this way protecting the low productivity concerns ; not in the least the walloon concerns.  The European Communities promise financial help for restructuring.
The implicit condition is comparative advantage of enterprises. In the Belgian context, this would mean that Sidmar would be extended and part of the Walloon industry closed down. The next move of the Brussels-Walloon concerns is, therefore, to corner Sidmar.
During the course of 1977 and the first half of 1978 the Government negotiates with employers and unions a restructuring plan and general steel agreement, the «Plan Claes». The plan foresees in a lasting ceiling imposed on Sidmar; in a very large fiow of restructuring aid,
mainly from public funds and the set-up of an intricate network of semi-governmental institutions.
The Plan Claes is a purely political compromise. From the economic point of view, the plan wilt only speed up the definite emigration of traditional steel making processes towards the semi-industrialized countries.

How to Cite:

Maton, J., (1978) “De crisis in de staalnijverheid : pogingen tot opvijzelen en beleidskeuzen”, Res Publica 20(2), p.341-356. doi:

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Published on
29 Jun 1978
Peer Reviewed