There were sighs of relief in the Belgian production community withthe official announcement today (Thursday) that the EuropeanCommission has renewed its approval of the Belgian Tax Shelter system.

Earlier this summer, the Commission had sent back proposals for therenewal, expressing concern about the lack of 'cultural' documentationin the proposals. Those concerns have apparently now beensatisfactorily addressed.

Producers in Belgium were quick to express their happiness about theEC decision. Peter Bouckaert, President of the Flemish ProducersAssociation, said that the delay in approving an extension had causedreal concern.

'It (the Tax Shelter) has been renewed in the same way as before until2009,' said Bouckaert. 'It is very important news to us.'

The Tax Shelter system has given an enormous boost to production inBelgium. Projects which have benefitted from the system includeeverything from Jaco Van Dormael's huge budget Mr Nobody to theDardenne brothers' The Child.

Abuses of the Tax Shelter system have been criticised in certainquarters. As Bouckaer acknowledged, some have questioned the way inwhich the Shelter has been used by middlemen as a financial instrument, with a guaranteed rate of return of up to 12% forinvestors. 'They are trying to force the Tax Shelter into somethingthat it isn't...this is something that is jeopardising the wholesystem,' he recently stated. Speaking today, he re-emphasised that thesystem was never intended to be used as 'an automatic financialproduct with high guaranteed returns.'

Last year, in a bid to curb abuses, the Flanders Producers'Association committed to abide by a voluntary 'code of ethics.'