Saturday, 29 September 2007

Smoke!Smoke!But is it white?

Good news at last, high up in the Ardennes?
After exactly one month royal scout Herman Van Rompuy has terminated his mission. The official message from the royal palace suggests it was successful. But some doubts remain. Exactly one month after he was sent out, the sixty year old former deputy prime minister Herman Van Rompuy (CD&V) reported for the fifth and last time about his mission to king Albert II. For this he had to travel to the Ardennes-castle in Ciergnon (picture). The 73-year old king has moved to that location to get some of the rest his doctors prescribed him earlier this week. They did so after concluding that the recovery of a fall Albert made three months ago, and of the ensuing surgery, has not been appropriate. The last few days Van Rompuy had turned on the heat on the four parties that should become an orange-blue coalition. He had put a complicated scheme of gradual negotiations on constitutional reform on the table, and besides made clear that whatever the outcome of the discussions, he would quit at the end of the week. That pressure brought for the first time in more than a month the four party presidents (Jo Vandeurzen for CD&V, Bart Somers for VLD, Didier Reynders for MR and Joëlle Milquet for CDH) around the negotiation table. One meeting, on Thursday evening, lasted even till 4 a.m. From indiscretions afterwards it nevertheless appeared that the progress made, if any, was rather scanty. It was therefore a great surprise that the royal palace, after Van Rompuy had left Ciergnon Saturday afternoon, issued a message in which it was said ‘that there are enough elements of convergence to allow the negotiations to be resumed.’ As the only mission of the royal scout one month ago was to break the deadlock in the negotiations, Van Rompuy asked to be relieved of his task. The king abided. The official message that was sent out from Ciergnon at 5:30 pm stated that a new formateur could now be appointed. According to some sources in the early evening, Yves Leterme, who in August preceded Van Rompuy as chief-negotiator, was already en route from his home town Ypres to the Ardennes. But as none of the party leaders concerned were ready to comment the latest developments, the journalists remained puzzled. Some speculated that Van Rompuy had only wanted to keep up the appearances, and offered a poisonous gift to his own party-leader after CD&V had put up the most resistance against his proposals in the last few days. Others thought Van Rompuy would continue to play a leading role in the negotiations that will come. Sunday should bring more information. Although not from Van Rompuy, who wants to remain as silent as during his whole mission.The only message that came out from the scout himself Saturday was that he would not give any interview the next fortnight.

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