What are the issues that have hampered the formation of a new Belgian government for now almost three months? Two disputes seem almost unsolvable.
The central issue is how much devolution
The core of the Belgian conflict today is a real collision of minds. The Flemish parties want the 37 years old process of devolution of the country to continue, the more, the better. Their Walloon counterparts refuse even to discuss the issue.
Differing interests are at stake. The main demand of the Flemish is that each of the three regions should become responsible for its own employment policy. By extension this could – but should not necessarily - mean that wage policy (yes,
With a weaker economy and an unemployment level more than twice as high as in
The other stumbling-block is the question of Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde. That is the largest electoral district of Belgium, with almost 15 % of the total population in it. It consists of both the bilingual region of
Through the one large electoral district the French-speaking political big shots of
The question of dividing the electoral district remained largely unsolved through a bad compromise in 1963. And although nowadays along most of the language border there are no more conflicts between Dutch- and French-speaking citizens, there are still six villages around the
In practice the disputes are over the languages of local schools and libraries, the number of French or Dutch tv-stations on cable-tv, the language used in ambulances and hospitals and so on. Add to this a high degree of nationalistic rethoric on both sides, that was enflamed again by a ruling of the
About none of these thorny questions even the slightest progress has been made in the 87 days of government negotiations since the elections of June the 10th. And one should keep in mind that these nationality-questions always get intermingled with ideological ones.
In that sense it became clear during the negotiatons that the Walloon liberals of the MR were less radical in their refusal to speak about devolution than the Walloon christian democrats of CDH. The former are ready to accept some restrictions on
CDH, who is more left than right and is in a coalition with the socialists in the Walloon region, does not want to speak about either of these measures. It is, in Belgian politics and certainly in center-parties like the christian democrats, not uncommon to mask an ideological choice with a strong nationalist stance. One should never dismiss the interpretation that CDH just took the hard line on the nationality-questions to avoid saying explicitly that it dislikes a coalition with the liberals.