Monday, 12 November 2007

Another royal initiative

Boy, what a mess
King Albert II of Belgium for the first time in three months formally consulted the presidents of other parties than the liberals and Christian democrats. The deadlock on the nationalistic issues between Flemish and Walloon parties seems greater than ever. King Albert II received the presidents of both Flemish and Walloon greens and socialists on Monday in his palace in Laken near Brussels. This round of consultations was announced on Sunday late in the afternoon, after the King had received the presidents of the Lower and Upper house, Herman Van Rompuy (Flemish Christian democrat) and Armand Dedecker (French-speaking liberal). Both had consulted all parties on Saturday, as the King had asked them do to so two days earlier, to renew the dialogue between Flemish and Walloons. That the King took back this mission on Monday was largely explained as a sign that the consultations of the assembly-presidents had led to nothing. Indeed, all the four party presidents that were received at the palace on Monday, said they were unwilling to come to the rescue of the moribund orange-blue coalition. Although it must be said that the two Walloons, Elio di Rupo from the socialist PS and Jean-Michel Javaux of the green Ecolo, seemd to show more willingness than their Flemish counterparts to participate in an all-embracing dialogue between the two communities. Meanwhile Yves Leterme, still formateur, issued a statement on Monday noon to explain that he was negotiating with the orange-blue parties about the budgetary questions for the next government. Leterme was asked by the king on Thursday to form ‘quickly’ a new government, by concentrating his efforts on social and economic issues. A few hours later the two Walloon orange-blue party-presidents, Joëlle Milquet of the Christian democrat CDH and Didier Reynders of the liberal MR, flatly denied that they were negotiating. They repeated their demand that before the negotiations could be resumed there should be ‘un geste fort’ (a strong gesture) from the Flemish parties to show that they will no longer organize a vote of Flemish against Walloons like the one that took place last Wednesday in the commission of the Interior of the Lower House. The position of Yves Leterme seems more and more undermined. But if he succumbs it is likely the orange-blue coalition will go with him.

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