Thursday, 15 November 2007

A major row

Walloon parties reacted angrily on Thursday, after the Flemish minister of the Interior, Marino Keulen (Flemish liberal of the VLD), decided not to confirm the nomination of three French-speaking mayors in Flemish villages around Brussels. Meanwhile attempts continue to be made to start negotiations between Flemish and Walloon parties. Keulen (picture) announced his decision on Wednesday-evening. He said it was nothing but the application of the law. According to the Flemish minister, who legally has to confirm their designation by the local councils for all the majors in Flanders, the three candidates of the villages Kraainem, Linkebeek and Wezenbeek-Oppem, who were re-elected in October 2006, repeatedly had broken the law. They send invitations to their citizens for the elections in French in October 2006 and before federal elections in June 2007, and last month tried to hold their local council in the French language. The three mayors, all from the Brussels nationalist party FDF, rule Flemish villages with a majority of French-speaking citizens, were the administrative use of French is severly restricted. Keulen said yesterday that he received an administrative report of the governor of the province of Vlaams-Brabant, who proposed not to confirm the majors. This was not the case for two other mayors in villages with a French-speaking majority, whom he confirmed. The three contest the juridical argument by saying that the Constitutional Court allows the use of French in some cases. They received the support of FDF-president Olivier Maingain, who called Keulens decision ‘an attack on democracy’, and of the Brussels newspapers who wrote that it was ‘a new slap in the face’ of French-speaking Belgians after the vote in the Lower House last week. The presidents of the two French-speaking parties that try to form an orange-blue coalition regretted the decision, but seemed to be more muted in their reaction. Anyway, the incident complicates still more the task of the two presidents of the parliamentary assemblies, Herman Van Rompuy en Armand Dedecker. Both were confirmed in their mission to seek dialogue after king Albert tied up a series of consultations on Tuesday evening. The king asked them to report again ‘next week’. A small incident, whereby Dedecker, too eager to discuss his mission before a radio microphone, enflamed some Flemish politicians, was rapidly put to rest. Van Rompuy’s authority grows the more he remains silent. Yves Leterme is formally still formateur, although he has not been seen in public since last Sunday. The two French-speaking parties Thursday repeated that government negotiations are at a standstill as long as there is no discussion about the two latest Flemish decisions. Still there were persistent rumours that Leterme, together with Joëlle Milquet, is seeking a breakthrough on the nationalist issues, somewhere far away from all camera’s.

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