Monday, 20 September 2010

An agreement to talk

After two weeks of shadow boxing the two main parties that want to form a new government in Belgium agreed on Monday to start talks again. A ‘high-level working group’ will begin tomorrow with discussing a new Finance Law. In a week time the Flemish nationalists want to evaluate the progress made.

Few hopes were left when the two winners of last elections – Bart De Wever, president of the Flemish nationalist NVA, and Elio di Rupo, president of the French-speaking socialist PS - coincidentally arrived together (picture) at 2 pm on Monday at the talks they had been invited to by the two mediators ans assembly-presidents, Danny Pieters (NVA) and André Flahaut (PS).

Although the latter had called for discretion last Friday, maximal pressure had been set by the PS over the weekend in public declarations towards the NVA to force that party to make concessions. Many of the Flemish newspapers on Monday morning made similar calls, albeit in a less pronounced way of course.

At 6:30 pm Di Rupo and De Wever left parliament again, without saying anything. But soon is was learned that they had decided to start a so-called ‘High-Level’ working group tomorrow to see in detail how the Finance Law can be changed. The NVA demands more fiscal power for the regions, something the Walloon and Brussels region fear because it risks leaving them with less money than today. The working group should be lead by two chairmen, one from the NVA and one from the PS. From NVA-side it could be heard that they would make a first evaluation of the progress made early next week.

In the evening it was learned that Jean-Claude Marcourt was designated for the PS to lead the new Working Group. He is the minister of Employment in the Walloon government, but negotiated a previous institutional reform in 2001 as chef de cabinet of the deputy prime minister Laurette Onkelinx.

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