Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Raising the stakes again

One week after a new infinitely small breakthrough in the negotiations for a new Belgian government, Bart De Wever, the leader of te Flemish nationalists, raised the stakes again. Some are getting nervous about it.

De Wever (picture: teaching at Ghent university today) gave a rare interview on Flemish radio Tuesday morning. In it he described the negotiations as a ‘catch 22’-situation. ‘My voters want me at the same time not to give in and to find a solution’, he said. He stressed that the points of views of Flemish and French-speaking parties were still very much apart and that he wanted to achieve reforms through institutional reform. He specifically mentioned migration and labour-market policies.

De Wever confirmed the statements of his fellow-nationalist Jan Peumans a day earlier. Peumans, the president of the Flemish parliament, had described the concessions of the French-speaking parties on fiscal autonomy of the regions as far too little. Thereupon Joëlle Milquet, the president of the French-speaking Christian democrats, had complained about the indiscretions in the negotiations.

For almost a week now the so-called ‘high-level group’ of the seven parties has been studying the technicalities of some scenarios for a new Finance Law. It made Frank Vandenbroucke, one of the leaders of the Flemish socialists and a specialist in the matter, say that ‘we’ve finally left the slogans behind’. But progress seems to be insignificantly small up to now.

One scenario seems to be out of the way for the time being: the possibility that De Wever wanted to change the Flemish socialists for their liberal counterparts. The latter made a disastrous demonstration of disunity last week when the coalition-parties of the Flemish government (the same that negotiate on the federal level) reached an agreement on the long-disputed question of a new highway around the city of Antwerp. For the moment nobody is interested in what seems to be a notoriously unstable liberal party.

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