Sunday, 12 September 2010

The sound of silence

(The Law Street, with parliament and the ministeries 80 years ago, almost as quiet and empty as these days. The three regions celebrate all their Monument day these weeks.)

Two weeks after the talks to form a new government in Belgium broke down, nothing seems to happen. The most optimistic guess is that behind the scenes new talks are carefully prepared.

The new ‘mediators’, André Flahaut and Danny Pieters, have now for almost one week been consulting all the seven parties that participated in the last round of negotiations. According to some sources they are now preparing a set of propositions to start negotiations again. And they are likely to meet the two main characters of the play, Bart De Wever and Elio Di Rupo, together next Tuesday or Wednesday.

Both Flahaut and Pieters took a lot of time to finish off their list of consultations. For many this was a sign that they are not really in charge, just filling the scenery as long as the main actors have not cleaned up the ruins of the previous round of talks. But among collaborators of both parliament-presidents it could be heard that the gap between Flemish and Ffrench-speaking Belgians remains immensely large.

The remarkable thing is that the two men still do not consult other parties than the seven who sat down in the first place. This seems to have been their marching order from King Albert last week. Meanwhile the siren songs of the liberals – especially Didier Reynders’ MR - who have been excluded from the talks up to now, sound every day sweeter and sweeter.

Different declarations from Flemish Christian democrats made it clear that not only the three other French-speaking parties want to keep the liberals out. For the party of Wouter Beke and Kris Peeters, who have almost blindly been following the Flemish nationalist up to now, a mainly leftwing coalition without the liberals seems a way to placate a little bit the union wing of the party, who the last few years never liked new institutional reforms.

Newspapers started this week to speculate about all kind of scenario’s for a split-up of the country. But these were soon put aside in the columns by the huge and shocking pedophilia-scandal in the Catholic Church. Nothing to be nationalistic about that …

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