Sunday, 17 October 2010

Another failed attempt

The three French speaking parties that negotiate a new Belgian government reacted negatively on Sunday evening to a 48 pages large proposal of the royal mediator Bart De Wever. He had shortly before announced that he had tabled a text of compromise, with clear choices.

De Wever made his proposal public at 4 pm on Sunday. In it he elaborated on the proposals that had been tabled six weeks ago by Elio di Rupo. De Wever gave these a new twist towards decentralization, but like Di Rupo before he stayed within the framework of previous institutional reforms. The ‘clear choices’ that he had announced were not immediately visible.

In the same way it was not evident that he had reached a compromise between Flemish and French-speaking parties. As devolution is almost only a Flemish demand, the Flemish nationalist leader proposed, by choosing for a strong impetus towards decentralization, advances for the Flemish point of view, obviously without too much compensation towards the sensitivities of his French-speaking counterparts.

In the first chapter of his proposal De Wever advocated a series of pay cuts for the members of the federal and regional parliaments in Belgium (the country has seven kinds of parliaments with globally almost 500 representatives). They seemed rather cheap, as at the same time he did not mention more efficient proposals for cuts in the overgrown Belgian institutions such as the abolition of the Senate and the province councils.

Less than four hours after the publication of his proposal, and one hour after the press conference De Wever gave about it, the three French speaking parties that sit with him around the negotiating table had already rejected the text. For the main one, the Parti Socialiste of Elio di Rupo, ‘the text of Mr. De Wever does not bring any closer the points of views of Flemish and French-speaking Belgians, although this was the mission that the King conferred to him”.

The party accused the nationalist leader of ‘trying to suffocate’ the development of the Walloon and the Brussels region through his proposals for a new Finance Law. It condemned the proposals as ‘unilateral and sometimes even provocative’ and feared they would ‘strengthen the tensions between Flemish and Walloons’.

The Flemish parties did not want to react immediately. Tomorrow afternoon De Wevers ten-day mission comes to an end, and he will have to report to King Albert. It is already unlikely that he will bring good news to the palace.

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