Sunday, 3 October 2010

At last, an ultimatum

Bart De Wever, the leader of the Flemish nationalists (NVA), launched Sunday afternoon an ultimatum to the French-speaking parties that negotiate with him for a new Belgian government. If they do not accept by Monday that the regions should get at least 50 % of their incomes from own tax revenues, he ‘will see if it’s worth to continue the negotiations’.

The statement from the NVA-headquarters came as a surprise, after one of the new stars of the party, former VRT-journalist Siegfried Bracke, had seemed to talk moderately in the news- and talkshows of Sunday-noon about the need to reach an agreement. Nevertheless he too insisted that progress toward fiscal autonomy was the precondition ‘for starting all the reforms that our neighbours have already developed’

Progress was what had been missing all along in the discussions of the so-called high-level group, led by Jan Jambon and Jean-Claude Marcourt, that had worked a week long on the details of the Finance Law. Both chairmen delivered their report on Friday to André Flahaut en Danny Pieters, still mediators sent out by King Albert. In it they only noted the continuing differences between Flemish and French-speaking parties.

All this meant that the negotiations for a new Belgian government are stalled since about six weeks. No less than 111 days have passed since the elections of June the 13th.

In his statement of Sunday afternoon De Wever and his party said: ‘As long as it cannot be discussed that taxing of personal incomes could become a competence of the regions, it does not make sense for the NVA to start negotiating again. The party will wait what the French-speaking parties have to say about this. Based on this answer, it shall evaluate in its party council on Monday if it’s worth to continue the negotiations.’

The Flemish nationalists and most of the Flemish parties want to give the regions more fiscal autonomy, officially in order to make them more responsible for their spending behaviour in times of huge budget cuts. As the regions of Wallony and Brussels have been the weaker economies during the last decades, the French-speaking parties fear they will have to foot the bill.

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