The negotiations for a new Belgian government were suspended at 3 pm this afternoon, until Monday, it was announced. The reason given for this is that the health situation of the mother of the royal negotiator, Johan Vande Lanotte, has seriously deteriorated.
Vande Lanotte saw the leaders of the French-speaking parties together on Thursday morning for no longer than one hour. Afterwards nobody made any statement. At 2 pm a so-called technical meeting started between delegates of the Flemish parties, but which the party presidents could attend if they wished so. They all four showed up.
After one hour it was Bart De Wever, the leader of the Flemish nationalist, who came to the press to read a statement. ‘The royal negotiator has asked me to make the very sad announcement that the health situation of his mother has suddenly and rapidly deteriorated. Therefore the negociations will be suspended until Monday.’
De Wever and the three other party presidents afterwards continued their ‘technical’ talks, in the absence of Vande Lanotte. No further statements were made. For observators it was especially remarkable that even if the illness is genuine, it was De Wever who read the statement and not someone from Vande Lanottes own socialist party. Relations between the Flemish nationalists and socialists have been hampered by a series of incidents the last few weeks.
On Wednesday Vande Lanotte had met the four Flemish party-presidents. De Wever had rejected his proposal for a new Finance Law based on a system of tax credits for the regions. He demanded a proposal based on the so-called split rate. The technical working group on Thursday would have to achieve this. Meanwhile it was clear that the new twist in the discussions would need some (difficult to achieve) assent from the French-speaking parties.
Some commentators have expressed their impression that the only thing that keeps the seven parties around the table these days is that they fear to become the main culprit of eventually negative events once the negotiations have definitely broken down.