Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Last Waltz?

King Albert appointed a new ‘informateur’ on Wednesday afternoon: Didier Reynders, the outgoing leader of the Frenchs-speaking liberals, and the minister of Finance for the last twelve years. He has two weeks to see if he can organise a new start in the deadlocked negotiations for a new Belgian government.
After six days of consultations king Albert finally decided to sent out a French-speaking liberal. It is the first time the liberals will be involved in the government negotiations since the elections of June the 13th last year. Didier Reynders has to report back in two week times, and has only to consider the institutional questions up to then, according to a statement of the palace. The latter is a rather remarkable restriction.
Reynders is 52 years old and has been minister of Finance for the last twelve years. He also was president of the French-speaking liberals of the MR for the last seven years, but was recently pushed aside. His successor, Charles Michel, the son of the former Euro-commissioner Louis Michel, will take up the presidency of the party in two weeks time. His mission as informateur could therefore well become his swan song in Belgian politics.
Reynders was already informateur in June 2007, after the elections in which he was one of the big winners. He also was a key figure in the successful  Belgian presidency of the EU in the second half of last year.
‘I shall verify if there is still a will to form a government’, Reynders said during a press conference after he returned from the palace. ‘But I know it will be difficult’. Tomorrow he will start his consultations with a visit of his failed predecessor, Johan Vande Lanotte.
It is widely expected that the outgoing MR-leader will make some far reaching proposals to the Flemish parties about institutional reform, thereby obliging the French-speaking socialists of Elio di Rupo to accept or reject these. If it ends in a rejection, new elections are almost inevitable.
King Albert also met with outgoing prime minister Yves Leterme earlier on Wednesday. In a statement afterwards the palace stated that the outgoing government will have to prepare the budgets of 2011 and 2012 to fulfil the obligations that will come with the so-called European semester, the procedure wherein the European Commission and the European Council will impose strict conditions for budgetary policies on the member states. These conditions will be laid down from the end of March onwards. Belgium still has to make up a plan to find 22 billion euros in budgetary cuts (13 % of all government expenditures) towards 2015.


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