After two week of often violent discussions negotiators for a new Belgian government finally concluded an agreement Saturday at noon on the budget of 2012 and socio-economic reforms in the next years. The expectations are that Belgium could now have a government at last, somewhere next weekend, after more than 500 days.
Shortly before the noon news-shows on television the five party presidents and acting deputy prime minister Laurette Onkelinx (who leads the delegation of the French-speaking socialists while their party president Elio di Rupo is chief negotiator) came out of the building of Onkelinx’ cabinet in de rue du Commerce to announce that they had made an agreement on socio-economic matters.
The last round of negotiations had started on Friday evening at six o’clock and lasted throughout the night for 18 hours. Since Wednesday Elio di Rupo had been asked again by king Albert to fulfill his mission. Di Rupo then held two days of discussions with the liberals, who disagreed most with his proposals. In the meantime Belgium became together with Italy and Spain the main target of the financial markets, seeing the interest rate on 10 year government bonds rising from 4,7 % on Monday morning the 21st to 5,85 on Friday evening.
The ‘formateur’ and the party presidents of Christian democrats, liberals and socialists will explain their agreement tomorrow afternoon at a press conference in parliament. They agreed to reduce the budget deficit to 2,8 % of gdp in 2012, under the 3 % barrier that the EU is demanding. For this they had to find 11,3 bn € of budget cuts and new incomes (an equivalent of 3 % gdp). Additional efforts of about the same amount were needed for the years 2013 and 2014.
Among the measures agreed are new taxes on company cars, on banks, on value made by enterprises from shares (in a short time after buying) and on large deposits, besides cuts in unemployment benefits, sickness insurance and early retiring systems. Unions and the opposition reacted immediately negative on the new measures.
On Monday the negotiators will take up the last nuts to crack: a few details about justice, and a probably tough discussion on migration and asylum policy. Nevertheless most observers expect now a global agreement towards Thursday, after which the party congresses can take place and the new ministers can be designated. The new government di Rupo I could than swear its oath to the king some 540 days after the elections of June the 13th 2010.