The 77-year old King Albert of Belgium held consultations with political leaders today to resolve the new crisis in the government negotiations after ‘formateur’ Elio di Rupo handed in his resignation on Monday. The King will probably tomorrow make a decision about accepting the resignation or not, 528 days after the last elections.
Di Rupo went to see the King in Ciergnon, the Ardennes castle where Albert II is recovering from a small nose operation. The leaders of the six parties that try to form a government had also to travel to there today to be consulted, beginning with the French-speaking Christian democrat Benoit Lutgen (who succeeded to Joelle Milquet last summer) who lives in nearby Bastogne.
The last time king Albert consulted political leaders from Ciergnon was in September 2007 when he recovered from a fall. At that time the ‘royal scout’ Herman Van Rompuy came to report on his mission of bringing the negotiators back to the table so as to launch a new mission from the then Flemish chef minister Yves Leterme(see http://crisisinbelgium.blogspot.com/2007_09_01_archive.html) .
This time it was Elio di Rupo who came, after negotiations on the budget of 2012 had ended in failure. The liberals, and especially the Flemish ones, refused to accept di Rupo’s latest proposals, claiming that these were still largely insufficient to fulfill the recommendations the European Commission and Council made last summer to Belgium.
After consulting his party on Monday morning, di Rupo brought the six parties again around the table in the early afternoon. He was already dressed in costume, to be prepared to see the King. The session lasted less than an hour and ended with di Rupo acrimoniously shouting at Alexander De Croo, the president of the Flemish liberals, that ‘for the second time you are throwing the country into chaos’. De Croo was responsible for the fall of the Leterme-government in april 2010, the beginning of the political crisis that is still going on.
It is widely expected that the King will refuse Di Rupo’s resignation and ask him to try to resume negotiations. An alternative scenario is that another politician or technocrat might take up the mission for a week or so. Matters are indeed urgent as there should be a budget announced towards the European Commission on the 15th of December. The former negotiator and Flemish socialist Johan Vande Lanotte claimed on Monday evening that the ultimate deadline is in fact the 15th of January. That is the moment where the EU should decide sanctions if Belgium still has not complied with its budgetary obligations.
Interest rates on Belgian 10 year government bonds crossed the barrier of 5 % today. That may have been caused by the new twist in government negotiations, but more likely by new troubles in two of the country's main banks, Dexia and KBC.