Negotiations for a new federal government in Belgium had a new start on Monday. Four parties - three from Flanders, one from the French-speaking part of Belgium - will try to form the first centre-right federal government since 1987.
After having disappeared from centre stage since they were appointed on the 22d of July, the two federal 'formateurs', the Flemisch christian democrat and former chief minister of Flanders Kris Peeters, and the French-speaking liberal party leader Charles Michel (in the middle of the picture, Mr. De Wever and the Flemish liberal leader, Ms. Rutten, on their side) resurfaced on Monday. They presided over the second formal meeting between party delegations of the NVA (Flemish nationalists), CD&V (Flemish christian democrats), VLD (Flemish liberals) and MR (French-speaking liberals).
At half past six, right in time for the evening news on tv, they made a statement to the press together, just to announce that for the most important budgets – like the one of the sickness insurance - restrictive norms will be used. The technicians will do the work the next days, until the party leaders meet again on Thursday.
Although most of the negotiators had, at least for a few days, the opportuny to take a break abroad, the negotiations seem not to have halted in the past four weeks of silence. Peeters and Michel Saturday sent the delegations a 15-page note on the budgetary framework for the next five years, and 150 pages of the first draft of a government agreement.
In the budgetary note they propose a cumulative effort of reducing the deficit of all Belgian authorities with 17,3 billion euro towards 2019. The global deficit of all authorities in Belgium is now at 2,7 % of gdp, which is a structural amount of about 10 billion euro. That was the first subject the negotiators had to discuss on Monday. The main question was if the deficit would be reduced to 0 in 2016, as the EU has asked, or if this target can be postponed towards 2017 or 2018.
The parties will from now negotiate with a steady rhythm of six days a week, Peeters and Michel also announced. Still it could take weeks before the 165 pages of today have been discussed and worked out towards a genuine agreement. If nothing goes wrong in the meantime …