Belgium's Flemish separatists reject new coalition talks

5th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

Belgium's powerful N-VA Flemish separatist party on Wednesday rejected a new proposal aimed at reviving talks to end the country's longest political crisis.

After more than six months without a government, leaders of language-divided Belgium were to announce by Wednesday evening whether they were ready to thrash out their differences on the basis of a 60-page document released this week.

But the New Flemish Alliance, or N-VA, which won the top score at the country's last indecisive elections, said it had "fundamental remarks", or objections, on the text.

It outlines a compromise to reform the Belgian state offering each of the country's communities more autonomy in line with demands from the independence-minded N-VA and other Flemish parties.

"We will see if these remarks are acceptable to the other parties," the N-VA said in a statement.

"We will then see conclude whether there is any sense in engaging in final negotiations."

The seven political parties -- four from Dutch-speaking Flanders, three from French-speaking Wallonia -- slated to form a coalition government had been handed the compromise proposal this week by a go-between named by Albert II.

The country's second biggest political formation, the French-speaking Socialists, were still to make their response known.

The N-VA picked up a whopping 28 percent in Flanders at the June 13 elections that failed to produce an outright winner and raised the spectre of a break-up of the country.

A string of efforts since to hammer out a compromise have failed one after the other, leaving Belgium rudderless for a record 206 days.

The N-VA, which represents the once rurally-poor but now wealthier 6.2 million Dutch speakers, complains of footing the national bill for the 4.5 million francophones.

It wants more autonomy and more power over the public purse but its demands have hit a wall of resistance from the French-speaking Socialists who won the majority among Wallonia's voters in the June poll.

© 2011 AFP

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