Brussels commune 'a bomb in the deep freeze'

24th May 2005, Comments 0 comments

25 May 2005, BRUSSELS – One of Belgium’s vice prime ministers has launched a bitter attack on the decision to put talks on the Brussels commune Hal Vilvorde on hold.

25 May 2005

BRUSSELS – One of Belgium’s vice prime ministers has launched a bitter attack on the decision to put talks on the Brussels commune Hal Vilvorde on hold.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt won the backing of parliament to freeze discussions on the question.

He said since the political parties couldn’t reach agreement on changing the electoral boundaries of the commune, the status quo should remain until after the general election in 2007.

However, Budget and Public Enterprise Minister Johan Vande Lanotte, who is also partly responsible for institutional reform, said this week: "If you put a time bomb in the freezer compartment of your fridge, it won’t go away: at some time your fridge will blow up."

"The francophone parties are in the process of making Belgium explode," he added.

In an interview with the weekly magazine 'Humo', Vande Lanotte accused the francophone parties of putting the interests of middle-class French speakers who live on the outskirts of Brussels over the needs of the poorest Flemish speakers living in the capital.

"We were ready to reconsider the obligation for bilingualism in Brussels in order to help some people who can’t find a job because of that requirement," he said.

"But the bourgeois French speakers living in Brussels’ suburbs, who are restricting the Flemish, were more important than the underprivileged in Brussels."

On Tuesday, his remarks were quoted in the Flemish newspaper ‘De Morgen’. The Flemish Social Democratic minister (SPA) said he had been annoyed to see the joy expressed in the francophone press when the BHV question was put on ice.

The Belgian media did not carry reaction from Verhofstadt on Vande Lanotte’s remarks, though they can be interpreted as an implicit criticism of the PM.

The leader of the francophone Christian Social party, the CDH, however, responded angrily to his outburst. Joelle Milquet said: "While the prime minister, in the name of the government, has asked for this matter to be put on ice so that we can return to the real socio-economic problems of the country, the vice-prime minister is taking up the hatchet again."

"That attitude is hardly favourable, neither for the peace between the communities nor to the stability of the government, decidedly more and more shaken and fragile," Milquet added.

The opposition leader went on: "Belgium needs leaders of state. Until now, the vice prime minister was one of them. He’s got several months to become one again."

[Copyright Expatica 2005]

Subject: Belgian news

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