Di Rupo and the Belgian points of view at the EU summit
The new prime minister, Elio Di Rupo PS, did not miss his cue on the European stage. When images of his arrival were broadcast on the big screen in the press room, Belgium’s new leader received spontaneous applause. “This is a highly crucial European summit,” Di Rupo said on the red carpet, and he underscored the European feeling of unity and solidarity in the interest of its citizens. In the wake of the stress and nightly negotiations on state reform, on the savings package and the formation of a government, he was immediately faced with marathon talks at European level as well. But the prime minister will not be ill-prepared since Belgium has a small army of diplomats to advise and assist the national leader. Yesterday afternoon the new core cabinet focused on the points of view meticulously prepared by these diplomats, points that boil down to the fact that Belgium will remain faithful to its European mission, but that the country does want the European Central Bank to take action to solve the crisis. Agreements on greater budgetary discipline must enable ECB chairman Mario Draghi to extinguish the rapidly spreading fire in the eurozone with his powerful weapon. The diplomats argue this must be done as soon as possible, which is why Belgium is backing the approach adopted by EU president Herman Van Rompuy in order to bypass the time-consuming procedure of European treaty changes. What Belgium would like most is to arrange all the issues with the 27 member states instead of the 17 nations that make up the eurozone. Furthermore, the diplomatic corps is defending the existing European institutions in Brussels and objecting to the creation of new ones. The nation is however concerned about how future member states who do not respect the budgetary rules will be punished. The Belgian government believes the European Commission should not immediately impose sanctions, demanding instead the possibility of consultation between the member state and the EC. For now Belgium continues to advocate euro bonds, which are presently being blocked by a German nein, while the country is also siding with granting a banking licence to the European Stability Mechanism ESM, the permanent emergency fund for unstable euro-countries. This will allow the fund to withdraw money from the European central Bank, giving it greater muscle to defend the euro. Meanwhile the proposal of having the IMF play a bigger role, which is being seriously considered at the summit, is also supported by Belgium.