Di Rupo temporarily refuses to support Magnette
Minister Paul Magnette Parti Socialiste caused quite a stir with his criticism of the EU economic policy in the newspaper De Morgen yesterday. Afterwards in Parliament he was up against both the opposition and coalition partners Open VLD, CD&V and MR. Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo PS had no other choice than not to back his second man. “As government leader I treasure constructive relations with the European Commission and European institutions, which is in keeping with the point of view of the government,” he explained in Parliament. “Anyone is entitled to an opinion, but the government’s opinion is clear.” Behind the scenes things looked a little different, however. Within PS circles everyone backed Magnette’s criticism of Europe, with the CdH apparently supporting their stance against the European Commission. But Di Rupo asked for silence as this could compromise the coalition. Questions like “Who knows Olli Rehn? or Who has ever seen Olli Rehn’s face?” by Magnette, were not that well received. “He ridicules the commissioner,” said Patrick Dewael Open VLD. “This is a formidable blunder,” quipped European MP, Philippe De Backer Open VLD. “Instead of fighting the Commission, the PS should engage in constructive collaboration and ignore populist Euroscepticism.” The French-speaking Liberals MR also had their say about the PS minister. MR party leader Daniel Bacquelaine called the remarks “unacceptable”. “Our most dangerous enemies are populism and Euroscepticism. This is what it has come to… Europe is no scapegoat. That would be too easy. There are boundaries that cannot be crossed.” Even vice prime minister Steven Vanackere CD&V reacted sharply. “He has the right to criticise Europe’s strategy. But I would like to ask him to refrain from criticising Olli Rehn. That’s like shooting the messenger. The Commission is simply implementing the six-pack measure, which is what the member states asked for.” Shortly before the eruption among the Di Rupo I coalition partners, Bart De Wever N-VA was locked in an animated speech on socio-economics in a hall full of French-speaking CEOs at the Saint Anna Castle. Magnette’s statements seemed like a Godsend. “Hallucinatory, I find it. Europe is wrong. It’s only the PS that speaks the truth. It’s exactly the opposite,” it sounded. N-VA parliamentary party leader Jan Jambon also scored a oneliner in Parliament later on, saying: “I thought you were the leader of the French-speaking tax government, but you are the leader of a French-speaking blunder government.” The N-VA chuckled with glee. Magnette’s statements and the fierce reactions have crippled the start of the new government. Relations between the PS and Liberals have turned sour. The PS is tired of the incessant contact between Eurocommissioner Karel De Gucht Open VLD, Olli Rehn and the Liberal parties within the government. During the drafting of the budget there was a lot of consultation between Vice-Premier Van Quickenborne Open VLD and Karel De Gucht, while the latter kept also close contact with Di Rupo which, according to PS sources, was not very useful. De Gucht refused, for example, to play lobbyist for Belgium and also to comment on his role during the negotiations on the federal budget.