European Commission demands accelerated efforts to present a Belgian budget
The European Commission presents its economic prospects for member states and the Euro zone twice a year. Today Olli Rehn, EU commissioner tasked with economic and monetary affairs, will provide the data and prospects for Belgium. The good news is that the Commission foresees a 0.9% growth rate for the country in 2012. This is slightly higher than the 0.8% published by the High Council for Finance last week. Less positive news, however, is the Commission’s increasing impatience with the situation in Belgium. It insists that the country should accelerate its efforts to present a budget to bring an end to the uncertainty that currently prevails. The Commission will further remind us that the recommendations it made in July have still not been implemented, and will insist to address budget cutbacks, job market reforms and take measures in respect of the ageing population. It further warns the government that it's not simply a question of drawing up a budget alone: “The Belgian government should not present a budget on Monday that doesn't take into account our recommendations,” says a European source. “We are sure to scrutinise the paper.” This implies that the Commission will not choose between the two options which are currently dividing the Belgian negotiators. The liberals will only approve a budget for 2012 if profound reforms can be guaranteed. “We have made no progress whatsoever,” remarked one liberal negotiator. On the other hand collaborators of formateur Di Rupo insist that an agreement should urgently be reached during a budgetary conclave this weekend. “What’s most important is that we should draft a budget for 2012. Once we’ve done that, we can discuss crucial socio-economic reforms,” said one of the negotiators. Resigning Budget Minister Guy Vanhengel Open VLD admits to being quite desperate, saying “The negotiating tempo is alarmingly low. Everything has been quantified. Now it is high time that the six party presidents gather around the negotiating table and take decisions.” The warnings from Europe were not the only rumblings that were spreading in the Wetstraat. During a meeting of the core cabinet, Vice-Premier Laurette Onkelinx PS asked the prime minister of the government of current affairs, Yves Leterme, more information about a new report from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development OECD. “I heard the organisation compares the situation in Belgium with that of Spain and Italy,” she remarked. Leterme, who will soon leave his ministerial post for a top position with the OECD in Paris, had no information whatsoever about the report. It eventually transpired that a new economic report would be presented on 28 November. This paper will contain a simulation on the risk of contamination these three countries could face. The premier’s cabinet stressed that the report only developed a number of hypothetical cases.