Flemish derision greets Belgian unity call
Belgium's Flemish parties derided on Friday a call by a francophone leader for a national unity government to end a political crisis, with one politician suggesting his rival had too much to drink.
Socialist Elio Di Rupo, who heads the biggest party in the southern French-speaking region, pleaded for the formation of a government that can quickly tackle pressing economic affairs to resolve a standoff that has spooked investors.
"We asked ourselves, 'he didn't have too much to drink, did he?'," Eric Defoort, founder of the independence-minded New Flemish Alliance (N-VA), the largest party in the Flemish north, quipped on RTBF radio.
A government focused on social and economic matters would automatically exclude N-VA because it would not address the Flemish party's core demand of state reform, Defoort said.
"Mr Di Rupo knows that N-VA will not be part of a government that does not tackle reform of the state together," he said. "With his appeal, he excludes N-VA."
Without a new government more than seven months after June elections, Belgium broke the European record for the longest politicl crisis in January and could break Iraq's 2009 world title of nine months.
Its caretaker formation has limited powers to tackle the 2011 budget and there are concerns in markets that the political crisis could push up the country's borrowing costs.
The political fog thickened this week when a mediator appointed by King Albert II quit after a three-month effort to break the impass failed.
The Flemish Christian-Democrats (CD&V) judged it "unwise" for francophones to call for an emergency government without consulting with Flemish parties first, especially N-VA, the victor of June elections.
"I find it curious that Elio Di Rupo publicly launches something that has not been discussed first," said the head of the Flemish government, Kris Peeters, a top members of CD&V.
The liberal Open Vld party said a national unity government would be a "government without national decisions."
Parties in the wealthier region of Flanders are demanding greater regional autonomy, but French-speaking parties fear it would leave them worse off and perhaps lead to the break-up of Belgium.
© 2011 AFP