CEO of the Union of Independent Entrepreneurs UNIZO Karel Van Eetvelt lashed out at Belgian prime minister Elio Di Rupo’s PS party in the Dutch newspaper Het Financieele Dagblad and pinned his hopes on the Flemish nationalist the N-VA, the major opposition party in the federal parliament. In the interview he explains why employers believe the N-VA is the only party that can change anything. “All the other parties will end up looking for a compromise with the PS,” he said. “I keep getting calls from business leaders, with many of them asking me to engage in talks with N-VA president Bart De Wever,” he adds. These statements were not met with enthusiasm, on the contrary. The political analyst and TV-expert of the Ghent University Carl Devos said he believed that “UNIZO seemed to have become an N-VA body”. A similar response was heard in political circles in the Wetstraat, the federal political centre of the country. “Irresponsible for a member of the Group of Ten the main consultation body of the federal social partners,” it was said in government circles. Many politicians believe Van Eetvelt will be a candidate for the N-VA during the parliamentary elections in 2014, but he himself denies this, saying: “Let‘s keep it clear: I have no political ambitions. Politicians have a choice: They can either sit back and proclaim that I’m behaving like a politician or they can stop and listen to what I have to say and do something about it." It’s quite simple: "Keep my mouth shut will not change anything. And something has to change, because businesses are frustrated as they feel their efforts are not respected. Politicians have admitted that wage costs are excessive, but nobody has so far taken action to change this. Measures to ensure a more flexible job market have accomplished nothing but an even more rigid job market. Meanwhile tax pressure mounts.” He does admit that concessions have been made for entrepreneurs, mentioning the index adjustment and freezing of wages, but feels it is insufficient to secure profitable business. Moreover he is convinced that French-speaking socialists veto every fundamental reform, thus undermining competitiveness. He seems to believe that Di Rupo and a number of his PS party members demonise the N-VA in an attempt to curb fundamental reforms pertaining to the job market, social security and taxation. Even though most businesses do not necessarily back the nationalist agenda of the N-VA, they look to it for support, Van Eetvelt believes, saying: “Most entrepreneurs are unionists. We must solve the problems at a federal level and with those parties who have a vision for Belgium and who seek reforms. It will be up to the Flemish parties represented in the Di Rupo government to prove the N-VA is wrong in its criticism and to introduce reforms. If they can manage that, I will credit them for it.”
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