BE tells envoys how to handle queries
9 October 2007
BRUSSELS (AFP) – Belgian Foreign Minister Karel de Gucht has told embassies abroad how to handle queries on Belgium’s political crisis, his ministry said Monday, amid calls in some quarters to split the country.
“It is clear that our country will have a government in good time,” De Gucht wrote in a memo to Belgian ambassadors and envoys.
“The pragmatic spirit” and the “typical search for a compromise” would prevail, he said in his message to all Belgian embassies, a copy of which AFP obtained. The document was issued in both Dutch and French.
De Gucht wants to “cut short certain suppositions,” and stress that “it is important to recall that in the 177 years of Belgium’s existence, its citizens, Dutch- and French-speaking, have sought and found ways to live together in peaceful cohabitation.”
The backdrop to the message is the failure of parties in the Dutch-speaking northern region of Flanders and Francophone Wallonia to the south to forge a coalition government four months after general elections on 10 June.
It comes with the new federal parliament set to convene Tuesday for the first time since the polls and with pressure increasing for a solution.
Around 350 Flemish nationalist extremists protested in an outer suburb of Brussels on Sunday, burning Belgian flags and calling for independence from Wallonia.
This kind of action, while relatively small, could create the sort of headlines that the Belgian foreign minister, part of the outgoing and for now caretaker government, might be keen to counter.
His note was to “help” diplomats “reply to questions posed by the press… on the political situation in Belgium,” his spokesman Francois Delhaye said.
For example, the official message is that while the negotiations on forming a government are “often difficult and complex” they are “always completed in a satisfactory manner.”
“The current negotiations, which have been going on for more than three months, are long but not really exceptionally so,” De Gucht insisted.
“Other European countries (Austria, Netherlands) have also recently undergone fairly long periods of formation” for their governments, the note added.
Belgium’s federal state comprises around 10.5 million people, some 60 percent in relatively rich Flanders, 3.5 million people in Wallonia and one million in the largely Francophone but officially bilingual region of Brussels.
[Copyright AFP 2007]
Subject: Belgian news