Belgian strike adds to PM’s Nazi row woes
Belgium's new prime minister faced a fresh blow Wednesday as unions announced a general strike, adding to his problems over a Nazi collaboration row involving two ministers.
Charles Michel, 38, took office last week at the head of an unlikely coalition of his French-speaking liberals and three Flemish parties, including a nationalist group.
His reform plans, including a rise in the pension age, prompted unions on Wednesday to announce a general strike on December 15 along with other protests in November.
The strike call adds to the pressure on the centre-right coalition, which was only agreed on last week after five months of negotiations following inconclusive elections in May.
Michel meanwhile rejected fresh calls to sack two ministers from the controversial nationalist New Flemish Alliance (N-VA), the largest party in the coalition.
Interior Minister Jan Jambon was quoted as saying in a newspaper that Flemish collaborators with Nazi occupiers in Belgium during World War II “had their reasons”.
Immigration and Asylum Minister Theo Francken was meanwhile pictured at a meeting to mark the 90th birthday of a man convicted after the war of collaborating with the Nazis.
The row has reopened old wounds over the war, a divisive chapter in a country already sharply divided between the richer Flemish north and the poorer Francophone south.
The government faces its first confidence vote in parliament on Thursday.
Michel is Belgium’s youngest prime minister since 1840.