Brussels language row tobe buried for two years
12 May 2005
BRUSSELS – Belgium’s Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt is expected to put one of his country’s most divisive issues on ice until 2007.
On Thursday, after a week of speculation about whether Verhofstadt’s government would fall, the Belgian media generally agreed that the PM would convince parliament it’s time to stop talking about Brussels-Hal-Vilvorde.
Despite two weeks of intense, behind-closed-doors discussions between the Flemish and francophone parties, no consensus has been reached on the division of the electoral district.
On Wednesday, Verhofstadt asked parliament for a vote of confidence.
After a meeting with King Albert II, the palace and the prime minister warned that the Belgian people had a lot to lose from parliament being dissolved and the political crisis that would ensue.
On Thursday, public service broadcaster RTBF predicted that the vote, which is scheduled for Friday, is likely to go in the prime minister’s favour.
“The BHV file should be ‘put on ice’ until at least 2007,” it reported. “Nothing is resolved, however.”
‘La Libre Belgique’ quoted an anonymous source close to the prime minister who stated Verhofstadt never intended to resign. “It’s not a word which is in his vocabulary,” said the source.
The paper also interviewed one of the 13 politicians involved in the BHV negotiations, who remained anonymous, on the mood of the parties during the last 15 days.
The politician said Verhofstadt opted to hold each of the seven meetings on BHV in secret, with his personal secretary sending a text message to the individuals with the precise address of each meeting just before it happened.
“None of the meetings started on time,” said the source.
The politicians met at Wavre, at Sint-Pieters-Leeuw – including at the home of friends of Verhofstadt – and at the Chateau de Lembeek.
“The negotiations have failed,” quipped the newspaper.
“But at least they discovered some magnificent homes in French-speaking Wallonia and Flemish-speaking Wallonia.”
According to the paper’s source, it was around three o’clock on Tuesday morning when negotiations broke down and Spirit’s president Geert Lambert walked out.
[Copyright Expatica 2005]
Subject: Belgian news