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Flemish PM urges state reform

11 July 2005

BRUSSELS — Flanders Prime Minister Yves Leterme has urged for greater autonomy and responsibility to be afforded to Belgium’s regions so that good performances can be rewarded.

On the eve of the Flemish Community Holiday, Leterme also said in Brugge life is good in Flanders, but warned against complacency, newspaper ‘De Standaard’ reported on Monday.

“Flanders must do better in many terrains in coming years. We must not wait for more authority to become an absolute top European region. However, it is more than ever apparent that Flanders misses important powers to build a better administration,” he said.

The furore around political representation in the electoral district Brussels-Hal-Vilvorde and the noise pollution problems around Zaventem Airport prove that something needs to change, Leterme said.

“The socio-economic and social challenges are big and must get effective answers — answers that can be simply tackled together by the federal government and the federal states”.

Leterme urged for “responsible federalism” with greater authority for the regional governments so they can better tackle problems and more responsibility for the consequences of their decisions.
He said recent calls by Wallonian party leaders to freeze new reforms to the federal state structure until 2007 were incomprehensible.

Such proposals were, Leterme said, at odds with the interests of the Flemish community and the introduction of a ‘Marshall Plan’ to rebuild the Wallonian economy.

Leterme urged Wallonian politicians to drop the idea that further regionalisation is a taboo, stressing that it could serve as a stimulus for employment, economic recovery and social progress in every municipality and region.

In response, Francophone Socialist (PS) leader Elio Di Rupo said over the weekend he was not opposed to discussions around state reform.

“Politicians must not wait until the formation of the next government to tackle the relations between the linguistic communities. Responsible people from responsible parties must explore the terrain now,” he said.

However, he also said the Christian Democrat (CD&V) and the Socialist (SP.A) parties must ensure they remain large enough. Currently, they are reliant on coalitions with the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) and Socialist (Spirit) parties.

Di Rupo said no agreement over the linguistic problems in Belgium could be reached with the small NV-A and Spirit parties, nor the Francophone Democratic Front (FDF).

Flanders will celebrate the Flemish Community Holiday on Monday. Twenty-five years of federalism will also be celebrated.

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Belgian news