Week’s reprieve for beleaguered government
4 May 2005
BRUSSELS – Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt was on Wednesday reported to have cancelled several appointments as he seeks a way out of the crisis that could bring down his government.
The Belgian media reported that the country’s political parties had again postponed a decision on the linguistic future of the controversial electoral district Brussels-Hal-Vilvorde (BHV).
Although the delay was seen as breathing space for the government, some commentators have warned Verhofstadt and his ruling coalition could go if Flemish and francophone parties don’t reach an agreement before the new deadline of next Wednesday at 2.15pm.
Flemish parties seem determined that French-speaking parties should not have the right to put up candidates in legislative and European elections.
Most are not prepared to talk of a compromise or of allowing the extension of the bilingual region of Brussels into some parts of Flanders.
In the face of the stalemate, Budget and Public Enterprise Minister Johan Vande Lanotte, who is partly responsible for institutional reform, told the parliament: “There was a time when we made progress, but today we aren’t much further than a few days ago. It’s not dramatic. We’ve still got a week.”
However, he warned: “For the government, the majority and the country, this week will be pivotal.”
The other minister responsible for institutional reform, Finance Minister Didier Reynders, warned that both the francophone and Flemish community would pay the price if agreement cannot be reached.
He said he was optimistic, but added: “Sometimes it seems we are going backwards more than we are advancing.”
The centre-right MR minister compared the search for a solution to looking for books in a library. “All the books are there,” he insisted.
“The problem is knowing which books we are going to get out of the library, with which pages or which chapters to reach an agreement. If that doesn’t happen, everyone will of course reach his own conclusions, but we are all convinced that it’s possible to get there.”
Several news agencies and Belgian papers reported that on Tuesday there had been rumours that Verhofstadt might resign over the failure of the government to settle the issue.
Vande Lanotte also stressed to the press that if no deal was brokered by next week, the government could also decide to dissolve itself and hold fresh elections in June.
[Copyright Expatica 2005]
Subject: Belgian news