Committee of Wise Men reach an accord

26th February 2008, Comments 0 comments

Committee reached an accord on state reform package.

The so-called Committee of Wise Men reached an accord early Monday morning regarding state reforms in two phases. The committee members agreed to a first package of measures after a marathon meeting from 3 pm Sunday afternoon and finishing early Monday morning at 3 am. The budget talks, which were blocked because of the failure to reach an accord on institutional reform, can now continue.

The Committee of Wise Men has reached an agreement to divide state reforms  into two phases. A first package of state reform measures has been agreed. The framework and timing for a second package of more far-reaching state reforms has also been agreed. The second phase of the state reforms is expected to be completed before the summer holiday.

First phase to be completed by Easter

The first package of institutional reforms should be translated into legislation by Easter. This is when Yves Leterme (Flemish Christian democrat) will take over the task of Prime Minister from Guy Verhofstadt (Flemish liberal).

In the first phase a number of smaller competencies will be regionalised. These include a number of economic and industrial policies - which will largely be competencies of the regions; rental and leasing legislation; mobility, agriculture, socio/economic and pricing policy.

In accordance with the first package of measures, the Brussels Region is to get €35 million for the mobility of the commuters in the capital. The federal government will invest a further €30 million in Brussels public transport.

The Brussels Region wanted more.

The first package also includes measures to stimulate more cooperation between the different governments. One such measure is an agreement to establish an investment bureau.

The first package of measures will be further drawn up into draft legislation on Monday. PM Guy Verhofstadt will present the measures to the government on Tuesday.

More complex state reforms in second phase

The second phase of state reforms agreed by the Committee of Wise Men includes the more complex state reforms which especially the Flemish parties insisted on. These measures are to be translated into draft legislation by mid-July, just before the parliamentary recess.

The subjects of the second package of reforms are being listed. These include competencies regarding the labour market, healthcare and family policy and civil servant affairs.

Budget talks can resume

Flanders refused to continue with the budget negotiations as long as there was no clarity regarding further state reforms.

Now that an agreement has been reached for further state reforms, the budget talks can resume. They are due to continue at 1 pm Monday afternoon.

Accord on reforms well-received by most

The majority parties are pleased with the accord on further state reforms. The Flemish nationalist N-VA wants to read the texts before taking a stance.

Etienne Schouppe, chairman of the Flemish Christian democrat CD&V party is very happy; according to him, "All the Flemish concerns are included in one or the other phase."

Bart Somers, chairman of the Flemish liberal Open VLD party praises Guy Verhofstadt, who is currently leading an interim government established in December to end a six-month stalemate over the state reforms.

Francophone socialist leader Elio Di Rupo said, "After 7½ months, we finally have an agreement (on the state reforms). I am delighted."

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