Belgian political parties mull Flemish proposed compromise

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The head of the Flemish nationalist N-VA party Sunday presented a compromise proposal to reform Belgium's institutions, which could be the last chance to emerge from the country's political crisis.

Bart De Wever sent a 50-page document to the seven political parties representing the Dutch- and French-speaking parts of the country.

Belgium, which plays host to pre-eminent world bodies NATO and the European Union, has been rudderless since June elections, with leaders of the linguistically divided country so far unable to bridge differences and form a coalition government.

De Wever expects a response to his proposal by mid-day Monday, which is the deadline set by King Albert II to bridge the rift in order to facilitate new talks to form a government.

The Flemish nationalist leader said that his proposal created a "delicate balance" and that those "who want to touch the foundations risk toppling the house of cards".

The proposal includes calls for financial autonomy in the regions, as demanded by Dutch-speaking Flanders.

It also leaves the country's three regions, which also include French-speaking Wallonia and Brussels, to manage about 45 percent of tax revenues, amounting to 16 billion euros (22 billion dollars). Flanders as the most populous region would get the biggest piece of about 10 billion euros.

The head of the FDF party, Olivier Maingain, in defence of the country's francophones, said Sunday that the proposal "can only be rejected because it sets the conditions for the separation wanted by the nationalists in Flanders".

Francophones have long feared that their Wallonia region, already less wealthy than Flanders, would become poorer under proposed reforms and have warned they could lead to the break-up of Belgium.

If no agreement is reached on Monday, the Belgian king could be left with only the choice of calling new elections.

Belgium, one of the EU's founding members, currently holds the rotating presidency of the 27-member bloc until December.

© 2010 AFP

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