Feuding political parties begin talks

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Belgium’s divided Dutch- and French-speaking parties meet Wednesday to resolve their dispute over federal government.

8 October 2008   
BRUSSELS -- Political parties from Belgium's feuding Dutch- and French-speaking communities begin key talks Wednesday on reforming the country's federal system, an issue that divided the two sides for years and threatened the country's breakup.
But it is feared the global financial crisis, which hurt Belgium banks, will cause negotiations to continue longer.
Six Flemish ministers, led by the region's president Kris Peeters, are meeting delegates from the main French-speaking region parties Wednesday morning to discuss a solution to the political dispute.
Belgium's main Dutch- and French-speaking parties argued for years over transferring federal powers to the regions.
Flanders, the country's Dutch-speaking northern half, seeks more regional powers due to its wealth. It resents subsidising the less affluent, French-speaking Wallonia region to its south.
Unable to resolve the dispute more than a year after general elections, Prime Minister Yves Leterme tried to resign in July but the king refused.
Since winning general elections in June 2007, Leterme repeatedly failed to resolve the demands of Wallonia and Flanders, where 60 percent of Belgium's 10.5 million people live.
However, the main parties agreed to key talks on federal reform in September after the Flemish nationalist NVA (New Flemish Alliance) party quit the coalition government.
They are seeking an agreement before the June 2009 regional elections.
[AFP / Expatica]

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