An uneasy and long negotiation process in Belgium for almost 500 days has resulted on Wednesday in the formation of a new government led by the now-ex interim finance minister and deputy prime minister, Alexander De Croo, leaving many voters in awe of disappointment
MOSCOW (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 30th September, 2020) An uneasy and long negotiation process in Belgium for almost 500 days has resulted on Wednesday in the formation of a new government led by the now-ex interim finance minister and deputy prime minister, Alexander De Croo, leaving many voters in awe of disappointment.
In May of 2019, a general election in Belgium ended inconclusively, crushing the hopes that the small kingdom would finally acquire a properly functioning government, which it has practically lacked since December 2018.
A period of negotiations among the parties followed, during which the two largest � the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) and the Socialist Party (PS) � tried but failed to form a coalition government in mid-August. The other parties refused to consent to a government encircling the Dutch-speaking N-VA party of Bart De Wever and the French-speaking PS of Paul Magnette, with the Greens even slamming the Flemish nationalists a few times as "Nazis."
"Belgium is experiencing a major political crisis comparable to the crisis of 2010-2011. We are at 650 days between the resignation of the [first interim] government and the taking of the oath tomorrow," Benjamin Biard, a political analyst at the Centre for Research and Socio-Political Information in Brussels, told Sputnik, adding that the vacuum of the 2011 crisis "only" lasted for 584 days.
DIVIDE IN politics AND LANGUAGE
Belgium's linguistic-cultural divide deeply impacts its political divide.
Belgium has a rather complicated administrative structure with four regions � Flanders, Walloon, Brussels and a small German-language minority in the east � and each of them with its own micro-parliament and micro-government. If China had as many ministers in the government per inhabitant as Belgium, goes the joke, they would have thousands of them.
"It is true that today, the management of the country is largely done by the governments of the Regions, there is talk in particular of regionalizing health policy, but there is a paradox, in the sense that 'heavyweight' politicians are leaving regional governments to join this Federal government," Biard told Sputnik.
The 12-million Belgian population is around 60 percent Dutch-speaking, concentrated mainly in the north, and 40 percent French-speaking, in the south. The north � Flanders � is rich and usually votes on the right of the political spectrum, while the south, Walloon and Brussels, is poorer and votes strongly on the left.
For the political vacuum period, the country was ruled by an interim government, led first by Charles Michel and then, after he left to assume office as president of the European Council, Sophie Wilmes. During the negotiations, Wilmes and pretty much all party leaders agreed that the country's structure should be simplified.
ALL EYES ON NEW GOVERNMENT'S PROGRAM
The new coalition marks the return to power of the Greens, while the Flemish nationalists of the N-VA, are relegated to the opposition. The new government platform brings together seven parties � two Socialist, two Liberal, two Green, with each of the two composed of one that is Dutch-speaking and one French-speaking, as well as the Christian Democratic and Flemish (CD&V) party.
Flemish liberal Alexander De Croo, 44, has been agreed upon as the new prime minister. However, the parties have reportedly yet to agree on the 14 cabinet members, keeping in mind that they must maintain a linguistic and general equity among them. One cannot help but recall how long it took them to negotiate a government for a country as small as Belgium.
The draft agreement has yet to be validated by each of the seven parties, a priori by Thursday, when the House of Representatives is called to sit to see the new executive presented. Strangely, because of the pandemic, the Belgian lawmakers meet at the European parliament building, where the hemicycle is much more spacious to ensure proper social distancing.
After such lengthy negotiations, one would expect the program to be rock-solid, very detailed and budgeted precisely. However, so far, the impression is that each party gets its trophy measure, most of them not yet assessed in detail and thus leaving the door open to more negotiations when the government is in existence.
The Socialists want a symbolic minimum pension of 1,500 Euros ($1,760) net by the end of the legislature, but the proposal's text says "if feasible" and "to be detailed later." What about the rest of the scale? People are wondering if there will be an increase in wages for those who already earn more than the proposed minimum.
The Greens want their symbolic measure � the closure of all nuclear power plants by 2025. To most experts, this is barely feasible in such a short time and will be incredibly costly. The Greens still got it into the program.
The government program also indicates that large subsidies � not really clear yet how large � will be dedicated to creating new power plants, which burn gas which emits CO2, to surprisingly replace the nuclear plants that do not emit COS2.
Disproportionate to its small size, Belgium occupies an important niche in the European Union family of states. The small kingdom, at the heart of Europe, hosts four out of the seven EU institutional seats, including the European Commission, the European Council, the Council of Ministers and partially the European Parliament, accommodating its non-plenary sessions.