Yes, but do they have a government yet??
this is a bit longer than usually.)
Walter Hinteler wrote:this is a bit longer than usually.)
You can say that again...
The 2007 formation is now the second longest formation period in Belgian history.
That a modern European country can function without a government should be an inspiration to all the people of Europe.
Btw: there's a very good Wiki entry about this, with lots of links.
Belgian Break-up Debate Halted By Flemish Lawmakers - AFP
BRUSSELS (AFP)--Flemish lawmakers blocked Thursday an attempt to launch a parliamentary debate on the break up of Belgium, in a move that could ease tensions with the country's French-speaking community.
Negotiations between the communities on forming a federal government are at deadlock more than five months after general elections, with much of the problem linked to a dispute over devolving federal power to the regions.
Against this backdrop, the far-right Vlaams Belang party called Thursday for a debate in the federal assembly on "the dismemberment of the Belgian state with a view to according independence to the Flemish and Walloon peoples."
The leader of the Francophone liberal group opposed the debate demanded by the independence-minded party, calling the move "nothing but a provocation".
An overwhelming majority of mainstream Flemish deputies rejected the debate.
Flanders, more wealthy than French-speaking Wallonia and impatient to receive more federal powers, is in a natural majority, accounting for some 60% of Belgium's 10.5 million population. Apart from a small German community, Walloons make up a large minority.
Belgium's would-be prime minister Yves Leterme is still struggling to broker an agreement on state reforms - the devolution of powers - that would satisfy both main linguistic communities.
French-speaking parties are concerned such a move would lead to increased competition between the two regions and could lead to the breakup of Belgium.
Belgium's survival in question as 'next PM' quits the battle
Divisions deepen in nation at the heart of Europe
Ian Traynor in Brussels
Sunday December 2, 2007
Belgium's chances of surviving as a single country suffered a significant blow last night when the man tipped to be the next Prime Minister abandoned almost six months of bad-tempered wrangling over a new government and threw in the towel.
Yves Leterme, the Flemish Christian Democrat leader who emerged strongest from general elections in June, went to the royal palace in Brussels to tell King Albert he had had enough.
The King accepted Leterme's resignation, but left open the key question of what happens next in the effort to secure a consensus between the country's bitterly divided Dutch-speaking Flemish and francophone Walloon communities.
Leterme's resignation marked a watershed in the long-running crisis and shortened the odds on Belgium eventually splintering into two new countries at the heart of Europe - the bigger, more prosperous northern region of Flanders where the push for more autonomy is fuelling separatism, and the southern, less successful and smaller region of Wallonia, which is keener to preserve Belgium.
Since Leterme's electoral victory, there have been endless negotiations involving four parties of Flemish and Walloon Christian Democrats and Liberals.
Leterme issued an ultimatum on Friday, demanding answers to three questions from his putative coalition partners on the future. His demands focused on action to reform the federal structures of Belgium, appeasing Flemish separatism by granting greater powers to Flanders and weakening central government. His Christian Democrat counterparts in Wallonia baulked, triggering the Leterme resignation.
Last month Flemish MPs of all parties, bar one Green, dissolved the pact that has been the underlying basis of government in Belgium for decades, forcing a vote against the wishes of the francophone side and resorting to majority rule. Flanders is the bigger half of the country, with six million to Wallonia's 4.5 million.
While the Flemish side voted, the French-speaking side walked out of the chamber. The issue concerned the fate of three historically Flemish communities on the edge of Brussels. The vote stripped French-speakers of the right to vote for French-speaking parties in the three places.
The obscure dispute highlighted the absolute linguistic divide that reigns in Belgium outside Brussels, a French-speaking capital that bestrides the divide between the two communities but which is a Flemish city.
In Brussels, more than 20,000 people rallied on the streets a fortnight ago to profess their loyalty to a state called Belgium. But beyond the capital, particularly in Flanders, the mood is different.
Dutch and French speakers do not communicate with one another. They watch different TV stations, read different newspapers and send their children to different schools and universities. There are no national political parties. Leterme is a Christian Democrat but his proposals were rejected by Christian Democrats from the other side of the linguistic divide.
Through almost six months of negotiations, the Flemish side has insisted on further concessions to ethnic and linguistic autonomy as the price for forming a common government, concessions that further down the road will hasten the break-up of the country.
Leterme had been seeking a way out of the crisis by securing agreement on a coalition of technocratic managers who would run the country while a convention of constitutional reformers was charged with coming up with a new blueprint for Belgium within a year.
In addition to the extensive autonomy already exercised by the two regions, the Flemish side is demanding greater powers over taxation and social security, powers that would further impoverish Wallonia, impinge on national solidarity and probably hasten the slow-motion death of a country created by the great European powers in 1830.
Ousted Belgian premier vows to unite rival parties
Raf Casert in Brussels
Tuesday December 4, 2007
The outgoing Belgian prime minister, Guy Verhofstadt, said yesterday he would seek to end the deadlock in negotiations between the country's Dutch-speaking and Francophone parties, six months after he was defeated in elections.
King Albert asked the Dutch-speaking Liberal to end the stalemate in coalition talks because on both sides of the nation's linguistic frontier parties have refused to yield to the long-held Belgian principles of consensus politics.
"Our nation is going through one of the most serious political crises of the past decades," Verhofstadt said. "Our country's image suffers and our political and common problems are not dealt with. This situation cannot and should not continue," he said.
The return of Verhofstadt was a stunning political reversal after the Christian Democrat election winner, Guy Leterme, had failed to broker a coalition between the two political groups. He could not overcome the linguistic divisions.
In the elections the Christian Democrats and Liberals together won 81 of the 150 legislative seats.
Leterme returned his mandate to broker a government to the king on Saturday, after which Verhofstadt suddenly returned to the political centre after leading a caretaker government.
"I hesitated a long time. The voter made a choice on June 10 and I reached my conclusions from the loss of my party as party and government leader," he said.
After eight years in charge of Belgium, the election loss was generally seen as the end of Verhofstadt's national political career.
"At my insistence, it will be very short and limited in scope," he said of his task. He will now contact political leaders to bring them back to the table.
Negotiations to form a government collapsed last weekend over demands for more autonomy from northern Dutch-speaking Flanders, while Francophone Wallonia seeks continued centralised leadership.
If Verhofstadt is asked to lead an emergency government he could take more sweeping financial measures and push through social and economic legislation that has wide backing in parliament.
The coalition talks between Christian Democrats and Liberals - each split into Dutch and French-speaking camps - ran aground because prosperous Flanders demanded more autonomy to run its affairs independently from poorer Wallonia, which insists on a strong Belgian link to assure financial solidarity.
More regional autonomy was a key election issue for the Flemish Christian Democrats, Belgium's largest party, and their more radical sister party, the New Flemish Alliance. Both blame poor governance in Wallonia for the region's persistent double-digit unemployment rate.
The interim Belgian government of Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt is being sworn in after it was appointed by the king in a midnight ceremony.
The five-party government ends a record political stalemate which started after the June 10 elections and was highlighted by political acrimony that revealed how differently Dutch-speaking and Francophone Belgians see the future of their bilingual nation.
The interim government will be in office for three months to tackle urgent economic issues neglected during a six-month political crisis over linguistic differences.
Belgian political parties have struck a deal for a coalition government under Christian Democrat Yves Leterme, who will take the reins of government on Thursday.
Mr Leterme announced the deal this morning, which should finally bring to an end a nine-month political crisis that came close to splitting the country in half.
Agreement on a political programme followed a night of negotiations between two Dutch-speaking Flemish parties and three francophone parties, allowing a permanent coalition government to be set up with an agreed agenda.