Thursday

1st Dec 2022

Belgium ends two-year government crisis with fresh PM

  • New Belgian PMAlexander De Croo spoke at the European Parliament building in Brussels, in order to allow Belgian MPs to social distance (Photo: Alexander De Croo/Twitter)

Many Belgians plus those living and working in the country breathed a sigh of relief on Thursday (1 October), as after two years of government crisis the country finally announced a new government, with full powers.

The new prime minister, Alexander De Croo, a 44 year-old Flemish liberal, presented the government programme in a speech in the European Parliament in Brussels.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

This unusual location was chosen so that the 150 Belgian MPs could meet in plenary with the necessary social distancing.

Earlier on Thursday the new ministers - from a total of seven different parties - swore their oath before King Philip at the royal palace.

Eleven of the 21 ministers and secretaries of state are women. Three of them have a non-Belgian background.

The cabinet will have four years to execute the new government programme, which much focussed on the corona crisis and it economic and social fall-out.

According to De Croo "this government is starting during the largest crisis our country has ever known in peacetime. Larger than the financial and economic crisis of 2008/2009 and even larger than the Great Depression."

"This government will do whatever it takes to defeat this crisis", he said.

He also said that the new Belgian government will follow "a very European course". According to De Croo the battle of the European Parliament for more power proves that "democratic rights are never a given".

'Vivaldi' coalition

The new government is dubbed a "Vivaldi coalition", as it reflects parties with the colours of the four seasons: red for socialist, blue for the liberals, green for the greens and orange for the Christian Democrats.

As the federal Belgian government needs half of its ministers to be Flemish and half Francophone, a parliamentary majority needed to be found with parties from both sides of the language border.

In this case, only the Flemish Christian Democrats (CD&V) are part of the government, while the other political families participate with both a Flemish and Francophone party: Francophone and Flemish socialists (PS and SP.A), Francophone and Flemish liberals (MR and Open VLD) and Francophone and Flemish greens (Ecolo and Groen).

Thus the opposition will consist of the Flemish nationalist NVA, the Flemish extreme-right Vlaams Belang, the Francophone and Flemish communists (PTB and PVDA), the Francophone Christian Democrats (CDh) and the mainly Brussels-based Francophone Défi.

The fragmentation of the election result is the main reason why only now, 16 months after the election, politicians have been able to form a government.

In fact, the government of prime minister Charles Michel - now president of the European Council - broke down in December 2018, six months before the election, over opposition to it signing the UN migration pact.

The Flemish nationalist NVA refused to agree to the Belgian signature under the pact.

With the other parties claiming that everyone in the government agreed on the signing, it would have been inappropriate to withdraw it. As a result, NVA left the government, which remained in power despite having lost its parliamentary majority.

When Michel started his new post as president of the European Council, Sophie Wilmès became prime minister.

She received a majority in parliament to fight the coronavirus crisis until 1 October.

After several failed attempts at forming a new government, the new one under De Croo found an agreement just in time. He promised that this government would work better together and show unity.

Already doubts over Belgium's new 'anti-corona government'

Belgium's King Philippe has given interim prime minister Sophie Wilmès the task of forming a government, after seven opposition parties agreed to support it. The agreement came after a political drama - and there are doubts if it will hold.

Analysis

Is Belgium heading for new elections?

Belgian coalition talks have hit a wall nine months after elections, posing the possibility of a new vote, which risks making the country even harder to govern.

Swedish EU presidency: 'Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine'

Ukraine and a looming economic recession is set to dominate the upcoming Swedish EU presidency, which takes over at the start of next year. Sweden's ambassador to the EU, Lars Danielsson, laid out some of its priorities.

French official accused of conflict over EU fish lobby job

A senior French official is being accused of conflicts of interest for spearheading a leading role in Europeche, a fishing-industry lobby group based in Brussels. The hire comes as the EU Commission threatens a lawsuit against France over fishing.

Catalan spyware victims demand justice

Victims of the widening spyware scandal in Spain are demanding justice and reparations, following the revelations that journalists, lawyers, civil society and politicians had been targeted.

Investigation

EU lawmakers under pressure to act on 90,000 asbestos deaths

The EU Commission has watered-down a broad political initiative —but now governments of member states hold the key to what the EU should do. Some member states and regions have adopted asbestos strategies of some kind, from Poland to Flanders.

News in Brief

  1. 'Pro-Kremlin group' in EU Parliament cyberattack
  2. Ukraine will decide on any peace talks, Borrell says
  3. Germany blocks sale of chip factory to Chinese subsidiary
  4. Strikes and protests over cost-of-living grip Greece, Belgium
  5. Liberal MEPs want Musk quizzed in parliament
  6. Bulgarian policeman shot dead at Turkish border
  7. 89 people allowed to disembark in Italy, aid group says
  8. UN chief tells world: Cooperate on climate or perish

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos

Latest News

  1. EU Commission proposes suspending billions to Hungary
  2. EU: Russian assets to be returned in case of peace treaty
  3. Frontex leadership candidates grilled by MEPs
  4. Portugal was poised to scrap 'Golden Visas' - why didn't it?
  5. Why the EU asbestos directive revision ... needs revising
  6. Nato renews membership vow to Ukraine
  7. Catalan spyware victims demand justice
  8. Is the overwhelming critique of Qatar hypocritical?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  2. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  4. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  6. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us