Wednesday

29th Jun 2022

Belgium hits world record for lack of government

  • In Brussels, streets are being named after the country's first interim government (Photo: EUobserver)

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — Belgium on Thursday (17 February) will mark 249 days of political deadlock, the current world record for a state to agree a new government. No deal appears likely to emerge anytime soon in the country which hosts the EU institutions, despite protests ranging from marches to no-sex boycotts.

Belgium equalled the world record held by Iraq, where divergences between the Sunni and Shia Muslim groups in 2010 were overcome after 249 days, leading to the formation of a government. But that perspective seems as far off as ever in Belgium where the king on Wednesday announced he is extending the mandate of his chief mediator by a further two weeks.

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

Inconclusive parliamentary elections on 13 June last year caused a stand-off between French and Dutch-speaking parties, with the latter pushing for greater devolution of powers and less common funding between the two parts of the country, prompting fears of a split.

The deadlock has exasperated Belgians, who staged various forms of protests - from street marches to calls on politicians' wives to withhold sex until a government is formed. In the French-speaking town of Louvain-la-Neuve, French fries are set to be handed out for free on Thursday, in 'celebration' of the new world record, while the Flemish in Ghent will feature 249 protesters "dressed down to the bare essentials."

Meanwhile, an online initiative called Camping 16 has gathered over 150,000 people in a virtual 'camp site' asking political parties to pay back the public money they have received since June last year. "After all, why should we pay all these people all this money while they're refusing to do the job we asked them to do?" the mission statement reads.

The deadlock and various protests is seen as entertaining by foreign diplomats. "What I find somewhat amusing about this, is that the whole world is riveted to countries primarily in the Middle East where people are in the streets demanding that their governments leave, while in Belgium, we have people in the streets saying 'Just give us a government'," US ambassador to the EU William Kennard told journalists on Wednesday.

The situation did not impede the Belgian caretaker government to have a "smooth EU presidency" last year, because "Belgians are very experienced diplomats and they've done it before," the US envoy said.

But the longer it takes to form a government, the more problematic it could get from an economic point of view, Mr Kennard fears.

The cost of Belgium's sovereign debt - almost equal to its annual economic output - has risen in recent months and credit rating agency Standard & Poor's has said it will downgrade Belgium if it fails to form a government by June.

The caretaker government has pledged to pass a 2011 budget with a deficit tighter than the 4.1 percent of GDP currently projected. Finance ministry officials have said the budget might come into force in March.

EU opens door to Ukraine in 'geopolitical' summit

EU leaders will also discuss eurozone issues with European Central Bank president Christine Lagarde, as more and more leaders are worried about voters' distress at soaring inflation.

Opinion

The euro — who's next?

Bulgaria's target date for joining the eurozone, 1 January 2024, seems elusive. The collapse of Kiril Petkov's government, likely fresh elections, with populists trying to score cheap points against the 'diktat of the eurocrats', might well delay accession.

News in Brief

  1. Bulgaria expels 70 alleged Russian spies
  2. EU Commission told to improve CAP data analytics
  3. Scotland pushes for second independence vote in 2023
  4. Climate groups: G7 leaders 'backsliding' on climate
  5. Ukraine diplomat urges German MEPs to reject EU taxonomy
  6. EU asylum requests were climbing before Ukraine war
  7. Public sector journalists protest Macron tax plan
  8. EU engine ban splits Germany's coalition

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  2. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  4. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022
  5. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBHow price increases affect construction workers
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic think tank examines influence of tech giants

Latest News

  1. EU presidency still looking for asylum relocation pledges
  2. Finland and Sweden to join Nato, as Erdoğan drops veto
  3. The euro — who's next?
  4. One rubicon after another
  5. Green crime-fighting boss urgently required, key MEP says
  6. G7 leaders want price cap on Russian oil
  7. Western public has 'moral' duty to Ukraine, Nato chief says
  8. Kiwis are my slavery — the hellish life of a Sikh labourer in Italy

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us