Thursday

17th Jan 2019

Deal reached on centre-right government in Belgium

  • The final push was made in a marathon meeting, starting on Monday 6 October at 14:30, and ending on Tuesday at 19:00. (Photo: Cloudywind)

Political negotiators in Belgium reached an agreement for a centre-right coalition government Tuesday (7 October), 135 days after general elections.

Compared to the previous government formation, negotiators got there quickly. The previous grand coalition government of prime minister Elio di Rupo was the result of a formation period of 541 days, a world record.

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Following the results of the federal elections of 25 May, which was held on the same day as the European Parliament elections, experts expected another lengthy formation period.

But with 135 days, the Belgian negotiators moved relatively swiftly.

The final push was made in a marathon meeting, starting on Monday 6 October at 14:30, and ending on Tuesday at 19:00.

Shortly after that, the two lead negotiators announced a coalition agreement. “After 29 hours of negotiating, we are very happy to have succeeded”, said Kris Peeters, who until recently was the Flemish prime minister.

The other lead negotiator, the French-speaking liberal Charles Michel, will be prime minister.

“It is a strong agreement, with a strong political will to introduce important social-economic reforms”, Michel said.

One of those reforms is to increase the pension age from 65 to 66 in 2025 and to 67 in 2030.

This means that 38-year-old Michel will have to work two years of his life longer than his father, Louis Michel, member of the European Parliament for the liberal group and former European commissioner.

Charles Michel will be the youngest prime minister Belgium has ever had and it is the second time that a French-speaking liberal will lead the country. Michel will not be the youngest government leader of the EU - that honour falls on prime minister Taavi Rõivas of Estonia (35).

The coalition government consists of four parties: three Flemish and one French-speaking party.

In addition to Peeters' Flemish christian-democrats and Michel's French-speaking liberals, it also includes the Flemish liberals and the N-VA.

It is the first time that the Flemish pro-devolution party N-VA holds power in a federal government in Belgium. The party, which came out of the elections as the biggest party in Belgium, is known for its wish for more independence for Flanders.

N-VA leader Bart De Wever told Flemish state tv on Tuesday evening that he is “satisfied” with the agreement. “Three Flemish parties and one French-speaking, we have never seen a coalition like that. My expectations are high”, said De Wever.

The negotiators will read all the documents again on Wednesday for a final check. There also needs to be an agreement on who else will take up posts in the new government.

Belgian government under fire in its first week

In his first week Belgian prime minister, Charles Michel has had to condemn collaboration with the Nazis in WWII following controversy over two of his cabinet members.

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