Tuesday

26th Mar 2019

Belgian officials play down crisis, as caretaker PM opts to go

  • Leterme is currently putting together Belgium's 2012 budget and is unlikely to leave before the end of the year (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

Contacts in the office of outgoing Belgian leader Yves Leterme have played down the importance of his decision to leave the post in terms of Belgium's financial and political stability.

A leak that caretaker Belgian prime minister Leterme aims to take up a new job as deputy secretary general of the OECD, the Paris-based club of industrialised countries, broke in the EU capital at a tricky moment late on Tuesday (13 September).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Talks to create a new coalition after a record-breaking 458 days with no government broke down again the same evening, creating an atmosphere of crisis.

The left wing francophone Belgian politician, Elio Di Rupo, in charge of the negotiations, said in a written statement there is a "profound blockage" on issues such as language rights in Brussels districts and financial autonomy for the rich, Flemish-speaking north of the country.

He called for a "final" attempt to overcome divisions at an emergency meeting on Wednesday. "This is about the future of our country," he said. The Belgian king also cut short his holidays in the south of France.

For their part, Leterme officials told this website the caretaker leader is unlikely to go until the end of the year and is currently at work on Belgium's 2012 budget with a view to finalising the spending package for the mid-October EU summit on joint economic governance.

"He's not abandoning the country - it would be wrong to say that. He simply has a fantastic opportunity at international level," his spokesman Jerome Hardy said. He noted that Leterme will at the OECD take care of socio-economic policy, such as healthcare and pensions. "You could see it as a kind of validation of Belgian policies, of our anti-crisis measures in these last few years," he added.

The Leterme team expects moderate GDP growth next year, a government spending deficit below the EU benchmark 3% level and a GDP-to-debt ratio below 100%.

Meanwhile, a royal decree authorising parliament and caretaker authorities to do whatever is necessary to safeguard the stability of the country means there is "never a vacuum" at the top in Belgium, another source in the caretaker government said.

The contact pointed to the fact Belgian MPs also on Tuesday ratified an EU deal on the second Greek bailout and a new-model crisis-relief fund, the EFSF, by a whopping majority as a sign that Belgium is fully functional despite the mess in the coalition talks.

"We are only the second eurozone country to do this after France," the source said. "Look at the markets - during the past several months the Belgian political situation has never been mentioned [by ratings agencies and analysts] as an issue. People talk about Spain, about Berlusconi. But according to the markets, we are a non-issue."

Belgium hits world record for lack of government

Belgium on Thursday 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.

Opinion

Italy and Belgium - eurozone's overlooked Achilles' heel

The markets have so far overlooked the problems faced by Belgium and Italy, which to some extent are even worse than those of the PIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain), but the situation may soon flip,Andy Langenkamp writes.

Centre-right EPP faces showdown with Orban

The EU's largest political alliance, the EPP, will try to put the 'Orban issue' behind it going into the European election campaign. Hungary's ruling party, Fidesz, could be expelled or suspended from the political family.

EU countries push for new rule of law surveillance

Germany and Belgium have put forward a proposal for a "peer review" of EU countries' legal systems as member states and EU institutions struggle with disciplining member states that break EU rules.

Orban hosts Weber in Budapest for EPP showdown

The future of the Viktor Orban's Fidesz party inside the European Parliament's centre-right EPP political group hangs in the balance. On Tuesday, Orban and EPP chief Manfred Weber meet in Budapest in a final effort to iron out differences.

News in Brief

  1. EU tables plan for joint approach to 5G security
  2. MEPs agree to scrap summer time clock changes by 2021
  3. European Parliament votes on reform of copyright
  4. New French-German parliament meets for first time
  5. EU parliament reduces polling ahead of elections
  6. UK parliament votes to take control of Brexit process
  7. EU publishes no-deal Brexit contingency plans
  8. EU urges Israel and Gaza to re-establish calm

Opinion

Catalan independence trial is widening Spain's divides

What is really needed is not the theatre of a rebellion trial, but a forensic examination of whether public funds were misused, and a process of dialogue and negotiation on how the Catalan peoples' right to self-determination can be satisfied.

Orban hosts Weber in Budapest for EPP showdown

The future of the Viktor Orban's Fidesz party inside the European Parliament's centre-right EPP political group hangs in the balance. On Tuesday, Orban and EPP chief Manfred Weber meet in Budapest in a final effort to iron out differences.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. EU lawmakers pass contentious copyright law
  2. France takes Chinese billions despite EU concerns
  3. Europe before the elections - heading back to the past?
  4. Romania presidency shatters EU line on Jerusalem
  5. The Spitzen process - a coup that was never accepted
  6. Russia and money laundering in Europe
  7. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  8. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us