Tuesday

24th May 2016

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).

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

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."

Ultra-right group wins seats in Cyprus

The National Popular Front (ELAM) on Sunday snatched two seats in Cyprus' 56-chamber parliament. The move marks a first for an ultra-right party. ELAM has close links to Greek neo-nazi Golden Dawn party.

News in Brief

  1. Technical witness tells EP diesel cheating not necessary
  2. Poland presents 'solutions' to constitutional crisis
  3. Greek bailout without IMF not an option, says Dijsselbloem
  4. Germany's Bayer makes offer to buy US giant Monsanto
  5. Greece evacuates Idomeni migrant camp
  6. Austria: far-right candidate defeated
  7. EU boosts Mediterranean naval campaign
  8. Greece to evacuate Idomeni migrant camp

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Swedish EnterprisesNew rules for posted workers - Better Protection or the End of Posting ?
  2. Innovators Under 35Meet MIT Technology Review's Innovators Under 35 Award Recipients from Belgium on 25 May, 6pm
  3. Open EuropeJoin the Brussels Brexit Debate on Wednesday, 25 May at 5:00 PM
  4. World VisionWhy The EU Needs to Put Children at the Centre of Emergencies - In Their Words
  5. ACCASustainability Reporting in Danger of Losing Its Momentum Says ACCA and CDSB
  6. CEDEC - Covenant of MayorsWebinar on 25 May - Electric Vehicles Development: The Role of Local Entities
  7. Dialogue PlatformDiversity as Heritage of Humanity! Join the “Colors of the World“ Show at the EP
  8. Centre Maurits CoppietersNew Responses to the Basque Peace Process? MEP Juaristi on Stateless Challenges Conference
  9. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceImproving Cardiovascular Health Begins by Closing the Gap in Sex Disparities
  10. IPHRBrussels Talks to Take Stock of Human Rights in Turkmenistan
  11. World VisionCash-based Programming to Address Hunger in South Sudan:
  12. Belgrade Security ForumOpen Call for Applications! Join the Events Team at the 6th Belgrade Security Forum.

Latest News

  1. Austria vote is wake-up call for EU left
  2. Poland vows solution to judicial crisis
  3. Terrorists likely stockpiling explosives in EU, says Europol
  4. EU navies to help Libya coastguard stop migrants
  5. Merkel casts doubt on Turkey visa-free travel
  6. EU and Poland in last minute talks on rule of law
  7. Tough challenges ahead for Austria's president
  8. Search for VW compensation larger in EU than in US