Wednesday

27th Mar 2019

535 days later: Belgium close to government deal

  • Di Rupo (c) is set to represent Belgium at the EU summit next week (Photo: fotospresidencia5)

The longest government formation in the history of democracy came to an end Wednesday evening (30 November) when Belgium’s politicians agreed the last details of an accord that will guide them for the remaining two-and-a-half years of their mandate.

A whole 535 days after citizens cast their votes in June 2010, the negotiators left the building with smiles on their faces but declined to comment with a final reading of the 185-page deal due Thursday.

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“There is agreement about everything,” a text message read sent by one negotiator, reports financial daily De Tijd.

A new government is expected to be sworn in on Monday, after the six parties at the table - including socialists, liberals, and christian-democrats from both the French and Dutch-speaking regions - have consulted their members over the weekend.

Officially, it is not sure yet who will be prime minister. The different dossiers are expected to be distributed on Sunday evening. But there is little doubt that it will be Elio Di Rupo, leader of the Francophone Socialist Party, who will represent Belgium at the summit of European leaders next week.

A half-orphan of poor immigrant Italian workers, his story was dubbed “the American dream in Belgium” by a fellow government negotiator this week.

He will be the country’s second Francophone prime minister since 1974 and the world’s second openly gay holder of the highest office (after Johanna Sigurdardottir became prime minister of Iceland in 2009).

Markets, meanwhile, seem soothed. The yield on Belgian government bonds continues to drop from a dangerous 6% to a more sustainable 5% following a budget agreement at the beginning of the week.

EU economic affairs commissioner Olli Rehn on Wednesday re-iterated his contentment with the agreement at the meeting of EU ministers of finance on Wednesday.

“We welcome the budget agreement that will bring back Belgium’s deficit back to 2.8 percent,” he said.

Di Rupo had planned to meet Rehn on Wednesday, but canceled due to lack of time. He did, however, meet French presidential hopeful and fellow Socialist Francois Hollande.

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