Friday

26th Apr 2019

Belgium government difficulties could endanger EU treaty ratification

With Belgium still struggling to form a new government, fears are growing that the country will not be able to ratify the EU's Lisbon treaty in December, stalling the overall ratification process.

On 19 October in Lisbon, the 27 EU member states agreed to formally sign the new European treaty on 13 December and put it up for ratification next year, aiming for it to come into place in early 2009.

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

But five months down the line since its election, Belgium still does not have a government and a quick solution remains unlikely.

While the negotiating parties have succeeded in concluding several partial agreements – on justice and immigration for example – an overall agreement still hangs in the balance.

Legal experts now fear that if Belgium fails to have a new government by 13 December, the outgoing government, normally only charged with 'current affairs', will not have the powers to sign the document.

"The concept of "current affairs" concerns a category of non-written legal rules, constitutional habits; and it is accepted that in general it covers three situations," legal experts Carine Doutrelepont and Pascal Lefèvre wrote in Belgian daily Le Soir.

These three situations are the day-by-day decisions of average or little importance, more important decisions that are the result of commitments made earlier, and urgent matters which need to be regulated immediately to avoid serious damage to the common good.

According to the experts, putting a signature to the Lisbon treaty is unlikely to fall in any of these three categories, although it could be argued that a signature only implies finishing a process begun much earlier.

"It would not be the first time that the conclusion of an international treaty is deferred," the experts warned.

It was agreed by member states that the treaty would be ratified at the latest by 1 January 2009, but any delay of the signing moment could mean that the treaty would come into force later than planned.

On Monday (5 November), Belgium matched its previous record for government-forming negotiations. The longest period was 148 days in 1988.

Flemish parties are demanding more power for the regions, a course of action that is vehemently opposed by the French-speaking parties, who fear a gradual break-up of the country.

Belgium still struggling to form government

Three months on from elections, Belgium is still struggling to form a new government, as Flemish and French-speaking parties remain at odds about the need for far-reaching state reforms – including the highly sensitive issue of devolution.

EU agrees new 'Lisbon Treaty'

The European Union overnight agreed the precise text of its new 'Lisbon Treaty' to be formally signed off on 13 December in Portugal's capital. The decision effectively closes a painful chapter of searching for a new set of EU rules to make the bloc better function.

Belgium breaks own government formation record

Belgium has set a new national record for the longest period without a new government as parties are still trying to bridge their opposing views on state reforms five months after elections. In the meantime, Flemish parties have given their French-speaking counterparts an ultimatum.

News in Brief

  1. EU: Russian citizenship plan 'attacks' Ukraine sovereignty
  2. Deutsche Bank hands over Trump loan documents
  3. UN: Europe is badly prepared for new refugee crisis
  4. Macron to set out 'Yellow vest' counter measures
  5. Italy requests EU action plan for new Libya migrant wave
  6. Far-right party leaders meet in Prague
  7. Priest shames politicians at reporter's funeral in Belfast
  8. Putin offers Russian citizenship to Ukraine regions

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. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Greens commit to air quality 'super commissioner'
  2. Far-right Facebook networks removed before Spain election
  3. EU and Japan in delicate trade talks
  4. Closer EU-Caribbean ties mean greater prosperity for all
  5. Details of EU Brexit talks with Blair and Soros kept secret
  6. Weber vows to block Nord Stream 2 amid 'sue' threat
  7. 'Next Juncker' must fix EU's corporate power problem
  8. EU want Facebook pan-EU advert fix for May elections

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us