Still no accord on BHV

It’s looking less and less likely that an agreement will be reached on the conditions for the partition of the Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde constituency by question time in the Federal Parliament on Thursday afternoon. The Royal Mediator and former Belgian Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene (Flemish Christian democrat) has presented a series of proposals that would form the basis for partition to representatives of the parties of the federal government and the Flemish and Francophone greens.

On Tuesday, Mr Dehaene announced that he had fulfilled the task given to him and that it was up to the party chairmen to reach an accord.

However, Mr Dehaene added that he is prepared to help in any way he can.

Ahead of Wednesday morning’s meeting of the Federal Inner Cabinet, the Francophone liberal Chairman Didier Reynders (Photo) told journalists that Thursday afternoon’s deadline was no longer realistic. "The party chairmen have only sat round the table twice during the past couple of months.”

"I’ve only just met one of the people I’ll be negotiating with for the first time.”

Mr Reynders also hopes to ensure a place around the negotiating table for the chairman of the radical Francophone party FDF Olivier Maingain. FDF forms part of Mr Reynders Mouvement Reformateur (MR).

"We need real negotiations between all parties.”

Mr Reynders added that “There is no balance around the table.”

“I’ve seen a lot of Flemish Christian democrats”.

Last week, the Flemish liberal Chairman Alexander De Croo (photo) said that there would be “a serious problem” within the Federal Government if an agreement were not reached by plenary meeting of the Chamber of Representatives on Thursday afternoon.

However, Mr Reynders believes that a clear indication that there is a genuine will to reach an agreement will be enough to keep the Flemish liberals on board.

Onkelinx and Milquet more optimistic

The Francophone socialists and Christian democrats are generally more optimistic about the negotiations.

Deputy Prime Minister Laurette Onkelinx (Francophone socialist) told journalists that she still believes an accord can be reached.

Ms Onkelinx added that the most important thing is that it can be shown that progress is being made.

Meanwhile, the Francophone Christian democrat chairwoman Joëlle Milquet says that while it’s a shame that Mr Dehaene has handed over the reigns, the negotiations are making progress.

None of the Flemish parties taking part in the negotiations would comment.

What is BHV?

Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde is a constituency for the federal and European elections.

It is unique in that it contains not only the 19 officially bi-lingual municipalities of Greater Brussels, but also 35 Flemish municipalities, 7 of which give special language facilities to Francophones.

At present, those living in officially monolingual municipalities in Flemish Brabant are able to not only vote for Flemish candidates, but also big name Francophone politicians from Brussels.

As such, the Halle-Vilvoorde area is the only place in Belgium where candidates from another region can be voted for.

Since 2002, parliamentary constituencies have coincided with provincial boundaries in all provinces except Flemish Brabant, where the west of the province forms part of Brussel-Halle-Vilvoorde, while the Leuven constituency covers the east of the province.

Legal action was taken to end this discrepancy.

The Constitutional Court gave politicians until 24 June 2007 to resolve the issue.

Any federal elections that would take place after this date would not be valid.