Progress, but still no agreement

Despite talking into the early hours, the seven parties involved in the talks that would form the basis for the formation of a new federal coalition have failed to reach an agreement. Although progress has been made, there are still a number of sticking points.

It had meant to be the moment of truth for Preformateur Elio Di Rupo (Francophone socialist) and the negotiators from the Flemish and Francophone greens and socialists, the Flemish Christian democrats and the Flemish nationalists.

It was hoped that an agreement could be reached on the form and magnitude of devolution of powers from the Federal Government to the regions and language communities.

Although Mr Di Rupo tried to force a breakthrough during last night’s talks, the negotiations ended without agreement at around 3am.

No accord has yet been reached, but some progress has been made.

Furthermore, the atmosphere at the talks is reported to be good.

This has fuelled optimism that an agreement could be reached if not today, by the end of the week.

Mr Di Rupo was all smiles when he left the offices of the Federal Climate Minister Paul Magnette (Francophone socialist) where the talks were held.

Concessions on health

The Francophone parties are reported to have made concessions on the devolution of certain powers related to health policy.

Rules governing the construction of and quality control at hospitals would be devolved.

Powers over a total budget of 15.8 billion Euros would be devolved to the regions and language communities.

Empowerment is the key

The Flemish Christian democrats and Flemish nationalists believe that although the regions and language communities would have more money to spend, the levers of power would still remain in the hands of the Federal Government.

The parties believe that Flanders needs to be able to implement policies that are beneficial to the specific needs of the Flemish people.

Furthermore, the regions and language communities must be able to be held responsible for poor governance.

However, the Francophone parties, especially the Christian democrats, fear that this could pose a threat to inter-regional solidarity.

Nevertheless, an accord in principle has been reached on regional empowerment in the fields of health care and employment policy.

It’s now a question of what this will mean in practice.

Brussels is a major sticking point

As ever the question of Brussels is a major sticking point in the negotiations between the Flemish and Francophone parties.

The Francophone parties are demanding extra cash for our bi-lingual capital.

However, the Flemings are only prepared to consider this if certain powers such as those over the municipal social services councils and the six local police zones are transferred to the either Greater Brussels Region or the two language communities.

The Francophones are reluctant to curtail the powers of the nineteen municipalities in Brussels as all the Mayors and the vast majority of Aldermen there are Francophone.

An accord also still needs to be reached on the partition of the Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde constituency.