Mr Di Rupo: "A solution within our grasp"

Elio Di Rupo, the Francophone socialist leader, entrusted with the task of preparing the formation of a new Federal Government, has given clarification of the political situation following King Albert's refusal to relieve him of this task.

The Francophone socialist leader asked to be relieved of his task after two Flemish parties, the Flemish nationalist N-VA and the Christian democrat CD&V, rejected his latest proposals.

Mr Di Rupo insisted that an agreement was in reach if everybody was reasonable. He added "the discussions have never gone this far."

The Francophone socialist leader said that the future of our country now hung in the balance. He pointed to the transfer of powers to the regions and communities that would allow them to take decisions over a further 15 billions worth of euros.

He spoke of the many weeks that had been spent negotiating state reforms and the issue of Brussels Halle Vilvoorde and insisted that the proposal that he made on Saturday would solve this issue as well as the funding of Brussels. "This is a proposal that provides a balance between territorial issues and the need to respect human rights" he said. He also noted that a solution for the funding of Brussels was necessary for the viability of the city.

He voiced surprise: He had understood that this was a matter that needed to be addressed urgently, while other issues like funding mechanisms for the regions and communities are now blocking progress.

Mr Di Rupo spoke of the need to restore sound government finances and accomplish savings worth 25 billion euros and the urgency imposed by the financial markets.

The talks broke down on Flemish nationalist concern about the willingness to reform the finance law that sets out the mechanisms under which the regions and communities are funded. Mr Di Rupo returned to his proposal for a panel of seven experts to formulate proposals to suggest new funding models that could be tested. He noted that it was his hope that this panel could set to work as soon as possible.

Mr Di Rupo warned that no single party could impose its view, but added that a balanced compromise belonged to the realm of the possible.

"We've always been constructive"

In a first reaction acting Flemish Christian democrat leader Wouter Beke has insisted that his party has always been constructive in the negotiations and he rejects Mr Di Rupo's jibe about the urgency of solving the Brussels Halle Vilvoorde controversy. The Flemish Christian democrats are now awaiting new proposals from Mr Di Rupo.

Mr Beke also rejected any thought of one party imposing its opinion mentioned by Mr Di Rupo. He told reporters: "We want to be responsible and this is why we raised the issue of the finance law and the funding mechanisms of the regions and communities. We need the guarantees necessary for the country's stability and sound government finances.

Flemish nationalist leaders preferred not to comment following their meeting on Monday morning.