"Walloon politicians don't understand us"

Karel De Gucht, the Belgian on the European Commission, has given a candid interview about the Belgian political stalemate.

Mr De Gucht says that a lack of understanding between the two main linguistic groups is the cause of the political impasse: "I believe that Francophone politicians are still failing to grasp what is happening in Flanders."

"For all Flemish parties it's self-evident that there is a linkage between issues like a solution for the controversial issue of the Brussels Halle Vilvoorde Constituency (BHV) and the future funding of Brussels, the other regions and the communities. Francophone politicians interpret the linkage as if the Flemish are saying 'We don't believe you'".

Mr De Gucht also notes that the lack of understanding is mutual: "The Flemish have difficulty judging Walloon sensibilities. We have insufficient insight into the conditions there, what is important."

The European Commissioner thinks that Francophone politicians always believed that Flemish parties would pay a high price for a solution for BHV and would easily grant an extra 500 million euros for Brussels. He adds: "This is an incorrect appreciation of the situation. Flemings think that funding, BHV and making the regions financially accountable for their decisions should be linked."

Mr De Gucht counters the belief that protracted negotiations create greater understanding: "In the beginning trust grows, but this then starts to decrease again and after two and a half months you don't have anything to say to each other."

"Fatigue makes you make mistakes. It's like going on holiday. The first two days everything is fine. After a while little things start to irritate you and in the end you are locked into a room with stale air."

Mr De Gucht does believe agreement can be reached if there is a will and basic trust."