Francophones give compromise text the thumbs down

All the French-speaking parties have made it clear that they do not accept Bart De Wever's proposals on a state reform as a basis to continue the negotiations, calling the text biased and unbalanced. The Flemish parties regret the rejection and say that there is no other option than to continue. The continuing stalemate deepens the profound political crisis in Belgium.

Bart De Wever, the leader of the Flemish nationalists of N-VA (small photo), sent his compromise text on a state reform to the 7 parties involved in the discussions on Sunday. The document contains a whole range of concrete proposals. The French-speaking parties had until noon today to react, but already rejected the text yesterday evening.

The Francophone socialists of the PS, the biggest political player in the south of the country, were the first to give the proposals the thumbs down, around 7 p.m. on Sunday (photo on top: Elio Di Rupo). Mr Di Rupo's party says that the text compromises the balance between Flemings and French speakers, and calls some elements "provocative."

The main stumbling block for the PS concerns the new funding mechanisms Mr De Wever is proposing. According to the PS, the new financing laws (with more financial autonomy for the regions, red) would pose a threat to the development and the welfare of both Wallonia and Brussels. The federal government would not be able to guarantee the solidarity between all Belgians in the long run, the PS adds. The party also finds the proposals concerning Brussels insufficient.

In a statement issued this afternoon, the PS said that it is strongly opposed to new elections, and that the only option is to continue the talks. At a press conference, Elio Di Rupo lashed out at the  compromise text, expressing his "deep disappointment". "The text is a frontal attack against the federal state and the Francophones. It is as if they are not counting. However, in the interest of the citizens of this country, we have to persist."

"The beginning of the end for Belgium"

The other two Francophone parties at the table, the CDH (Christian democrats) and the greens (Ecolo), also rejected the compromise text yesterday evening.

The CDH of Joëlle Milquet (small photo) says that Mr De Wever's  document expresses a "unilateral point of view" and argues that the text is not bringing the different players closer together. The CDH calls for new and better proposals. It's time for "real negotiations" soon in order to reach a "balanced" accord.

The Francophone greens calls the text "unbalanced". The proposals harm the interests of the Walloon and Brussels residents.

The Francophone liberals, who are not taking part in the negotiations, also had a negative response. Louis Michel of the MR claims that the document is paving the way for the end of Belgium, with a poorer Brussels and Wallonia."

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