BDW: “Independence is a long-term goal”

The leader of Belgium's largest political party, Flemish nationalist Bart De Wever, has said that a new general election is the only real Plan B. Mr De Wever was speaking after VRT's flagship current affairs programme Panorama quizzed eleven academics about the feasibility of splitting up the country of Belgium.

The Plan A is a deal on a new federal government with the seven parties already involved in the talks. Mr De Wever added that his party platform only envisages Flemish independence as a long-term goal.

The Flemish nationalist leader remains pessimistic about the chances of success for the present talks.

After the eleven academics were quizzed party leaders crossed swords. Mr De Wever did not take part. He told radio listeners this morning that given the state of the negotiations this would not have been a good idea.

The Flemish nationalist leader said that the academics had calculated the price of splitting the country, but had failed to do the same sum for a situation in which Belgium continues in existence.

Mr De Wever conceded that splitting the country would lead to difficult negotiations especially on the national debt, but added that the question should be asked why the national debt was so high.

He stressed that he only possessed a Plan A and that Flemish independence was a long-term objective, the end of an evolution that required many gradual steps: "Our objective now is a 6th substantial state reform package."

On Tuesday evening the Royal Mediator, Flemish socialist supremo Johan Vande Lanotte, will put a compromise deal to the seven parties involved in the talks. Mr De Wever: "I agree with him when he says that this is the most difficult task of his entire career. He faces the challenge of removing the elements that Francophones object to, but at the same time ensuring that there is enough in the accord to allow us to say yes."

Letting go of Brussels?

Flemish nationalist leader Bart De Wever says that if Francophones refuse to budge from the status quo future talks will become very unpredictable: "Nobody has a ready answer for Brussels." Mr De Wever conceded that the Belgian capital formed the biggest stumbling block.

He favours a condominium that would give the region autonomy, but also allow Flemings and Francophones to have a say. Brussels should remain a shared territory: "I predict that the way Brussels is viewed on both sides of the divide will change in coming years. There are two sides to the city. Brussels as EU capital with international bodies, but also the city itself with a population that is changing fast and a dynamic of its own. We will never let go of Brussels in respect of the former, but, even though I regret it, distance is growing with respect to the latter."