Flemish Christian democrats: "Changes needed to essential points"

The leader of the Flemish Christian democrat party Wouter Beke has announced that his party is prepared to continue the political talks on the basis of the document drawn up by Royal Mediator Johan Vande Lanotte, but only if changes are made to "essential points".

Mr Beke told a news conference in Brussels that changes would have to be made to the framework in which the talks would proceed on essential points. He underlined that several points that the party had raised repeatedly in the past months had not been addressed. The Flemish Christian democrats now intend to brief the Royal Mediator on the points that need to be changed and prefer not to communicate further about their grievances in the media.

Mr Beke noted that Mr Vande Lanotte's document formed a good basis for further discussions with the seven parties, but insisted that essential changes would be necessary.

The Flemish Christian democrat leader's words are being interpreted as a "No" to further discussions unless the Royal Mediator's document is changed and have plunged the efforts to reach a deal on state reforms and the government formation process into a new crisis.

The leadership of the Flemish Christian democrat party met all afternoon to evaluate Mr Vande Lanotte's proposals. In the course of the afternoon it became clear that the party was not entirely happy with the document that can still be amended, though room for manoeuvre is not great. Christian democrat lawmakers told VRT News that they felt that several chapters needed expansion including the ones on the transfer to the language communities of public health policy and the splitting of the Brussels Halle Vilvoorde Constituency.

Seven parties, the Flemish nationalists and the Flemish and Francophone Christian democrats, socialists and greens have been asked to respond to the state reform proposals drawn up by Royal Mediator Johan Vande Lanotte (Flemish socialist). The Flemish Greens and socialists earlier indicated that they were willing to continue the political talks on the basis of Mr Vande Lanotte's document. A response from the Flemish nationalists and the Francophone socialists is expected in the course of Wednesday evening. A deal on state reforms is seen as a first step towards the formation of a new Federal Government. Belgium went to the polls on 13 June last year and is still without a new government.

CD&V leader clarifies position on Thursday

Flemish Christian democrat leader Wouter Beke on Thursday insisted that Royal Mediator Vande Lanotte should continue his efforts to broker a deal on state reforms. Mr Beke's intervention came after political commentators interpreted the party's stand as a "No, but".

Mr Beke told VRT News: "I have never said that Mr Vande Lanotte should throw in the towel." He continued: "We want more work to be done on the discussion text so that it is ready for negotiations. When I see the remarks made by Francophone parties you can hardly interpret their stand as a 'yes'".

Mr Beke conceded that his party had prior knowledge of the position of the Flemish nationalists and that this influenced his party's position.