Flanders won't pay for a federal accord

The Flemish Prime Minister, Kris Peeters (Flemish Christian democrat), has said that a flagrant violation of the Flemish government agreement will not be tolerated in order to secure a deal for a new Federal Government. Mr Peeters was speaking on VRT Radio at the start of the new political season.

Commentators suggest that Mr Peeters did not slam the door on allowing a few small Flemish concessions. The Flemish Prime Minister has to reconcile two positions: his Flemish Christian democrat party is eager to reach an accord on a federal government agreement, but at the same time he is the guardian of the existing Flemish government agreement.

In matters relating to the Flemish budget Mr Peeters remains intransigent: Flanders will not channel any surpluses to federal treasury coffers. The Flemish Premier is in close contact with his party's leader and chief negotiator Wouter Beke: "I don't need to pile on the pressure. Mr Beke knows what is in the Flemish government accord. He is right to insist on a deal on state reforms first. This will take the sting out of the negotiations."

Concessions to Francophones in order to secure a splitting of the Brussels Halle Vilvoorde Constituency (BHV) could conflict with the Flemish government accord, e.g. a final say for the Council of State over the appointment of mayors in municipalities where French-speakers enjoy special rights. "A solution on one level may not lead to problems on another level. Any agreement will have to meet the broad outlines of the Flemish government accord. No flagrant violation of this accord will be permitted."

Mr Peeters was keen to note that the Flemish budget is a balanced one: "If all Belgian authorities were in a similar situation we would be in a better situation. We are building up reserves in case the tide turns. It would be unwise to transfer these reserves to federal coffers. We would not be doing Belgium plc. a service."

The Flemish leader added that his administration was prepared to discuss several issues including the pensions of Flemish civil servants. Flanders could shoulder this burden if Brussels and Wallonia do the same." The Flemish Government is also prepared to make an effort in fields like urban policy and healthcare.

Mr Peeters remains an optimist. He cites the words he heard from the mouth of South Africa's Archbishop Desmond Tutu: "We are all hostages of hope."

Mr Peeters added: "I hope a period of normal politics in which we can also discuss other matters will now dawn."