“It’s up to Di Rupo to take the initiative”

The Flemish Prime Minister Kris Peeters (Christian democrat, top photo) has said that he wants the federal Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo (Francophone socialist, bottom photo) to hold consultative talks with the regions about the implications for them of the federal government’s devolution plans.

Speaking on the VRT’s Sunday magazine programme ‘De zevende dag’, Mr Peeters said “It’s important that there is clarity”. The Flemish Prime Minister was reflecting on a week that has seen confusion and a lack of communication about the scrapping of mortgage tax relief from 2014.

From then, any form of fiscal stimulus for home-owners will come from the regions rather than the federal state.

Mr Peeters went on to reassure Flemish home-owners and potential home-buyers that they won’t lose out, as Flanders will continue to offer financial incentives to stimulate home-ownership.

Mr Peeters went on to reassure Flemish home-owners and potential buyers that they won’t lose out, as Flanders will continue to offer financial incentives to stimulate home-ownership.

However, it is still not clear what housing policy the Flemish government will pursue post 2014.

A report on the issue is expected to be published before 15 February. Mr Peeters says that the example of mortgage tax relief shows that consultative talks between the federal and regional governments are badly needed.

"We need to make clear arrangements for the transitional period. It’s now up to the federal Prime Minister to take the initiative with the Prime Ministers of the regions.”
Mr Peeters also said that he wants the pace of state reform to be upped.

The Flemish PM added that the special committee made up of the six governing parties and the greens that is to work out a plan for implementing the reforms should not wait until March before holding its first meeting.

"Informal talks on Friday"

The Federal Prime Minister’s office has responded with surprise to Mr Peeters’ comments.

The Mr Di Rupo's Francophone spokesman Guillaume de Walque wrote on Twitter that “The Prime Minister had a meeting with the 4 regional and language-community Prime Ministers about state reform on Friday at 1pm.”

Mr De Walque's Dutch-speaking colleague Thomas Mels explained that the talks were informal and that Mr Di Rupo “understands” Mr Peeters' desire for official inter-governmental contacts to start.