"Flanders should play a bigger role in Europe", Flemish PM says

On the eve of 11 July, the Flemish public holiday, Kris Peeters (Christian democrat) is pressing for a better representation of the regions in the European Union, including Flanders. The Flemish nationalist leader Bart De Wever of N-VA voiced criticism of both the federal and the Flemish government.

The regions should have a bigger say at the European level, Mr Peeters claims. "More and more important decisions are being taken at the European level. The Belgian agreeent about the representation of the regions was made in 1994 and should be reconsidered", the Flemish PM adds.

Mr Peeters gives the example of transport, economy or the budget. At present, Belgium is represented by a federal minister who doesn't have any power in the area, Mr Peeters argues.

It's the department of Foreign Policies that should decide about possible changes, but according to Mr Peeters the Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders (Francophone liberal), who should schedule a meeting first, refuses to get things moving by scheduling. Mr Reynders sees no reason to take action. "When I look at other member states in Europe, I notice that they have no specific regional representation either." Mr Peeters' request didn't go down too well with Mr Reynders: "If Mr Peeters wants to take the place of (federal PM) Elio Di Rupo at the next summit and talk to Angela Merkel, why not", Mr Reynders said sarcastically. "I think he has other problems to solve in his Flemish government first."

In the long run, Mr Reynders does not exclude any changes. However, if Flanders wants to be at the European table in certain matters, the regions will have to make a financial contribution to the European dotation, but according to Mr Peeters "this can be arranged."

Bart De Wever: "Too many rules, too many levels of administration"

Also on the eve of the Flemish holiday, N-VA leader Bart De Wever lashed out at the federal and Flemish governments in The Warande in Brussels. His sharp words directed at the Flemish government are remarkable, as contrary to the federal level, the N-VA is part of the ruling Flemish coalition.

Mr De Wever told his audience that not only the Belgian, but also the Flemish administration is too big. There are also too many different rules and regulations, which make things too complex, particularly for Flemish entrepreneurs and people starting up their own business.

Entrepreneurship in Flanders has known better times, and the present situation "with a complex spider web of rules" is not doing this any good. It stands in the way of "the free initiative and the development of the Flemings" Mr De Wever said.

"This is not something to be solved by giving speeches", Mr Peeters reacted. He sees no reason to be negative or to have heavy criticism on 11 July: "The team is taking the decisions that have to be taken. However, sometimes the perception is wrong. I fight against this every day."