Lutgen says "non" to De Wever's proposals

The leader of the Francophone Christian democrats Benoît Lutgen has rejected the proposals contained in a framework document to start talks on the formation of a new federal government that was drafted by the Federal "informateur" Bart De Wever (Flemish nationalists). Mr Lutgen says that there is insufficient trust between the parties for him to accept Mr De Wever's proposals.

The refusal of the Francophone Christian democrats to accept Mr De Wever's proposals as a basis for talks is all the more surprising as the Flemish nationalist leader avoided the more controversial points contained in his own party's manifesto such as limited the amount of time a job-seeker is entitled to unemployment benefit.

Furthermore, the document contained nothing about the further devolution of powers away from Belgium's central government to the regions and language communities.

Nevertheless, this failed to convince Mr Lutgen. He told journalists that there is more than one way to skin a goose and that decision taken in policy areas such as social security could be deliberately much more beneficial to one region than to another.

He also points to the first point in the Flemish nationalist party's statutes that states that the party strives for Flemish independence.

Mr Lutgen concluded that although certain points pertaining to socio-economic policy in the document were "interesting", the issue of the automatic index-linking of salaries and loyalty to federal Belgium were still issues that raised doubts for him and his party.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Francophone liberal party MR had said that Mr De Wever's document formed an acceptable basis to move on to the drafting of coalition agreement on socio-economic issues.

"MR wants a stable, solid government to take office so that we can tackle the many issues that confront our country", the Francophone liberal party wrote in a press statement.

MR adds that its priorities are a series of socio-economic reforms that will create employment, increase purchasing power and secure the future of our social security system.

The Flemish Christian democrats have also said that they believe that Mr De Wever's document can form the basis for talks on the formation of a new federal government.

Mr De Wever says that he will make no further comment until he has met with King Filip at the Royal Palace on Wednesday.