Bart De Wever: "Perseverance, that's what it's about"

The president of the biggest political party in Flanders, Bart De Wever of the Flemish nationalists of N-VA, gave his New Year's speech in Mechelen yesterday. De Wever wants to reduce the Flemish and federal budget deficit further by 2019 through new cuts. That's the only way for him to safeguard our welfare system.

De Wever referred to the slogan used by the N-VA in the previous election campaign: "The power of change" (kracht van verandering). De Wever considers this as the motor for progress (vooruitgang). He told his audience in Mechelen he wants to add a third "V": "volharding" (perseverance, after verandering and vooruitgang).

"Perseverance, that's what it's about. We have to safeguard our welfare system, for ourselves, our children and grandchildren." It was De Wever's way of confirming his intentions to continue the austerity measures and cuts. He warned that people should be prepared for "measures that won't make you want to start a little dance". The N-VA is part of the ruling coalition on both the federal and Flemish level.

"Further cuts should target social security"

In an interview given to De Tijd, De Wever had revealed that "if we make further cuts, we should look at the social security system, the only area where we still have money for grabs." This could trigger another conflict with the N-VA's federal coalition partners, the centrist CD&V which is defending the "left" interests in a federal coalition which is leaning more to the right.

Austerity measures should not target the administration and government services this time, De Wever explained. In times of terror threats, we need the extra cash for the police, and the Justice and Defence Departments. "Not because we want to, but because it's one of the government's core businesses to guarantee the people's security."

De Wever also wants to generalise the system of flexible jobs which now applies to people earning a penny extra in pubs and restaurants (both the employee and the employer have to pay less tax under the system, which counters tax fraud). He also wants to relax regulations for night shifts in the hospitality sector and the e-commerce industry, and make it easier for employers to dismiss staff. Working a long time for a company should not necessarily lead to a higher wage.