What's going to happen next?

That is the question on the lips of everybody who takes politics seriously after federal government parties voted differently on the UN's Global Compact on Migration in a select committee of the Belgian parliament on Wednesday.

On Thursday the Chamber of Representatives will discuss the compact and yet another vote will be held.  Once parliament has approved the compact - most opposition parties are in favour too - PM Michel will be able to go to next Monday's meeting in Marrakech, but the governing Flemish nationalists that oppose the compact say he can't commit Belgium to the compact in the name of the government.

On Wednesday the foreign affairs select committee approved the compact to which a separate interpretation text explaining how Belgian judges must interpret the text has been added. The governing Francophone and Flemish liberals and Flemish Christian democrats got the document passed with votes from opposition MPs. The debate in the parliamentary chamber is supposed to start at 2:15 PM on Thursday. A similar scenario is expected this afternoon.  All eyes will be on the PM and his declaration.

Earlier Mr Michel noted that he would communicate the stand of the Belgian parliament in Marrakech and not that of the federal government because of the Flemish nationalist opposition.  Constitutional experts are divided on whether he can do this.  Prof Jan Wauters (international law Leuven) says the leaders present will adopt a position as heads of government.  Prof Stefan Sottiaux (constitutional law Leuven) notes that only the government can take a decision on international treaties not parliament:  “Either the composition of the government needs to be changed or he can't do it!"

Flemish nationalist floor leader Peter De Roover concedes that Mr Michel may travel to Marrakech, but only to adopt a position in the name of parliament.  He must also communicate to parliament that he won't be speaking in the government's name. The Flemish nationalist N-VA is looking for a compromise in time for yet another meeting, that of the UN general assembly in New York on 19 December.  N-VA leader Bart De Wever says his party doesn't want a crisis, but remains vehemently opposed to the compact.  Some commentators suggest that the fall of the government has simply been postponed.

Flemish nationalist leader  Bart De Wever has also attacked European migration policies and what he calls Angela Merkel's “welcome culture”.  Mr  De Wever told the press agency Belga that his party, Belgium's biggest, wanted the EU to act on its earlier decision to take care of migrants in their own regions and to ditch Europe's open borders policies.  He added that his party would never translate its dissatisfaction into resentment towards migrants: "We stand for strict but humane policies.  This is why we can't accept the UN Global Compact on Migration".