Flemish nationalist Theo Francken wants federal coalition talks with the Francophone socialists

The former Federal Secretary of state responsible for asylum and migration Theo Francken (Flemish nationalist) has told VRT radio that he hopes that his party can enter into negotiation with the Francophone socialists about the formation of a new federal government. Mr Francken says that a basis for a compromise between the two parties could be stricter rules on migration in exchange for improved social provision such as a higher minimum pension. 

However, talking to the PS about turning Belgium into a confederal state in which the regions would decide what they still wished to do together with a minimal amount of power remaining at a national (Belgian) level won’t be easy. “You can only regret this, but you have to play with the hand you have been dealt”, Mr Francken told VRT Radio 1’s morning news and current affairs programme ‘De ochtend’.  

On Wednesday of last week Mr Franck gave a speech for a largely Francophone audience of Brussels entrepreneurs at the exclusive Cercle de Lorraine club in Ukkel (Brussels). It was there that he mentioned his idea of a “social contract” for the first time. This would involve tightening up the rules on migration in exchange for which the nationalist could make concessions on social policy by for example raising the level of the minimum state pension.  

Mr Francken believes that this could provide the basis fora n accord between his party and the Franccophone socialists.   

Mr Francken believes that newcomers must first contribute before being allowed to benefit from the social security system. At the same time he says that he is also prepared to listen to those that complain that (some) pensions are too low. “If you are at the negotiating table with the Francophone socialists you can’t ignore this issue”, Mr Francken said.  

What about confederalism?

Negotiating with the Francophone socialists will mean that the N-VA will have to ditch its demand for Belgium to become a confederal state. The Francophone socialists’ aversion to confederalism and the fact that a Flemish nationalist-socialist-liberal coalition would not have the two-thirds majority necessary to change the constitution mean that it is unlikely that Mr Francken and his party colleagues would be able to get confederalism passed anyway. He says that he is prepared to put the idea on ice for the next few years at least.  

“I am for Flemish independence and confederalism. This would work well, although it would cause some commotion. However, with the Francophone socialist there isn’t a two-thirds majority and there are extremist parties. They have become big, but aren’t really involved. You can think that it is regrettable, but you have to play with the hand that you have been dealt”.  

Mr Francken believes that his party should at least make serious efforts to see if it is possible to reach a coalition agreement. “If this fails we can at least say that we tried and we will be able to look the votes straight in the eye”.