NICOLAS MAETERLINCK

Still no agreement on new Flemish coalition

Talks on the formation of a new Flemish Government adjourned without agreement late on Friday evening. The negotiators says that they require a little more time before agreement on a new coalition can be signed and sealed. Money appears to be the main sticking point. There will be further talks during the weekend. 

Over the past few days negotiators from the Flemish nationalists, Christian democrats and liberals have been working flat out in an effort to reach an agreement for the formation of a new Flemish Government. However, the negotiations were adjourned at around 11pm on Friday without an agreement having been reached.

VRT News’ Pieterjan De Smet says that although the negotiations have reached agreement on the broad framework of plans and priorities for the next Flemish Government, agreement still needs to be reached on the financial and budgetary side of things.

Despite no agreement having yet been reached, the atmosphere is described as being “constructive”. 

It’s all about the money

The main issue at still at play is when exactly the Flemish Government should produce a balanced budget again. Currently, the Flemish budget has a deficit of around 500 million euro.

Meanwhile, all three parties involved in the negotiations have put forward proposals that they want to see realised during this legislature. All of these proposals come at a financial cost to the Flemish exchequer. 

The proposals include

·        Lower inheritance tax

·        A tax break for people in work that earn the lowest incomes.

·        The abolition of mortgage tax relief and the reduction of the property registration tax. The Brussels-Capital Region induced similar measures three years ago.

·        A number of roadwork projects.

VRT News’ political editor Bart Verhulst says that agreement has been reached between the parties that the measures should be introduced. However, there is still no agreement on how far they should go (e.g. in the reduction of registration tax) and how quickly the measures should be brought in.

The central question remains how quickly the parties around the negotiation table when the Flemish budget to be balanced again: ASAP or not until the end of the legislature in 2024?

Only an agreement once agreement has been reached on everything

Meanwhile, agreement has been reached on a raft of measures that have no direct budgetary impact. These include the nationalists’ demand that integration courses should no longer be offered free-off charge and making it more difficult for those that have not yet made a contribution to benefit from the Flemish social security system.

The liberals’ want community service for the long-term unemployed.

Meanwhile, the Christian democrats wish not to abolish the provinces or force municipalities to merge has been agreed on with the other parties.  

How long?

Although technical discussions are being held it is unlikely that a coalition agreement will come to fruition today. Further talks are planned for Sunday.