Egbert Lachaert (Open VLD) started his press conference with "a message of hope", saying he had some "good news" to bring, as he can pursue his efforts. He referred to the fact Belgium has probably never been closer to having a new federal government since the elections in May 2019, almost 18 months ago. "The standstill has taken long enough: we need to move forward."
Mr Lachaert had just met King Filip, at 2 o'clock in the afternoon, to report on his efforts to bring the Flemish and Francophone socialists, greens, liberals and Christian democrats together to work out a joint programme (bottom picture).
He received the go-ahead from the king to continue the talks, though it will be without the Francophone Christian democrats of CDH. The so-called Vivaldi coalition talks will thus include seven parties: SP.A, PS, Groen, Ecolo, Open VLD, MR and CD&V.
Trust and respect for each other are key to bridge the gaps
Egbert Lachaert and youngster Connor Rousseau will steer the talks: there are still a number of issues to be solved, such as the closure of the old nuclear plants in Belgium (to give renewable energy a push in the back), abortion, the big budget deficit and a tax on rich people.
However, at his press conference, Mr Lachaert underlined the importance of "trust and respect" between the different parties to bridge the different gaps. So far, so good, but the most difficult talks are still to come.
The emphasis will be on "a strong social security system, a well-performing economy and labour market, an ambitious climate policy, a transparent tax system, an efficient judicial system and police force, and a credible budget plan." Lachaert was talking of a 10-year plan, while in fact the next federal elections are scheduled for 2024.
Who will lead the country?
Why didn't King Filip appoint a formateur yet? If he would have done this, he or she would automatically have become the new PM, and it is still not sure who this could be. Instead, the king opted for 'preformateurs' and for two people. "This is to be able to continue the negotiations in all tranquility", Lachaert explained. It should become clear during the talks who could become the new Premier. Normally, it should be the leader of the biggest coalition party (Paul Magnette of the PS) but Belgium just had two Francophone PM's.