Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

IN THE PAPERS

Coverage of the third plane crash in one week - from France, Algeria and Burkina Faso

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Coverage of the plane crash that took 116 lives - almost half of them French

Read more

DEBATE

Gaza: A Truce At All Costs?

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Central African Republic: Brazzaville ceasefire talks deliver fragile deal

Read more

FOCUS

Sluggish tourist season in Crimea

Read more

ENCORE!

Bartabas : Mixing Christ with Spanish music and dancing horses

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Shifts in the propaganda war waged between Israelis and Palestinians

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

French MPs face quandary in pro-Palestinian rallies

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

Yezid Sayigh, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut

Read more

  • Live: ‘No survivors’ from Algerian plane crash, says Hollande

    Read more

  • French families grieve for Algerian plane crash victims

    Read more

  • Protest against Gaza offensive turns deadly in West Bank

    Read more

  • Deadly strike on UN shelter in Gaza Strip

    Read more

  • Wreckage of Algeria plane found in Mali

    Read more

  • BNP to pay $80 million for defrauding Dept of Agriculture

    Read more

  • Pope meets Christian woman sentenced to death in Sudan

    Read more

  • Air Algérie crash: 'We should eliminate the missile hypothesis'

    Read more

  • Italy’s Nibali cruises to victory in 18th stage of Tour de France

    Read more

  • Iraqi parliament elects moderate Kurd as president

    Read more

  • US, European agencies lift travel restrictions to Tel Aviv

    Read more

  • No end to fighting until Israel ends Gaza blockade, Hamas says

    Read more

  • Two foreign women shot dead in western Afghanistan

    Read more

Europe

Breakthrough in Belgian political crisis

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-09-15

After 459 days without a government, Belgium’s political factions appear to have made a breakthrough in talks late Wednesday, amid warnings from ratings agencies the country could face a downgrade if it slips deeper into crisis.

AFP - The politician tasked with negotiating with Belgium's main political parties to resolve the country's long-running political crisis announced a breakthrough in talks late Wednesday.

The eight parties locked in the talks had made a "first decisive step" towards a way out of the crisis that has left the country without a government for well over a year, socialist leader Elio Di Rupo said.

"The eight parties have together succeeded in overcoming the obstacles which have created difficulties these last few days," Di Rupo said in a statement issued after a day of tense negotiations.

Eurozone member Belgium, without a government for 459 days as its French- and Dutch-speaking components squabble, is under notice from ratings agencies of a possible downgrade should it slip deeper into crisis.

The country's political problems intensified late Tuesday when caretaker premier Yves Leterme announced he would step down to run for a senior job at the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

In response, King Albert II, who has played a lead role in 15 months of efforts to strike a deal between Belgium's two feuding language communities, cut short his vacation in southern France and headed home.

The king had appointed Di Rupo, leader of the country's second major party, the French-speaking Socialists, to negotiate a consensus deal as a platform for a governing coalition.

Hours after Leterme said he was quitting, Di Rupo warned in a pre-dawn statement Wednesday that his four-month drive to find a government for Belgium looked to be heading for breakdown.

But after reporting later that the talks were in "deep blockage" following more than 15 hours of talks, he was finally able to announce a breakthrough.

Among other issues, the parties had managed to settle their differences over Bruxelles-Hal-Vilvorde, or BHV, a district covering the capital and the suburbs, said the statement from Di Rupo.

BHV is the only district in Belgium that is officially bilingual rather than French- or Dutch-speaking.

"Even if the work is far from being finished and numerous debates have to be worked out, the steps taken today ... constitute an important step," said the statement.

The country was left in the hands of a caretaker cabinet after June 10, 2010 elections failed to produce a workable governing coalition.

Divisions between northern Dutch-speaking separatists and southern French-speakers proved insurmountable.

The long impasse has underlined the widening gulf between the wealthier 6.2 million people of Flanders and the 4.5 million French-speakers of struggling Wallonia.

Di Rupo has been trying to draft an agreement to devolve more powers to the country's three language regions -- Dutch, French and German.

Eight parties are involved in the talks but not the largest party in Flanders, the separatist New Flemish Alliance (N-VA).

Albert II warned in July that the continuing deadlock, which has seen Belgium have the dubious record of being the world's longest country without a government, threatened both its economic future and Europe as a whole.

"If this situation lasts much longer, it could negatively and concretely affect the economic and social well-being of every Belgian," said the sovereign, who ascended to the throne in 1993.

"Our current situation is a cause for concern among our partners and could damage our position in Europe, and even the momentum towards European integration which has already been undermined by populism and euroscepticism," he said.

A founding member of the European Union, Belgium was long considered an example of integration in Europe. It plays host to pre-eminent global organisations such as NATO and the EU.
 

Date created : 2011-09-15

  • BELGIUM

    Belgian parties say ready to form government

    Read more

  • BELGIUM

    Socialist leader makes last-ditch effort to save split nation

    Read more

  • BELGIUM

    Day of celebration and shame as Belgium’s deadlock breaks record

    Read more

COMMENT(S)