Saturday, March 1, 2008

Belgium's political parties struggle to overcome differences

The Belgian government crisis has gained a little breathing space. Prime Minister-elect Yves Leterme has left hospital two weeks after being admitted for stomach problems but he still faces political problems within his own party,the Flemish Christian Democrats, if major reforms are not adopted by July. He says he'll rest three or four days as the doctors advised. From Monday he hopes to apply himself totally to the welfare of the country and its citizens.

The political situation in Belgium remains tense despite an agreement last Monday between Dutch-speaking Flemings and French-speaking Walloons on modest reforms in the country's federal institutions.

The president of Leterme's Flemish party, Etienne Schouppe warns progress must be made: "Monsieur Leterme and the members of the government know very well that in mid-July they have to submit a draft law that should be accepted. If it's not accepted that would automatically have as a consequence the fall of the government."

Last Monday a so-called "wise men" council reached a deal that tries to bridge a gulf between Flemish parties that demand more power for the Dutch-speaking Flanders region and French-speaking parties that had resisted any change.

The question remains: will it work?

Source: EuropeNews.

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