Belgian government in place by October, election winner promises EU
Belgium is to have a government by October, one of its leading politicians said on Wednesday, pledging that the country's incoming presidency of the European Union would not be wholly steered by a caretaker administration, DPA reported.
Dutch-speaking nationalist leader Bart De Wever, leader of the N-VA, the largest party to emerge from a June 13 snap election, is leading talks to find a workable government coalition.
"We have the ambition to form a government before October," he said after meeting European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in Brussels.
"I have reassured Mr Barroso that the transition towards a new government in this country will not undermine the effectiveness of Belgium's presidency of the European Union," De Wever stressed.
Belgium is to take up the six-month chair of the EU from Spain on July 1. In the past, to assume the post with only a caretaker government would have been a major embarrassment.
But reforms introduced late last year by the Lisbon treaty have left a full-time president, fellow Belgian Herman Van Rompuy, in charge of EU summits, the highest decision-making body in the bloc.
Ministers from Yves Leterme's outgoing Belgian administration would only be tasked with presiding over EU ministerial meetings over technical subjects such as agriculture, transport and justice.
"I have already spoken to Mr Leterme ... and he reassured me that the presidency had been very well prepared and that there would be no difficulties in the next months," De Wever said.
Coalition talks in Belgium are made difficult by conflicts between parties representing Dutch-speaking Flanders in the wealthy North and those representing French-speaking Wallonia in the poorer South.
De Wever's party wants to reign in public spending and pushes for more Flemish autonomy, leading to eventual independence, while winners in Wallonia - the Socialists - are staunch defenders of Belgium's unity and want to raise welfare payments.
After the last elections, in 2007, it took the country nine months to form a government, which then fell within a further nine months.