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Belgium forms a government after 16-month deadlock

The new Belgian government, led by Alexander De Croo of the Open Flemish Liberals and Democrats, or Open VLD, has taken the oath of office at the royal palace in Brussels, 494 days after the latest federal elections.

The government has been formed as a coalition of seven parties, with the new Council of Ministers including a Deputy Prime Minister from each party, as well as Prime Minister De Croo.

The coalition comprises the centre-right Open VLD, Christian Democratic and Flemish (CD&V) and Reformist Movement (MR) parties, the centre-left Socialist Party (PS) and Socialist Party Differently (sp.a) as well as the left-leaning environmentalist parties Groen and Ecolo.

Parties not represented in the new government include the nationalist New Flemish Alliance party, which got the largest share of the vote in 2019 with 16%. Similarly, the far-right Vlaams Belang party, which received 12% of votes cast, is also not represented.

The formation of this new government marks the end of a long period of political uncertainty in Belgium, which began in December 2018 with the collapse of Charles Michel’s Government over his decision to support the UN Migration Pact.

The resulting election, which took place on the 26th May 2019, began the nearly 500 days of negotiations from which the current government has emerged.

Since the elections Belgium has been under the stewardship of a caretaker government led first by Charles Michel and later by Sophie Wilmés, who led Belgium through six months of the COVID-19 crisis and has taken the role of Foreign Minister in the new government.

The final round of negotiations lasted almost 24 hours and were led by De Croo and socialist Paul Magnette.

The coalition found agreement on a common budget which includes €3.3 billion for new policies as well as €1 billion for investments and a further €1 billion for temporary measures.

A COVID-19 commissioner will also be appointed to manage the health crisis in Belgium, which has one of the world’s highest per capita death rates and a death toll that recently passed 10,000.

Additionally, two new government ministers will be appointed to begin preparations for potential state and governmental reform after 2024, which could bring about significant changes to how Belgium is run and where powers lie.

Speaking at a press conference on the 30th September De Croo said that “what seemed impossible, what took so long, too long to happen, is a fact: the federal government is formed”.

De Croo also paid tribute to his socialist co-formateur Paul Magnette, who expressed his “deep relief” at the end of “a too deep crisis which damaged the confidence of our citizens”.

13/10/2020

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Ted Tuthill-Jones


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