- Title: BELGIUM: Belgian coalition government negotiations suspended
- Date: 30th August 2007
- Summary: (SOUNDBITE) (French) VALENTINE GILBERT, BELGIAN FRENCH SPEAKER FROM BRUSSELS, SAYING: "They have to find an understanding because it's finally them who will govern Belgium and Belgium is not split as it seems, but looking at the government talks you would say Belgium is divided." CROWD IN THE MAIN SHOPPING STREET (SOUNDBITE) (Dutch) RIET BLANCQUAERT, BELGIAN FROM FLANDERS, SAYING: "I don't think that it means the end of Belgium, but I think the French speaking people have to give in and make a gesture towards the Flemish. We have been taking care of them for years and now it's time that we get something in return."
- Embargoed: 14th September 2007 13:00
- Location: Belgium
- Country: Belgium
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVAR7M91B166QFZ8BKUJA39Z12I
- Story Text: Negotiations on forming a new Belgian government are suspended after more than two months of coalition talks.
Negotiations in Belgium on the formation of a new coalition government have been suspended after more than two months of fruitless talks between Flemish and French-speaking parties.
Belgian Christian Democrat Yves Leterme resigned on Thursday (August 23) from the role of coalition negotiator after a collapse of talks among potential coalition partners more than two months after general elections.
Leterme was appointed by King Albert to form a coalition between Christian Democrats and liberals on both sides of the linguistic divide.
Christian Democrat Yves Leterme, leader of the CD&V-NVA party from Flanders, the northern Dutch-speaking region of Belgium, scooped the popular vote in the June election largely on a ticket of reform that would devolve more power to regional governments, something French-speakers opposed.
The Flemish parties want to have more control over finances for their relatively rich region of Flanders while French-speaking parties from economically weak Wallonia, the southern French-speaking region of Belgium, fear that this will result in less money for their region.
Luc Van der Kelen, the news editor of the newspaper "Het Laatste Nieuws", said Leterme didn't understand what was happening in the south.
The division between the Flemish and French political parties has hampered attempts to reform the economy, particularly the inflexible labour market. The leader of the Wallonian Christian Democrats, Joelle Milquet is accused by the Flemish parties of blocking the negotiations.
Van der Kelen said the Walloons fear because they are poor they will be abandoned. But he didn't think that would be the case although anything was possible, he said, "if everything goes wrong and the country collapses."
Flanders is one of the richest regions of Europe thanks to its economic dynamism since the 1960s. The region has many economic advantages like ports.
Wallonia has been affected by the decline of the coal and metal industries.
Unemployment is most significant there because of a lack economic investment in the region.
While newspapers in Belgium have been rife in the past few days with talk of the country breaking up, Belgians said they believed it was an unlikely scenario.
Diane Lietart from Wallonia said there was a lot of work to do "but the separation is not for today and it's not going to happen soon.
I don't think Belgian people are separatist."
Chris Focque from Flanders didn't think the Flemish want to go all the way to separation "but the French speaking people have to understand that the majority of the population wants a bit of change."
It is now up to King Albert to decide whether to name a new coalition negotiator or appoint a mediator to find a middle ground between Dutch and French-speaking parties in the linguistically divided country of more than 10 million.
Christian Democrat Yves Leterme is still likely to head Belgium's next government despite quitting as coalition builder after an impasse over his plans to reform the state, commentators said.
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