450 days after the election there's still no government in Belgium

Belgium hit a new milestone today — 450 days without a government — but still no one appears to be in any big hurry to resolve the situation.

Europe's financial crisis and feeble economic growth may scare governments from the Arctic Circle to the Mediterranean Sea, but in Belgium it is a sideshow. Talks on a new Belgian government, which have been going on since the 13 June, 2010 election, were at a standstill today for a third day running.



Why? Because Green Party negotiator Jean-Michel Javaux — also the mayor of Amay, a small eastern town — had to attend a town meeting to vote on, among other things, a new police car and a computer.



Prime Minister Yves Leterme, meanwhile, was on a visit yesterday to Israel, assuring its leaders that all's well in Belgium.



But that's not really true — intractable divisions between Belgium's Dutch and French-speaking camps are looming over the nation. And because anything can become a linguistic spat, Belgium has had 45 governments in 67 years.



Francophone Socialist Elio di Rupo is the latest politician trying to form a new government — and he has had 10 predecessors since the 2010 election.



After 15 months of impasse, most Belgians seem resigned to Leterme's government of Christian Democrats, Liberals and Socialists staying on as a "caretaker" cabinet handling routine business.



But others are stirring. Last week, judges and prosecutors in Antwerp scolded politicians for their inaction at a conference in Belgium's second city.



"Political parties are leading us to the demise of our democracy," said Public Prosecutor Yves Liegeois.



Piet Van den Bon, a Labor Court justice, claimed that illegal immigrants were pocketing undeserved handouts — a situation that "feeds a growing sense of injustice. The population expects from a government, especially in times of crisis, a readiness to act."



Just three underground stops from Brussels' idle government complex, the headquarters of the European Union watches Belgium with unease but says publicly it retains "full confidence" in the nation's ability to enact finance reforms.



However, already a 10 September deadline for government negotiators to set a draft budget for 2012 has slipped to 30 September.



Rooted in history and economic disparities, language spats have long dominated politics in this country of 6.6 million Dutch-speakers and 4.1 million Francophones. Everything — from political parties to broadcasters to boy scouts and voting ballots — comes in Dutch- and French-speaking versions.



Dutch-speaking Flanders, Belgium's northern half, and French-speaking Wallonia in the south already have achieved self-rule in the past 30 years in urban development, environment, agriculture, employment, energy, culture, sports and other areas.



Carving up Belgium is a cherished dream of many in Flanders but a nightmare for poorer Francophone Wallonia. Flanders has half the unemployment of Wallonia and a 25 per cent higher per capita income.



Some in Flanders are pushing for self-rule in justice, health and social security — but Walloon politicians fear that ending social security as a federal responsibility will be the end of the nation.



The most accute problem in the government talks is the fate of a bilingual Brussels-area voting district that spills into Dutch-speaking Flanders. It was ruled illegal by a court in 2003 as only the city of Brussels is officially bilingual.



Francophones oppose a breakup so as not to lose Francophone voters who have moved to Brussels' Dutch-speaking suburbs.



Watching the fray is Bart de Wever. His New Flemish Alliance party, the biggest winner in the 2010 vote, seeks an "orderly breakup" of Belgium and is watching with relish as the Socialist, Christian Democrat and Green parties founder in the government talks.



"The worse things are in those talks, the better it is for the New Flemish Alliance," he told the RTBf public broadcaster.

AP

News
i100
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
News
Two giraffes pictured on Garsfontein Road, Centurion, South Africa.
i100
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Financial Accountants, Cardiff, £250 p/day

£180 - £250 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Financial Accountants - Key Banking...

Regulatory Reporting-MI-Bank-Cardiff-£300/day

£200 - £500 per day + competitive: Orgtel: I am currently working on a large p...

Recruitment Consultant - Bristol - Computer Futures - £18-25k

£18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Computer Futures are currently...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Real Staffing - Leeds - £18k+

£18000 - £27000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Sales - Trainee Recruitment Co...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices