Don’t hold your breath…

But Belgium might actually achieve a government. After much drama, many false starts and almost two years…

Efforts to form a new Belgian government are back on track tonight after Francophone liberal leader Georges-Louis Bouchez agreed to the conditions set by preformateurs Egbert Lachaert (Flemish liberal) and Conner Rousseau (Flemish socialist) with regard to the texts that will form the basis of formal coalition talks.

The seven parties currently involved in preliminary negotiations to form a government have finally reached a broad agreement on a government programme. Now they just need to thrash out the details.

The current caretaker government has been given until 1st October which means that formateurs, Alexander De Croo and Paul Magnette have a week to get everything nailed down.

Ooh. It’s exciting!

Flexibly Confused

I’m not entirely sure about this:

A committee of coronavirus experts has come up with a plan to tighten or relax social contact rules in Belgium depending on the situation in a particular province.

Presently, the rules on how many people you can have in your social bubble are determined nationally. What the Celeval group of experts is proposing is that this approach should be determined locally, based on factors such as numbers of coronavirus hospitalisations in a given province.

Given that most of the cases at the moment are coming out of Brussels and Antwerp, there is some logic to allowing some variation between these and other regions. It does, however, take another step away from having a single, clear set of rules towards expecting people to navigate multiple, and not always clear sets of rules.

People don’t generally pay that much attention so complexity is often best avoided.

RTBF quotes an unidentified source pointing out that there are already colour code systems for education and travel. I’m not convinced that this is relevant, though.

In the case of education, for example, the rules can vary, but we are able to rely on the affected schools to let us know whenever something changes that we need to know about. I’m not convinced a provincial government would be able to send out such updates to everyone, even if they wanted to.

The National Security Council meets later today, so we will find out soon enough just how confusing things are set to become.

Workers discover WWII murals during school demolition

The primary school to which the twins go is undergoing renovations. These started in August and, when they are finished, the school will have two new two-story wings. While the school will retain its 110 year old facade, some of the buildings — and parts of buildings — are being demolished. During this demolition, workers discovered parts of murals painted during the second world war.

The murals are currently being documented — photos are being taken and students are being sent to the consulate to try and find the soldiers who painted them. A search for the original photos has also been started.

Councillors are now trying to decide what to do with the murals, but the aim is to find a place for them in the renovated school.

Not another one!

There’s another tropical spell coming up next week

Early next week, temperatures are expected to rise to 30 Celsius and more as we are heading towards another tropical spell, this time in autumn.

It’s September. We’re not supposed to have heatwaves in September!

Admittedly, 20 to 25 Celsius isn’t so bad for the weekend and does mean that I will get a lot more weeding done than I expected. And we can set the boys harvesting some of the pears that are looking ready to drop.

Thirty degrees, though, and on a Monday. That’s too much.

If I suddenly go quiet next week, it will be because I’ve melted.

Be careful what you wish for

I have mentioned before that Belgium has managed a record breaking streak of (now) more than 600 days without a government. After the last set of talks collapsed, Flemish Liberal leader, Egbert Lachaert became the 12th person to be given a go and things actually started looking up.

Lachaert had decided to revive the so-called Vivaldi Coalition Francophone and Flemish liberals, socialists and greens and the Flemish Christian-democrats CD&V. This option was proposed previously, and then abandoned because it excludes the Flemish Nationalists of the N-VA who happen to be the largest part in the country. This time around, though, with September 17th and the prospect of another election fast approaching, I’ve been seeing some quite positive noises.

Yesterday, however, COVID-19 put a spanner in the works.

Belgium’s protracted government formation has been dealt an unexpected blow after one of the royal appointees tasked with exploring options for a potential coalition tested positive for Covid-19.

Egbert Lachaert, president of the Flemish liberal Open VLD is set to go into self-isolation for 14 days after he tested positive for the virus on Tuesday, the party announced in a press release.

So Lachaert will still be in self-isolation when the current government’s special powers expire on 17th September, and I don’t see any of the parties showing much willingness to renew them. All is not lost yet, and Lachert is set to continue negotiations via videoconference along with Conner Russeau, the president of the Flemish socialist party. On the other hand, Belgium’s King Philippe and all party presidents will get tested for coronavirus, so we will have to wait and see where things go from here.

And then things get a bit mad with the news that nearly one in four Belgians are in favour of splitting the country and 56% of those questioned believe that it will not be possible to maintain a unified country in the future.

The fundamental problem is that Wallonia tends to vote centre-left and Flanders votes centre-right and is compounded by the fact that none of the francophone parties trust the Flemish nationalists of the N-VA. Splitting the country would address this, but The N-VA has only been around for about 20 years and there is no guarantee that they will be around for much longer. Especially if, as it appears, they are seen as the main cause of the current deadlock. So I wouldn’t assume that this type of deadlock will remain a permanent state of affairs.

And then there’s Brexit. Having seen the mess the UK has made of embarking on an ill-considered constitutional overhaul, I think that Belgium should be really careful about embarking on a similar course.

Round we go again

King appoints 12th person in latest attempt to form Belgian government

After the leaders to Belgium’s two largest parties gave up (unsurprisingly) on trying to form a coalition, the next person to have a go will be the Flemish Liberal leader, Egbert Lachaert.

The clock is ticking a bit, now, though:

By 17 September, however, the special powers granted by the parliament to the caretaker government of Sophie Wilmès will expire.

It’s always a bad idea to make predictions, but I’m guessing that new elections will soon be on the way. Watch this space.