Belgian parties reach first reform deal since polls

Belgium's political parties finally agreed Monday on new reforms, setting aside key differences that have prevented them from forming a government almost nine months after general elections.

Belgian parties reach first reform deal since polls
'At last there is an agreement for our country,' said the leader of the French-speaking Socialists, Elio Di Rupo, after a 'wiseman's group' from the main parties hammered out an accord overnight on a first raft of reforms.

Dutch-speaking parties-who represent around 60 percent of Belgium's 10.5 million population-also welcomed the deal, even though the reforms fall short of the powers they have been seeking for the Flanders region.

Belgium's next likely prime minister, Dutch-speaker Yves Leterme, said he saw in the compromise package a 'broad spectrum' of the demands that he had been making.

The issue of 'institutional reform'-essentially the devolution of powers to the regions-goes to the heart of the kingdom's political woes, which came to a head following the failure to form a government after elections last June.

Belgium's francophones-living mainly in the poorer southern region of Wallonia and the officially bilingual Brussels capital region-fear that a big loss of federal power could lead to the break-up of the country.

There is also a small German-speaking minority.

The reform agreement would see the handover of relatively minor federal powers like control over rental legislation, child minding, and a say in where large commercial enterprises may build.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 25 Şubat 2008, 18:19