The European debt crisis has now recorded a positive result it has effectively ended Belgium’s governmental crisis that had lasted 541 days. Since the last elections Belgium has not been able to form a government that requires in effect a dual coalition not only between right and left but also between Dutch-speaking Flanders and French-speaking Wallonia.
Now the Francophone Socialist leader Elio Di Rupo who ascended from abject poverty to a doctorate in chemistry and leadership of the French left in Wallonia becomes the first prime minister from the region since 1974 and the first native francophone since 1979.
The recent downgrade in Belgium’s credit rating and a financial predicament aggravated by the need to prop up the Dexxia bank helped goad the politicians into forming a government.
Another factor was the decision of the N-V-A the new Flanders alliance, that is seeking outright independence, to stay out helped end the talks. The Alliance was the largest vote-getter in Flanders and perhaps the other Flemish parties welcomed a chance to hang them out to dry in the opposition.
The EU, headquartered in Belgium, welcomed the formation of a government and announced that it will review the proposed budget although Di Rupo announced that next year’s budget will have a deficit of 2.8 percent of GDP, thus falling under the 3% EU target.
Perhaps the fact that he is from the left will help Di Rupo steer the austerity measures through. Wallonia is the poorer region and has traditionally needed more welfare payments. The Dutch speaking region was prepared to cough up money in return for increased autonomy.
While the formation of the Di Rupo is good news for Belgium it does not presage good relations with Israel. Jehudi Kinar, Israel’s former ambassador to Belgium, stated in an interview with Manfred Gerstenfeld that surveyed the Belgian political elite’s attitude towards Israel, that he was particularly troubled by di Rupo and the Wallonia Socialists.
“After the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit in 2006, Di Rupo came out with a press release claiming Israel used this as a pretext to start a war against Lebanon. The embassy responded by pointing out that the PS had never condemned the rocket attacks from Gazaon the citizens of Sderot. Di Rupo referred to this in the summer university, an annual political gathering of the party, where he declared that he would continue his political line toward Israel ‘despite the arrogant letter from the Israeli ambassador.’ That letters of the Israeli ambassador did not deserve a response was a trademark of the PS.”
In 2009 Di Rupo hinted that Israeli leaders should be put on trial for Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. ” “What the Israeli government is doing in cold blood – killing innocent people, killing women and children – is totally unacceptable and I think that what happened in some parts of the world, I mean some people were dragged before international courts, should happen to those men and women who are responsible for what is being done [in Gaza]. There is nothing that can justify killing civilians. Nothing can justify killing children, women … people like you and me. (…) I believe that one day or another they will be brought to justice. “
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