De Wever Offers Concessions to End Belgian Political Stalemate

Belgium’s N-VA party leader Bart De Wever, the top vote-getter in elections four months ago, offered concessions for more regional tax powers in a proposal to break the political deadlock in the linguistically divided nation.

De Wever, 39, offered as much as 350 million euros ($489 million) of additional funds for the Brussels capital district and said French speakers in six Flemish municipalities outside Brussels would retain their rights. The Flemish nationalist party leader maintained his demand to transfer almost half of personal-income-tax revenue to the country’s regions from federal coffers.

“Amendments are open for discussion, but whoever touches the fundamentals of this text, risks making the whole house of cards collapse,” De Wever told reporters at a briefing in the Senate in Brussels today. Charged by King Albert II with a 10-day mission that ends tomorrow, De Wever repeated that he expects an answer from all potential coalition partners by noon tomorrow before a scheduled meeting with the monarch.

If the French-speaking parties accept De Wever’s 48-page document, it will serve as a blueprint for a sixth overhaul of Belgium’s governing structure and lead to the start of formal government talks, including a trajectory of spending cuts to balance Belgium’s budget by 2015. A rejection would deepen the political stalemate, and likely lead to new elections.

To hold Belgian 10-year bonds, investors demanded a yield 82 basis points higher than that of German sovereign debt of similar maturity on Oct. 15, up from 79 basis points before the June 13 election. The extra yield, a measure of the risk of investing in Belgium, compares with 375 basis points for Ireland and 162 basis points for Spain.

‘Increasing the Tensions’

De Wever’s proposals, “some of which are provocative, risk increasing the tensions between Flemish and French speakers,” Elio Di Rupo’s French-speaking socialist party said in an e-mailed statement. “The proposed financing mechanisms will strangle the development of Wallonia and Brussels.”

Flanders has progressively gained more authority in five constitutional revamps over four decades, as its growing wealth has surpassed the older industries that concentrated power in the southern French-speaking region for more than a century after Belgium’s founding in 1830.

About 14 percent of Belgians want to split the country, according to a La Libre Belgique poll published on Sept. 7. The majority, 57 percent, called for the quick formation of a government, and 12 percent wanted new elections.

Both the French-speaking humanists and ecologists called on De Wever to return to the negotiating table to reach a balanced agreement, Belga news agency reported, citing party statements.

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