Belgium has been left scrambling for political leadership, in the wake of the Fortis affair.
The botched attempt to bail out the troubled finance group has ended in debacle. The appeal court ruling to halt the Fortis sale has thrown the government’s rescue plans into disarray. The shareholders who brought the action have seen their shares drop from almost 30 euros in April 2007 when Fortis launched its ill-fated bid for Dutch rival ABN Amro, to just over one euro now. The French bank BNP Paribas which was going to buy the Belgian Fortis operation for 11 billion euros has suffered a 30 per cent drop in share values. The Belgian Justice Minister Joe Vandeurzen has resigned over the alleged political meddling in the judiciary. He quit after a Supreme Court report into the conduct of Prime Minister Yves Leterme’s government. As the king of Belgium ponders his next move observers say he could refuse to accept the prime minister’s proferred resignation on the grounds that being without an administration would be dangerous during the current financial crisis. Yves Leterme came to power in March after nine months of deadlock over the extent that powers. should be devolved to Belgium’s regions – a key demand for Dutch speaking Flemish parties. The row reignited speculation the 178 year old country could break up.