The Belgian government has effectively collapsed.
The Flemish liberal party has pulled out of Yves Leterme’s coalition causing a political crisis just weeks before Belgium is due to take over the six-month EU presidency.
After holding an emergency Cabinet meeting Leterme tendered his government’s resignation
to King Albert who has not yet decided whether to accept it.
The liberal Open VLD party says it has lost faith in the government because it has failed to resolve a dispute between French and Dutch speaking parties over electoral boundaries around the capital.
The row centres on special rights which apply to French speakers in the Brussels Halle-Vilvorde suburbs where around 100,000 French speakers live.
The Liberals want the government to table a proposal to break-up Brussels and Halle-Vilvorde and put it to a parliamentary vote.
President of the Flemish Liberal Open VLD party Alexander de Croo said: “By withdrawing our confidence and asking for the proposal to break-up the BHV I want to impose maximum pressure and force everyone to accept their responsibilities in order to reach a definitive solution over the BHV issue.”
Flemish run communities on the outskirts of the capital have been trying to dissuade French speakers from moving in, largely by demanding they speak Dutch, enforcing stringent housing rules and seeking to suppress special voting rights.
Talks broke down without a deal prompting the Liberals to walk-out paralysing political activity..
A vote on banning the Islamic veil, has had to be postponed indefinitely until the political deadlock has been resolved.
Belgium will take over the six-month EU presidency in July, a role that allows member states to help drive policy. That role would be undermined if Belgium has a caretaker government or worse, no government at all.