European compromise and consensus are not working in Belgium. Its political parties are no closer to agreeing on a coalition government.
The latest mediator has quit, saying progress was impossible. Dutch-speaking parties want more powers for their northern region of Flanders. The French-speaking parties say ‘no, that would break the country up’.
Euronews asked customers at a restaurant in the Belgian capital for their views on how things stand, and the views differed.
One patron said: “The French-speakers may still be hooked on some vision of Belgium, while the Dutch-speakers are already one step ahead. We’re not talking about sharing the spoils, sharing powers. I think what we’re really talking about is two different stages in Belgium’s history.”
Another patron said: “No, I don’t think Belgium will split. We are in an extraordinarily difficult situation, and we need to fix it, but I don’t think the majority of the Belgian people want Belgium to split, not at all.”
Last Sunday, Belgians demonstrated their impatience, as, still under a caretaker government, the debt-laden country feels pressure build. A Flemish party calling for separation won last June’s elections.
Our correspondent in Brussels, Sergio Cantone, said: “The world record of going without a government, according to a new website, is Iraq’s, with 289 days. This Thursday sees Belgium with 228 days under its belt. Ivory Coast is given as an outsider, at 60 days bereft of a government. The Belgians, despite the political crisis, are not losing their historical sense of humour; they set up the website.”