A government for Belgium: Mission Impossible?

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A government for Belgium: Mission Impossible?

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It’s a political row that makes Britain’s coalition blues look like an unconditional love-in.

Eleven months after elections that proved to be inconclusive, Belgium still has a caretaker government with bickering legislators unable to agree on sharing power.

Talks have broken down numerous times but now King Albert II has again turned to Francophone Socialist leader Elio Di Rupo to broker a deal.

Di Rupo said he would first seek agreement on balancing the country’s budget with the nine parties involved in negotiations. If he succeeds, he would then move to reopen coalition talks.

“To succeed we all must strive to join together with a fresh determination and go for a daring compromise as if this mission was the last chance,” the 59-year-old said.

The separatist Flemish Nationalists (N-VA), representing the wealthier Dutch-speaking region of Flanders, won the largest share of the vote last summer, scoring 28 percent of ballots cast.

They complain they are subsidising less affluent Wallonia, where unemployment is double that of Flanders.

The N-VA, led by Bart de Wever, wants greater autonomy on fiscal and social affairs. Both sides also differ on who gets control of Brussels. The capital is largely French-speaking but it lies inside Flemish territory.