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Belgium's first step on the road to real government

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Belgium's first step on the road to real government


The King of Belgium has asked Elio Di Rupo, a French-speaking socialist, to form a government following the breakthrough in previously-deadlocked talks.

The country has not had a government for 15 months, a world record length of time.

Now Di Rupo is celebrating a degree of agreement, paving the way for what he calls “real coalition talks”. On Wednesday he had said negotiations between the eight bickering party leaders had hit “total blockage”.

“It’s the beginning of a process… a climate of confidence developing between the parties as they try to overcome a whole series of hurdles and move towards forming a government,” said Finance Minister Didier Reynders.

The agreement followed 10 hours of talks, prompted by King Albert flying back home from holiday to bang heads together.

The detail has not been revealed, but what is known is that differences over voting rights in the BHV bilingual region covering Brussels and its suburbs have reportedly been settled.

The issue had brought to a head long-standing tension between Flemish- and French-speakers, which brought down the previous government.

Belgium has been in political deadlock since last year’s inconclusive election.

This week the caretaker prime minister said he was leaving to work for the OECD. Yves Leterme is now expected to stay in charge until the end of the year, according to Didier Reynders.

“The 2012 budget will probably be drawn up with him. I hope that before the end of the year a new government will be up and running,” he said.

Many obstacles remain, but after much speculation that Belgium could break apart, the talk now is of light at the end of the tunnel.

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