Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister has urged fellow party leaders to agree on a plan to give more power to the regions. Yves Leterme hopes to end a political deadlock that has led to fears the country could split in two.
Lawmakers from Dutch-speaking Flanders and French-speaking Wallonia have met for the first time to discuss their differences.
They must agree on a formula before March 23 when Leterme replaces interim Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt.
“Failure is not an option,” said Leterme. “Belgium is entitled to a government, a majority which assumes its responsibilities. The country is also entitled to modify its institutions for the benefit of every citizen.”
Flemish demands that regions be given tax-raising and economic powers have raised fears among French-speakers that the divide between the wealthy Flanders region and poorer Wallonia will widen.
French-speaking party leaders, apart from Finance Minister Didier Reynders and the Greens, have shown little indication that they are willing to compromise.
Flemish leaders have insisted progress must be made by Easter, even if there is no comprehensive deal.