Faced with coronavirus, Belgium finds an unprecedented political agreement

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It therefore took a pandemic to unblock – in part – the Belgian political situation, where a minority government has managed the country’s current affairs for fifteen months, with limited powers. In the evening of Sunday March 15, a completely new agreement has been reached between the ruling parties and most of those in the opposition to grant “special powers” to the team currently led by the French-speaking liberal Sophie Wilmès. The team she heads, and which until now only had 38 seats out of the 150 in the Chamber, will be able, for a maximum of six months, to adopt emergency measures by simple decree, Parliament delegating its skills.

These Full Powers Must Allow the Federal Government to Quickly Take Key Actions faced with the increase in the number of cases of contamination by the coronavirus responsible for Covid-19 (886 cases, 4 deaths recorded) and the economic consequences of the pandemic. The Federation of Enterprises puts the cost of this health crisis at 2.5 billion euros at this stage when, according to various experts, it has only just begun.

Mme Wilmès – who succeeded Charles Michel in October 2019, who became president of the European Council – was therefore to officially become, on Monday 16 March, the “trainer”, appointed by the head of state, King Philippe. An appointment of formality, because its provisional government and of urgency will undoubtedly keep an identical face. Composed of French-speaking and Flemish liberals as well as the Flemish Christian Democratic Party (CD & V), it will now have the support of seven other parties, including the French-speaking PS and the nationalists of the Alliance Néoflamande (NVA). French environmentalists and centrists will also support it.

Read also Update on the coronavirus epidemic worldwide: increasing containment measures and border closings

“Leadership and responsibility”

“The general interest must take precedence, not petty political games, positions of power or partisan politics. Now is the time to show leadership and responsibility. ” explained Meyrem Almaci, leader of the Groen environmental party, on Sunday evening. “This great union is up to the moment”, tweeted, meanwhile, Mme Wilmes. All the parties concerned were to meet on Monday morning to discuss budgetary issues and the means to be allocated to the fight against the pandemic.

Directed by the presidents of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, who had been mandated in mid-February by the king to form a government, the maneuver almost failed. A first negotiation started on Saturday stumbled on persistent refusal of the French-speaking PS led by Paul Magnette to ally, even for a limited time, with the NVA of Bart De Wever. The latter had proposed, Saturday, the establishment of a temporary government which he would have taken the lead. M. Magnette spoke, Sunday noon, of a “Scandalous” attempt to instrumentalize the coronavirus crisis.

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