A photo of Elio Di Rupo, a French-speaking Socialist charged by the king with forming a new government.  - Reuters Photo

BRUSSELS: Eight Belgian parties are ready on talks to form a government to end a year-long political stalemate, a prominent politician charged by King Albert II to end the impasse indicated on Friday.

French-speaking Socialist Elio Di Rupo informed the monarch of the willingness of four Flemish and four French-speaking parties after holding talks with them, the palace said in a statement.

If successful, the talks will give the coalition a parliamentary quorum.

The palace statement however said the negotiations would not start immediately as Di Rupo had accepted the king’s proposal for a break until the middle of next month.

And then the talks on “organising the points” that he had made to the parties, the statement said.

On the eve of the country’s national day, the king had warned that the deadlock was threatening to slow the momentum of European integration.

The impasse has left Belgium with a dubious world record as it surpassed Iraq this year as the nation without a government for the longest time.

The Flemish Christian Democrats then announced late Wednesday they could join seven other parties for talks.

Party leader Wouter Beke said he was ready to start talks immediately on the future of Belgium’s sole dual-Flemish and French administration, that of Bruxelles-Hal-Vilvorde, or “BHV”.

His party and other Flemish parties demand the curtailment of certain electoral and judicial rights of Francophones in this area, which falls in the borders of Flanders.

Compensation for Francophones should be sorted out later and considered in more detail by working groups, said Beke.

Albert II had earlier pleaded with the feuding Flemish and French-speaking parties to resolve their differences and form a government, more than 400 days after legislative elections.

“Our current situation is a cause for concern among our partners and could damage our position in Europe, and even the momentum towards European integration which has already been undermined by populism and euroscepticism,” the king said in a televised address.

A founding member of the European Union, Belgium has often been considered an example of integration in the European Union, with a Dutch-speaking community in the north and Francophones in the south.

But it now risks becoming a symbol of divisions in the 27-nation EU as politicians in Flanders and Wallonia struggle to strike a deal to transfer more federal powers to the regions.


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