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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
07BRUSSELS3308 2007-11-08 15:20:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Brussels
Cable title:  

DESPITE BITTER WORDS, POLITICIANS FIND A WAY TO

Tags:   PGOV PINR BE 
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VZCZCXRO2338
PP RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHLZ RUEHROV
DE RUEHBS #3308 3121520
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 081520Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY BRUSSELS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6654
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 8110
					  UNCLAS BRUSSELS 003308 

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PINR BE
SUBJECT: DESPITE BITTER WORDS, POLITICIANS FIND A WAY TO
CONTINUE BELGIAN GOVERNMENT FORMATION PROCESS

REF: BRUSSELS 3298



1. (SBU) In a typical twist of Belgian politics, what looked
yesterday like an argument that could result in the country's
dissolution, now looks like a garden variety row between
francophones and Flemings. Shortly before the Flemish
members of the lower house Interior Affairs Committee voted
unilaterally on November 7 to redistrict a bilingual
constituency surrounding Brussels, the leaders of the
francophone parties staged a dramatic walkout from the
committee room, repaired to a nearby meeting room, and then
invoked a little used provision of the constitution that
effectively takes the redistricting dispute off the table.
These actions precipitated a major flood of whither Belgium
analyses in the local and international media, but they have
not altered the most important fact. Flemish Christian
Democratic leader Yves Leterme has managed for now to retain
his mandate to form Belgium's next government. King Albert
II confirmed this on November 8, 2007 when he asked Leterme
to continue after the latter delivered a report on the
current state of affairs.



2. (U) The latest turn of events became possible because of
the "conflict of interest" clause in Belgium's constitution.
Under this provision, action on the redistricting measure
must now stop for sixty days while the bill receives
consideration from a "conference committee" of the federal
government and the various regional and linguistic community
governments. Should this procedure not succeed in freezing
action, the francophones have further tools available to
them, all of which are designed to permit a minority to
defend its interests against the majority.



3. (U) As the parties determine what to do next, it seems
clear now that they will not decide to install an "emergency"
government, i.e. an administration charged with handling only
urgent social, economic, and foreign policy questions. This
is largely at the insistence of the Flemish parties, each of
which has announced its intention to continue pursuit of
constitutional reforms that redress the balance between
federal and regional government powers. Such reforms are
still the major demand of two small parties that exercise an
important influence on the coalition talks, the New Flemish
Alliance (N-VA), a separatist group with five seats, and
Front for the Defense of the Francophones (FDF), a Brussels
group with just two seats in parliament and a handful in the
Brussels regional assembly.



4. (U) The present situation also has provided an opening for
the francophone Socialists (PS) of Elio Di Rupo. Di Rupo was
defeated heavily in the June elections and has since
concentrated on dealing with corruption allegations against
various party functionaries. He has attempted to cast the
redistricting vote as an occasion for the francophones to
make clear they will not be dictated to by the Flemish.
Fears that he will succeed in reviving PS fortunes are a
prime motivating factor in shaping the position of the two
francophone coalition partners in the Liberal (MR) and
Christian Democrats (CDH).



5. (SBU) Comment: At this stage, it seems fair to believe
that the events of November 7 will not lead to anything more
dramatic than a few alarming headlines. That said, the
Parliamentary committee's unilateral vote and the aggrieved
reaction of the francophone parties underscore an important
fact. Belgium's political culture all but mandates its
politicians to look at the world first of all through a local
lens, not through a national one. Until this situation
changes, similar events will continue to occur. Fox
.