Update: This afternoon, Guy Verhofstadt, who has been Belgium’s caretaker Prime Minister since the 10 June general elections (which he lost), paid a second emergency visit to King Albert II. Earlier today the King’s suggestion that Mr Verhofstadt be given expanded powers was met with indignation and criticism from leading constitutional experts. Prof. Paul Van Orshoven lambasted the idea during the radio news at noon.
The King has now decided to appoint Mr Verhofstadt as “informateur.” The latter’s task is to inform the King, within a short period of time, about possible ways to solve the Belgian political crisis. The King, who in Belgium has more powers than royalty in other democracies, will then decide what to do. There is, however, no solution to the crisis as long as the French-speaking Wallloon minority keeps vetoing the democratic demand of the Dutch-speaking Flemish majority for more autonomy and for a restriction of the welfare subsidies which flow from free-market oriented Flanders to socialist-dominated Wallonia.
Belgian television reports that today, on the 176th day of Belgium’s political crisis, the Belgian king, Albert II of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, has bestowed “urgent” powers, including dealing with “international matters,” on Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, whose Liberal-Socialist coalition was battered in the general elections on 10 June. This is in violation of the Belgian Constitution which does not provide for extended powers to governments without a parliamentary majority. Probably the European Union authorities in Brussels back this unconstitutional move by the Belgian King. The King, however, has been careful not to make any official announcement after meeting Mr Verhofstadt this morning.
Since the elections almost six months ago Guy Verhofstadt, having lost his parliamentary majority, has remained Prime Minister in a caretaker position. The Belgian parliamentary elections on 10 June were won overwhelmingly by the Flemish Christian-Democrats of Yves Leterme. The Dutch-speaking majority of the Belgians, living in Flanders, demand more regional autonomy, while the French-speaking minority in Wallonia opposes this. As a Belgian government needs to consist of 50% Flemings and 50% Walloons, Mr Leterme’s efforts have not led to the formation of a government.
As a caretaker Guy Verhofstadt’s powers are severely restricted. The caretaker PM cannot initiate new policies or take decisions which bind the country. The question has been raised whether Mr Verhofstadt is allowed to sign the new European Treaty on 13 December in Lisbon. Though some legal experts think he is allowed to sign, Parliament cannot ratify any Treaty because the caretaker government cannot present it to Parliament for ratification. The fact that the caretaker government cannot submit EU directives to the Belgian Parliament for (automatic) approval (there never is a debate because EU member states are obliged to implement EU directives) is already causing headaches in EuroBrussels. In Belgium (as elsewhere in the EU members states) three quarters of the legislation emanates from the EU authorities.
King Albert granted Mr Verhofstadt special – urgent – powers with regard to the budget, security issues, justice, and “a number of international matters” [een aantal buitenlandse dossiers]. Undoubtedly, the King’s move has the support of the EU authorities who fear anarchy in Belgium. There is no anarchy in Belgium in the sense of political disorder – because life continues in its usual placid way – but there is anarchy in the original meaning of ἀναρχία anarchía (“without a government or ruler”). Many Belgians would not mind if this situation of ἀναρχία, which has now been continuing for six months, goes on for many more months. The Belgians don’t need a Belgian government, but the EU needs a Belgian government.
As John Laughland observed recently: “Everyone knows that the main decisions [in the EU] are taken in secret by the unelected Commission and the unaccountable Council of Ministers [the representatives of the governments of the EU member states]. National parliaments are systematically emasculated by the EU, which gives governments the right to make laws, in secret.”
In the past half year no European directives have been introduced in Belgium, with the result that, paradoxically, the country’s ungovernability has left it more sovereign than it has ever been since 1957, when Belgium signed its sovereignty away to the European authorities in the Treaty of Rome.
More on this issue here:
Why the Eurocrats Fear the Belgian Anarchy, 30 November 2007
See extended list at end of article.
A Throne in Brussels: Britain, the Saxe-Coburgs and the Belgianisation of Europe
Author: Paul Belien