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Michel government in minority after N-VA quits coalition
Belgium's federal government no longer has a majority in parliament - after prime minister Charles Michel's biggest coalition ally, the Flemish right-wing party N-VA, quit in a row over the UN's migration pact.
N-VA ministers walked out of an emergency cabinet meeting on Saturday after just half an hour. The right-wing party's leader, Bart de Wever, said it could not accept Belgium backing the international agreement on migration, which is due to be signed in Morocco this week.
"We have made it clear that we will not support a government that approves this pact," the N-VA ministers wrote in a letter to prime minister Charles Michel. "It concerns the essence of our party and our beliefs. We are not against migrants or migration, but we are opposed to the current chaos of migration in Europe. This UN pact can only aggravate this chaos."
Michel confirmed the N-VA's departure from the government - and said he would still be travelling to Morocco on Monday to confirm Belgium' support for the UN pact. "I stand by my word, I will leave for Marrakech," he said.
The departure of N-VA leaves Michel's French-speaking MR party in a minority government with coalition partners CD&V and Open VLD.
"In theory, a minority government can last a long time," said Dave Sinardet, political scientist at VUB. "If it has the ambition, it can find majority support for the various bills going through parliament."
N-VA had five positions in the cabinet - three ministers and two junior ministers. Pieter De Crem (CD&V) replaces Jan Jambon as interior minister. Alexander De Croo (Open VLD) replaces Johan Van Overtveldt as finance minister. Health minister Maggie De Block takes on the additional portfolio of migration, previously overseen by Theo Francken.
A majority of the federal parliament approved the UN’s Global Compact on Migration on Wednesday, following days of tense negotiations. N-VA voted against the resolution.
The pact, which was finalised last summer and signed off by diplomats from 180 countries after two years of negotiations, contains basic guidelines for immigration into Europe. It agrees, for instance, to ease the pressure on countries already hosting many migrants and states that countries cannot deal with the issue on their own.
While the pact is non-binding, political parties across Europe are still hotly contesting some of its provisions having to do with respecting migrants’ own culture and allowing migrants, including those without papers, to receive social services.
Several countries have already announced that they will not be signing, including Poland, Hungary, the US, Italy and Austria.
Photo: Nicolas Maeterlinck/Belga