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N-VA sends formal proposal to two other parties in Flanders
As the process to form a new Flemish government continue following May’s elections, progress was made today when N-VA chair Bart De Wever sent a startnota to Christian-democrats CD&V and liberals Open VLD. A startnota is a formal proposal drawn up for the formation of an administration, based on negotiations.
The startnota was not sent to Vlaams Belang, ending months of conjecture as to whether the far-right party would form part of the ruling coalition. Open VLD has said from the day of the elections that it would never form a majority coalition with the party, honouring the longstanding cordon sanitaire.
De Wever’s move indicates that Flanders will see another ‘Swedish coalition’ government of N-VA, Open VLD and CD&V. The title Swedish coalition was given to the administration in 2014, referring to the blue and yellow colours of Open VLD and N-VA and a cross to represent CD&V, which all come together in the Swedish flag.
De Wever’s startnota contains N-VA’s goals and demands for the new administration:
- Raise the employment rate to 80% (it is currently at 75%)
- Tougher requirements for foreigners receiving social housing and other benefits, including minimum time periods that they are present in Belgium of up to five years
- Foreigners must pay for the currently free integration courses and be given a test at the end. Newcomers would also be required to sign a statement promising to participate in Flemish society
- Abolish the tax deduction for a home loan
- Abolish inheritance tax for surviving spouses and legally recognised domestic partners, as well as minors
- Requirements for graduating from secondary school must be more stringent and the traditional tracks of ASO, TSO, KSO en BSO must be maintained (this is a response to education reforms of late)
- State reform at the Flemish level should strive towards the merger of municipalities, scrapping provincial governments and whittling down the number of Flemish MPs, currently at 124. Justice should be a regional competence rather than a federal one
- Flanders should increase its woodland by 10,000 hectares by 2030 and aim to designate three more national parks
- Sustainable transport should make up half of all traffic in Antwerp and Ghent by 2030
CD&V and Open VLD will now assess and discuss the content of the startnota and provide responses. The one official response to the document so far has come from the ACOD union, which represents public sector employees.
The union was critical of De Wever’s interest in further layoffs of civil servants. “He talks of a lean and efficient government and about a new exercise to achieve that,” said the union in a statement. “Further, he states that outsourcing is becoming the rule at all levels of government. He wants to once again eliminate the difference between civil servants and contract workers regarding sick leave. De Wever still doesn’t get it.”
The union also threatened more strikes should any of his proposals be taken seriously. “He has apparently forgotten about the strikes that took place at the end of the previous legislature against precisely what he is proposing again now,” said the union. “He should be assured that there will be more industrial action if he heads in this same direction.”
Photo, from left: N-VA chair Bart De Wever, CD&V chair Wouter Beke and Open VLD chair Gwendolyn Rutten at a municipal election event in 2018