Clarification on the recent formation task

17 August 2020
Bart De Wever

Today, N-VA Chairman Bart De Wever handed his task to form a fully-mandated government back to the King. Since such a task requires discretion, you have heard little or nothing from the N-VA group for a while in this regard. Now that the task is over, we would like to give a brief explanation about what has exactly happened recently. You deserve to be given transparent information in this matter.

As you know, this country is at the beginning of a socio-economic crisis caused by a lingering health crisis. Only effective policy can cope with these crises. Unfortunately, for the time being, we still have to make do with the minority Federal Government of Prime Minister Wilmès, a government that currently represents only 38 of the 150 seats in the Chamber. During one of the most difficult times in our recent history, the fact that we do not have a fully-mandated federal government is dramatic.

Aside from the lack of good governance, the lack of a fully-mandated government also brings with it a whole range of other disastrous consequences. In the Federal Parliament this spring, alternative majorities (under pressure from or with the support of VB and PTB/PvdA) approved a series of pointless and extremely expensive recurrent expenditures, without taking into account that it will once again be the taxpayer who will have to pay for them in the future. At the beginning of the parliamentary year in September, this scenario threatens to simply continue.

There is an urgent need for things to be put in order. That is why, over the past year and a half, as the largest party in Flanders, we have continued to try to reach an agreement with the largest party on the French-speaking side. After the 2019 elections, the N-VA had already expressed its willingness to do so out of respect for the way the Flemish and Walloon voters had shuffled the electoral cards, and out of the realisation that no other formula was possible that would also undertake the necessary institutional reforms.

What failed for months resulted in a joint starting memorandum of the N-VA and the PS in the middle of this summer, after N-VA Chairman Bart De Wever and PS Chairman Paul Magnette had finally received the initiative from the King after more than a year. Five parties quickly declared their willingness to start negotiations on the basis of this starting memorandum, namely the N-VA, CD&V, cdH, PS and sp.a., together accounting for 70 seats in parliament.

Of course, that memorandum was not yet a coalition agreement, but it did contain enough building blocks for our party to believe that a strong coalition agreement was on the horizon that would enable us to approach our members with our heads held high. Contrary to what was claimed by some, the memorandum was not a “take it or leave it” document. It was however a solid start that could lead to a full agreement:

  • The socio-economic component was composed in a balanced and meticulous way such that for every social euro, there was a reduction in taxes of one euro to give entrepreneurial and working Flanders breathing room. Moreover, many of the social euros went to those who (in the past) contributed to society, with an increase in low pensions (especially also for our self-employed). Given the composition of our population, this is very advantageous for Flanders. The overall tax burden would also decrease. This is to boost economic growth. The so-called Swedish legacy of the Michel government (with the N-VA) was safeguarded, including the maintaining of lower personal and business taxes and the retention of the wage law reformed in 2017.
  • On top of that came an institutional section on which we worked hard as a party. Pending the necessary majority to achieve a confederal turnaround, the policy, the functioning of the authorities and of the federal government would be organised, taking into account the priorities of the federal states. Moreover, the new federal government would not be a usual one, but a government of shorter duration: in this way, after federal elections for which all articles of the Constitution were declared open, a new institutional reality would become possible.
  • In addition, the memorandum included a solid section on tightening up the migration policy as well as some important points relating to security. In the field of energy, too, the memorandum respected our most important requirement: our nuclear capacity would be extended in time, with the result that we would no longer have to fear problems with our energy supply, sharply rising energy costs or an attack on our climate and environment by a series of new gas-fired power stations.

In short, the memorandum negotiated by our Chairman formed a very good and balanced basis for starting negotiations on the federal coalition agreement. However, five parties and 70 seats are not enough. We needed one more party.

It is no secret that we would have preferred the bubble of five to be expanded with Open Vld. There was room left for this in the memorandum, for example, for additional labour market reforms. Unfortunately, a discussion about the content was not possible. By supporting the initiative of MR Chairman Georges-Louis Bouchez to come up with a joint press release with the green family of Ecolo/Groen, Open Vld made it impossible to continue the task further.

Thus, the MR retains half of all federal ministers (including the Prime Minister), several top appointments and some lucrative international posts (the President of the European Council, a European Commissioner, etc.). It hardly needs saying that the MR chairman does not benefit from an agreement between PS and N-VA, which also offers a way out of the country’s ungovernability through institutional reforms. However, it is shocking to note that there was also a series of lies spread through the press about the content of the starting memorandum of the five parties.

The starting memorandum was drawn up in a balanced way as a whole, but also within each chapter. There was no trade-off between left-wing socio-economic policies and institutional reforms. There were also no plans for a “wealth tax”, let alone one that applied to modest assets. The fact that Open Vld continues to spread this untruth testifies to little political decency.

The pillars of the so-called Swedish policy of recent years were retained in the memorandum. Tax cuts stood against social corrections. In December last year, Open Vld did want to negotiate a memorandum that was much more left-wing and that threatened Flemish prosperity. Today, people don’t even come to the table for a much more balanced memorandum that also offers institutional solutions by strengthening the Flemish policy level that can still govern today.

We have shouldered our responsibility. But even an agreement between the largest parties of each language community is not enough to make this country governable. After this whole story, you are probably asking yourself the question: “What now?” In any case, even in these particularly cynical times, we have to keep a cool head as a party. We therefore remain prepared to help set up a federal government that will tackle this crisis decisively and finally remove the institutional inefficiencies from the system. In the Flemish Government, too, our people continue to work very hard to deal with the coronavirus crisis as best they can and to devise a recovery policy that will hopefully not be undermined in the future by a hostile federal government.

We thank you for your continued confidence in us. We continue to do everything we can to earn that trust every day. The support of our members means a very great deal to us. Keep taking good care of each other.

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