EurActiv.com Correspondent's Choice

This story about the Belgian Presidency of the EU was published by EurActiv on 21st June 2010.

Belgium will take on the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union with a caretaker government in charge, following national elections which saw Flemish separatist leader Bart De Wever top the polls.

Coalition talks in Belgium kicked-off in earnest last Thursday (17 June), when King Albert II nominated Bart De Wever as an “informer” to explore options for a new government.

A new executive is not expected before September, but Elio di Rupo, the Socialist Party (PS) leader who won the election in the French-speaking south of the country, is showing surprising signs of goodwill, saying he wants talks to conclude “as quickly as possible”.

Di Rupo, who is widely seen as most likely to become Belgium’s next prime minister because the socialists – together with their Flemish counterparts – hold the largest number of seats in the new parliament, said De Wever’s nomination was “a positive signal” in view of forming a government.

De Wever himself said he was ready to leave the prime minister’s seat to Di Rupo, putting the pressure on francophone parties to assume full responsibility in upcoming state reform talks that Dutch-speaking parties have been demanding for years.

De Wever and Di Rupo have agreed to maintain discretion at all times during the talks, which will have to include detailed plans to delegate more powers to the regions, including the sensitive issue of redefining the electoral boundaries around Belgian capital Brussels.

The protection of French-speaking minorities must be “an absolute principle” in negotiations over splitting the Brussels-Hal-Vilvoorde electoral district around Brussels, hardline francophone parties warned.

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