Politics

An extremely difficult route to purple-yellow according to N-VA: why the ‘lame horse’ will have to continue

There is not much optimism about finding a “big coalition” between PS and N-VA anyway. Months of failed attempts leave a lot of wounds, and especially a particularly meager estimate of the chances of success, among the tenors. But that does not mean that people will not try again later.

In the news: The National Security Council meets at a time when the Brussels Airlines file is drawing all the attention.

The details: Don’t expect shocking decisions today.

  • Those involved, in particular Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès (MR), seem to have found their methodology for the Security Council: to start at 9 am and not to overload the agenda. The prime minister does not want chaos in communication, and that goes at the expense of the speed of the exit.
  • The latter also happens because the GEES, the group of experts who must supervise the exit, do not exactly help to accelerate. For example, the Länder had already completed a whole sports plan last week, in which everyone, primarily children under the age of 12, can start exercising again outdoors. But that plan was not treated last week.
  • This time this plan has to come through, but the communities are already ready with an exit plan for the culture sector. That too is now delayed: as if culture, after youth sport, is apparently not a priority to work hard on. It cannot be that difficult to reopen museums: anyone with common sense can introduce social distancing there, if possible when shopping. So we have to wait and see whether all museums will open.
  • More files that do not get settled: the catering and tourism, who live in great confusion. Everywhere in Europe, terraces, cafes and restaurants are opening: this is already the case in Spain, the Netherlands and Germany, in most other countries there has been a timetable for much longer anyway. Not with us.
  • It file of the second stayers, who are not allowed to return to their property until at least June 8, are also expressly under the attention. After all, the inevitable has happened: an owner has sent a summons to Minister of the Interior Pieter De Crem (CD&V), De Tijd reports.
  • Lawyer Stijn Verbist demands that the ban on traveling to your second home unconstitutional Is explained. In the ministerial decree, which serves as a legal basis, people talk about ‘staying at home’. But that “home” is not defined. Fairly problematic, then: with what legal argument is all those owners stopped?
  • Apart from that legal mess, there is the medical logic in the file that remains hard to find: virologically, no reasoning can be maintained that people cannot perfectly stay in a “bubble” in their apartment on the coast or the Ardennes.
  • What will be decided: the hairdressers will open, just like beauty salons. Markets can continue again. Incidentally, both groups of entrepreneurs hoped also on green light last week.

The essence: Brussels Airlines is the political dossier of the moment. That is not decided in Brussels, but in Berlin.

  • On Friday, a long-awaited meeting is scheduled between the Belgian government, with the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Alexander De Croo (Open Vld) on the one hand and the CEO of Lufthansa Carsten Spohr on the other. Even recording that meeting led to quarrels: the atmosphere is particularly hypothermic between the leadership of the German giant and the Belgian policymakers.
  • Brussels Airlines threw the stone in the frog pool, by yesterday with a layoff of 1,000 employees and a significant reduction in the fleet and destinations. Not surprisingly, the aviation sector is one of the most severely affected branches of the economy worldwide, with a whole series of clean-ups that preceded the “Belgian” carrier.
  • It seemed to be a signal from Lufthansa, 100 percent owner of Brussels Airlines, that it is “serious”: a method to to put the Belgian state under considerable pressure. The Germans want emergency credit from the Belgian state, because by the end of May the cash has run out. But they do not want to attach many conditions to that.
  • In any case, the game will not be played in Brussels on Friday, but in Berlin. The Belgian government follows, together with the Austrian government, which must do a similar rescue with Austrian Airlines, the pace and rhythm of Angela Merkel’s government.
  • Two scenarios are circulating according to Bloomberg for a rescue loan of no less than 8 billion euros:
    • Either the German state buys convertible bonds, which would later yield a share in Lufthansa of less than 25 percent. Merkel’s Christian Democrats, and certainly the management itself, want that: no major state interference.
    • Either one takes the lead a share of 25 percent plus one, at a price of 2.56 euros, a hefty discount to get a strategic piece of Lufthansa. That scenario belongs to the Minister of Finance and Economy Olaf Scholz, a social democrat, who wants to give the state a bigger finger.
  • Once the decision is made there in Berlin, Brussels and Vienna know where they stand. But essentially Belgium, like Austria, is now on that last line: rather more than less levers. That package of 25 percent plus one already provides that.

The Belgian context: The file is now a political minefield here.

  • For starters is Lufthansa not exactly to be trusted. In 2008 they bought 45 percent from Brussels Airlines for 65 million euros. The deal also included the clause that in an “emergency scenario” they could buy the rest of the shares for a habit of 2.6 million. They then artificially held a loan of 100 million from Lufthansa in Brussels Airlines to be able to execute that scenario.
  • When the “purchase” for those 2.6 million went through in 2017, the Germans wanted no guarantee about job security or anchoring give in Brussels.
  • Nobody in the Belgian government has forgotten that. But at the same time there is restraint: the state should not risk aviation too much, as a shareholder, is the feeling among the Flemish liberals. At first competent minister De Croo was not keen on any package of shares, but now he is on the line of his German colleagues, who want 25 percent plus one share.
  • A proposal for a credit line of 390 million euros through the Federal Investment Company (FPIM) in exchange for a 25 percent plus one share was raised by Lufthansa yesterday haughtily rejected.
  • There is great internal pressure from the MR, with hyperactive chairman Georges-Louis Bouchez (MR), who has thrown himself all over the file. He publicly attacked Lufthansa, who had publicly rejected the Belgian proposal: “Unilateral, brutal and badly timed”. But the MR wants to save Brussels Airlines at all costs, which does not exactly simplify the prime minister’s negotiating position.
  • “Bouchez? If it were up to him, he would take over everything tomorrow. And who knows, maybe still looking for synergies with his football club? Aviation entrepreneur playthat is not the task of the government. Or we will end up with an Air Bouchez ”, a source in the federal government observes.
  • Because it is striking: even on Monday, CD&V, that other government partner, announced after its party agency that “not the shareholding, but the embedding in Zaventem airport is the priority,” said chairman Joachim Coens. Striking: CD&V also demanded guarantees “in the field of ecology and sustainability, including the impact of noise on the region ”, before aid would be provided.
  • It is clear that there is a lot to be gained and lost: the government does not want to lose face, and must hope for Berlin. Because a possible one demise of the airline, not inconceivable in these times, everyone is horrified by that.

Meanwhile in the negotiations: Bart De Wever (N-VA) showed a bit more in his maps yesterday.

  • During the book presentation The DNA of Flanders, the N-VA president made an analysis of the upcoming federal negotiations. It became clear that the N-VA chairman has no doubts: if it depends on him, his party will again take federal policy responsibility. “But the context to drive there has never been more difficult. (…) “Take that rudder“I am told. Agreement. But that’s just difficult with the south of the language border, ”he sighed.
  • De Wever immediately spoke of the “big dilemma” for N-VA: “The voter expects us to co-administer federally, but it delivers very little.” In other words: there is no electoral perspective immediately, a “reward” does not wait, as it did by administering at Flemish level.
  • De Wever referred to a few long conversations he had this summer with Elio Di Rupo (PS) on Hertoginnedal. Both met there in August 2019, when they were still chairmen. Only in the fall did Paul Magnette (PS) come up as chairman, after which he tried as a formateur to turn purple-green.
  • But that summer De Wever and Di Rupo were on a different track: “We recognized fatalism“, Said De Wever, about a coalition that they would make together, after the governments of the federal states were first made. That was not heartfelt, but it was inevitable.
  • “I understand the PS: if they look in the mirror, they see me and it will cost them, with PVDA on their neck. The same goes for me: we hold each other hostage to death. I have a solution for that, confederalism, but I don’t have a two-thirds majority for that, ”said De Wever.

The big picture: Little to nothing has changed in Wetstraat, after the devastating impact of the corona crisis. Or not in the short term.

  • “Now we are again in a stalemate,” said De Wever. A deal seems very difficult. A whole series of steps that have to be taken for this are after all not at all obvious to Flemish nationalists:
    • For starters, there is Bouchez, the impulsive MR chairman who really nothing to gain has a deal. He has his ministers, so why would he want to admit something? Just about everyone in the Wetstraat wants to “work around the MR chairman”, but whether that is an option? “He is currently very well in control. During the super core he even put Prime Minister Wilmès in place. There can be only one number one, and everyone at the MR now knows who that is, ”says another chairman.
    • So without MR, but doing business directly with the PS? In the meantime, Magnette has already closed the door twice, during the period of assignment holder Koen Geens (CD&V) and then in the crucial weekend of the formation of Wilmès II, after he was very far with the N-VA. Can De Wever now venture a third time? “It has delivered so far only a chunk course on, that Magnette chairmanship, ”is the analysis at N-VA.
    • Then the discussion comes over who gets a place in purple-yellow: is that with sp.a and Open Vld? Or will CD&V still be dropped? In any case it is a bit “three is a crowd“For the traditional parties on the Flemish side. Certainly if Open Vld were to drop out, this would cause even more misery for N-VA: right-wing opposition in the federal flank.
    • Not unimportant also: the premiership. The N-VA is the biggest, and does not want to repeat the capital error of 2014: having a smaller party grab the Sixteen. Not that De Wever is personally eager to become prime minister, but it wouldn’t make sense. Only that is a horrifying scenario for the PS in perception.
    • The only one who can also legally make a mathematical claim on it is Magnette herself: the socialists are the largest family, if the sp.a joins them. But does the PS chairman want that? Everything indicates that that fits for the highest post. The only question is: who then?
    • Finally, there is the great content contradiction: should the N-VA prove that the federal level is still working? Should they just, with fresh courage, start “keeping Belgium afloat”, while this goes against their fundamental thesis that “this country no longer works”? Again: a hefty price to pay for the N-VA.
  • That is why De Wever decided quite dark: “It crippled horse of the minority government will have to carry on. ” He does not estimate the chance that this will continue for a while: “Elections cannot be organized and have catastrophic consequences.”
  • Now De Wever is not a great optimist by nature, but the whole sounded not exactly rosy. It prompted the sp.a chairman, Conner Rousseau, who was also on the panel’s book presentation, to respond. “Now the destructive wins. If we can’t find chords now, there is still no more gram of respect for politics. Get shit doneSaid the sp.a chairman.
  • “If everyone stays in their trenches, it will not work. If there is no solution by the end of September, they will come to smash the windows of ParliamentRousseau threw a nice quote at it. In any case, the sp.a chairman seems to plan to make another serious attempt behind the scenes to put PS and N-VA at one table.

Interesting to follow: The PS is further away from the Wilmès II cabinet.

  • A very symbolic, quick measure taken by the federal minority cabinet was opening up the labor market, to ensure that sectors such as agriculture soon reach enough forces. However, the possibility of overtime should also be available in distribution or retail: the virus made a lot of actions take more effort and time.
  • Among other things, the government decided to staff in essential sectors up to 220 hours overtime perform, allow more temporary, successive employment contracts and also increase the number of hours of student work. The measures were taken through the powers of attorney, and were also discussed extensively on the super-core, which also included the Greens and the PS. Then there was no fundamental objection.
  • Apparently today. The PS absolutely want to see those measures deleted. The Marxists of the PTB / PVDA have been particularly critical of this for some time. And the greens were not exactly happy either. After all, the unions put great pressure on the file: they see a dangerous precedent in this, because they have not been heard through social dialogue. After all, the matter had to be settled quickly.
  • Under the leadership of group leader Ahmed Laaouej, the left wing of the PS, these measures will now only be allowed if the joint committee or the unions on the company have given an agreement. In other words, if butter is also added to the fish. The unions and the PS are anyway as death that this would open the door to other sectors, or that the whole system would run for a long time.
  • The question is whether the PS can find a majority in Parliament to reverse the measures: probably not. But it is more than symbolic: while in the super-core When the PS and Groen and Ecolo chairmen join in, the protest on the left does get started in the House.

Interesting to follow (2): Green creeps closer to the Wilmès II cabinet.

  • While the big red brother of the PS in the corridors is thus far away from the liberals, a very different story among the greens. There, Member of Parliament Wouter De Vriendt (Groen) makes strong statements in Knack.
  • De Vriendt is very enthusiastic about a resolution that he got through in the House with the support of the “Vivaldi parties”, the greens, socialists, liberals and CD&V and CDH, plus even PVDA. That resolution called for to bring children to Greek migrant camps to Belgium. It got voted, and in parallel the government brought 18 children here.
  • The Green MP draws all kinds of conclusions from that step. “Corona changes everything,” he says. And above all: “Alone a Vivaldi coalition can save Belgium from a crash. ”
  • Rather weighty conclusions attached to the vote of the resolution, such as votes in the majority read those statements. “The truth is that Maggie De Block (Open Vld), responsible for Asylum and Migration, hesitated for months before finally getting those kids back. That has nothing to do with Vivaldi, that it is happening now, on the contrary ”, it can be heard within the government.
  • There gets a bit chuckled at naivety of the greens in a pack of parliamentary files, and the possible greater consequences for coalition formation. “If they really think that a government will be formed in the House, they are mistaken.”

Hard against soft: Marc Van Ranst and Els Ampe (Open Vld) are increasingly meeting on Twitter.

  • It was inevitable, like two supernovae who must collide sooner or later in the universe. The two “stars” in the firmament of media attention in times of corona, Els Ampe (Open Vld) and Marc Van Ranst (virologist) are increasingly clashing on Twitter.
  • One makes a bid for the Open Vld chairmanship, looking for it constantly the spotlights on. Els Ampe prefers to make nice and bright statements, so that she gets enough views. The other has quickly become an apparently indispensable element in news and interpretation programs, but Marc Van Ranst also remains very active, lockdown or not.
  • For example, the virologist apparently visited “Take Away Iftar” on Monday, in Borgerhout, where organization Al Ikram distributes 800 meals every day before Ramadan. That message was put live by BorgerhoutTV, and resulted in razor-sharp criticism from Ampe: “On the Marc Van Ranst campaign? ”Asked Ampe. “In all honesty … can anyone tell me how many bubbles the virologist is currently in?” She said on Twitter.
  • It was Van Ranst who had already shot sharply to Ampe on Monday. Then she had accused Van Ranst of “panic-mongering”, in sharp words: “Why? To organize the police state for PVDA, with you as prime minister of a new lockdown? ” Van Ranst had responded to this: “Only deep compassion for Els Ampe is appropriate here. Are you okay, Els?Curious what the next episode will be.
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