Politics

And the super core, he ripples on, as power slowly shifts from government to Parliament

It had to become the decision-making body, where dynamic party leaders, shoulder to shoulder, would save the country. Today the newest meeting of the super-core is just a formality, the most important matters are now settled in Parliament.

In the news: A new super-core today delivers nothing spectacular.

The details: This form of government seems to have bled to death.

  • Today at 10:30 am the four ministers of the core cabinet, Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès (MR), Alexander De Croo (Open Vld), Koen Geens (CD&V) and David Clarinval (MR), will meet again with the nine party chairpersons and N-VA- faction leader Peter De Roover, via video conference.
  • There is really not much on the agenda this time, after it already last week not much used to be:
    • There are two royal decrees before the compulsory insurance for medical care, something from Minister of Health Maggie De Block (Open Vld).
    • And De Block also wants the KB training for doctors in exceptional corona times.
    • In addition, Denis Ducarme (MR), today the minister of SMEs and SMEs, should you have forgotten that, still give some explanation about student and seasonal workers and gives Philippe De Backer (Open Vld) an update on where one stands with it bill of tracing.
  • The latter is quite symptomatic for the whole super-core approach: was it just not intended for KBs and not for legislative proposals?
  • Not so, apparently. However, De Backer first wanted to regulate the legal framework of tracing via the powers of attorney, the file even came to the so-called IKW, the meeting of cabinet chiefs who prepare government work. But the Chamber put a stop to thateven members of the government parties wanted it this way: now there is going to be a bill, in which the government simply goes to Parliament and seeks a majority in the House.
  • Today all participants still consider the super core just as a formality, a moment to check in. The word “super-core”, which gives the impression that this body is above the core of the government itself, has never been true, on the contrary.
  • It has more harm than good done, in search of a stable majority for this government: the hour-long meetings sharpened human relations and painfully exposed the fault lines.

In the margin: Just at the moment of this super core another event steals the show.

  • At 11 o’clock “The Corona Debate” starts. That was originally the symposium “Medical World” of the VUB. But VRT Nieuws and VTM are making it something bigger: a debate, but also a fundraiser against corona. The whole is in live stream between 11 am and 1 pm, which will also immediately ask viewers to donate for ‘Health For Life’, a fundraising campaign for healthcare.
  • Birgit van Mol (VTM) and Annelies Van Herck (VRT) will present, while Michaël Van Droogenbroeck (VRT) and Freek Braeckman (VTM) will moderate the debates. The line-up is striking: two blue ministers, with De Block and De Croo (will it hit the super-core in time?), But also N-VA chairman Bart De Wever. So it is striking: no real debate, because no opposition, but also no CD&V politicians or someone from French-speaking Belgium.
  • From the party in the big debate, as if they are more important today than the opposition, the experts: Marc Van Ranst and Erika Vlieghe will be present, supplemented by Pierre Wunsch, the Governor of the National Bank, Marc Noppen, CEO of UZ Brussel, and Pieter Timmermans, the FEB CEO.
  • There are three debates: “The state of the country”, “the state of public health” and “the impact on the economy”. The promised “clash“This would not happen between De Wever and Van Ranst: both are not in the same debate.

Back to the origin: Why did the super-core on paper seem like a good idea, but failed?

  • It was, in the crucial afternoon of Sunday 15 March, an idea of ​​Meyrem Almaci (Green): whether the nuclear government could be scheduled once a week at regular intervals consult with the chairmen of all parties that went to support the “rescue cabinet”, that minority government Wilmès II?
  • The proposal was eagerly accepted, by Georges-Louis Bouchez (MR), among others: every week they, the chairmen, would be in the front row to “all together” save the country. That each so also its place under the sun and “part of the solution” was a bonus.
  • But more fundamentally: the PS, but also the greens, CDH and even DéFI might not have gotten into the government, but they did feel the urge to join a coalition and take “responsibility”. Was that super core then the prediction of enlargement from the government towards a broad Vivaldi?
  • At least that was the feeling with the N-VA that Sunday. Bart De Wever (N-VA) immediately decided that he had absolutely no desire to play in that theater: he would send his cat to the meetings. Or better, Peter De Roover (N-VA), the group leader in the House. To be able to keep an eye on the purple-green party.

The essence: Between dream and deed stood for the super-core laws and practical objections.

  • In practice, a number of major obstacles quickly emerged for the proper functioning of the super-core.
    • Video meetings with ten party chairpersons are a challenge anyway. The fact that the interventions are sometimes special long-winded and repetitive the atmosphere dropped below zero. Certainly because the presidents of the government parties also started to stir up the discussions and did not always agree with the government. “Inefficient” is another friendly adjective, compared to all the comments we’ve been able to note in recent weeks.
    • Certainly also because the status of the super nuclei never became clear: was it now “to decide” together, or the opposition that was allowed to listen to what had already been decided? And were there any minutes of that meeting at all, or how did those chairmen know what exactly was decided?
    • On the merits, moreover, the power of attorney system does not really work to accelerate: it requires highly efficient cabinetswho work day and night to do the legislative work. Not every minister could deliver that: after more than a year of ruling halvings, with all kinds of replacements at the top, many of them have sand in the machine in their cabinet. Certainly if the Council of State also has to pass judgment on this, it will simply go faster through the House.
  • A process that led to damage in this way: presidents are simply sun kings in their own party (tje)but now all faced the obligation to listen and undergo. Tires are not forged in such a situation. Certainly not because the prime minister also failed to forge the whole into one group, the leader who pulls, kneads and models others.
  • Subsequently, more and more ministers are seeking today their own way through Parliamentapart from the super-core. For example, for the second major bazooka to help the economy and more specifically ailing companies, De Croo (Open Vld) worked with the Finance Committee in the Chamber.
  • The idea is to take two tax measures, both of which are intended to release cash in companies, for which the government provides, by less taxes to demand.
    • A carry back, where companies can deduct their 2020 losses from their 2019 profits.
    • A reconstruction reserve the next three years, before this year’s loss, which will again be tax-free.
  • Beforehand, De Croo consulted with the left-wing “opposition”. There are now broad ethical conditions: companies that want the aid must maintain their workforce (at 85 percent), they must not pay dividends, do not make a capital reduction and have no activities in tax havens.

It’s bubbling in the Chamber: It is striking, meanwhile, a lot of initiatives are emerging from the hemisphere, where Parliament seems to prevail over the government.

  • This week there was the retirement of the miners, which was suddenly arranged with a spectacular majority: every ex-miner gets an extra pension of 25,000 euros. Even government partner CD&V voted, while the liberals resisted tooth and nail: Open Vld and MR alone could not stop the case, especially because N-VA eventually abstained.
  • But there was also the resolution for it childcare from Greek camps, which got the greens through and urged Minister De Block to bring 18 minors here. A large majority voted in favor, also Open Vld. Only N-VA and Vlaams Belang were against.
  • In the file around the corona app and the House of Representatives took its plunge and after a resolution that called for the protection of that privacy, there is now also a legal framework through parliamentary channels.
  • The Chamber voted under the impulse of sp.a to establish a framework for linking any future financial aid to companies to conditions such as those tax havens.
  • The idea of ​​temporarily reduce withholding tax for people in temporary unemployment, which now give them extra income instead of later getting money back from the tax authorities, came out of the box of the greens and socialists, after which the government took over.

What this means: This regained freedom in the Chamber immediately reveals the fault lines again.

  • The miners’ file included the friction between “left” and “right” exposed on the socio-economic axis. The clash about migration was clearly visible about the underage asylum seekers in Greece. And now another Loch Ness monster also appears in the Chamber: taxation.
  • A “corona tax” from the PVDA, in fact one substantial wealth tax, did not get through. But very symbolic: the PS did support the proposal. The idea is a progressive tax for assets from 1.25 million euros that increases to 1.5 percent for any assets above five million euros.
  • A strong left signal, which promises if the French-speaking socialists will soon have to talk about coalitions again. Certainly with the N-VA, but equally with the liberals, these kinds of proposals are “no pasarán“. They do not like any new tax measure at a time when the tax burden is already immense.
  • It is no coincidence that Ahmed Laaouej leads the PS chamber group: that Brussels PS boss is very left-wing and does not want to know anything about his party in a center coalition with the N-VA. The PS is therefore mainly to do to give a “signal”: it debate on wealth tax, or capital gains tax, must be restarted.
  • Other parties are also looking in that direction: the greens have been wanting to shift from taxes to wealth for some time now, and the sp.a also wants to talk about a capital gains tax. CD&V has regularly tried in the Swedish coalition to open the debate, with Kris Peeters (CD&V) who, as Deputy Prime Minister, kept putting proposals on the table. This led to great tensions with the coalition partners. The question is whether, in times of crisis, it will once again be at the center of the political debate.
  • One thing is clear: new talks about a possible coalition will not start until June. But week by week open nerve exposing sensitive files in the House does not make it all that easy to find a majority around a government.

Interesting to follow: State bank Belfius and building contractor Besix are once again investing “millions of euros” in the media project LN24.

  • While there is still nothing similar in Flanders, a 24/7 news channel in French-speaking Belgium is still making headway on television. Who in 2019 thought such a channel out of date it was think again: until the corona crisis, the channel was on about 0.5 percent market share, but now they are suddenly passed to 2 percent and at times even 2.7 percent of the market. That is exactly what they always set in advance as a target to be viable.
  • But the corona crisis is not just a blessing: the income is not determined. With 70 employees, or 50 full-time jobs, the personnel costs of such a project alone are no less. They do the income in no time evaporate.
  • Because between January and April, LN24 generated a total of 156,000 euros in gross income, according to L’Echo. The result, according to the French-language business newspaper: 4.5 million euros seed capital has meanwhile burned away.
  • Looking for fresh money, state bank Belfius stopped, where CEO Marc Raisière personally a big tractor of the file is, and construction group Besix again money in the TV channel. According to the business newspaper, they already invested 1.8 million euros each, the bank also borrowed.
  • Now there is a new round of capital, and a new chairman of the board of directors, Philippe Lhomme. The new round of capital, financed by Besix and Belfius, would again “several million eurosDeliver cash for LN24, allowing the channel to continue.
  • LN24 also continues to have plans for an extension to Flanders. But first they want to win another battle. In July 2019, they were one of six media players to acquire a national radio license through the French Community. But DH Radio went to the Council of State, and in the meantime there is still no verdict and therefore no radio license.
  • A loss of income that is potentially large, and that they would like to see compensated through the courts. Because of the limited number of licenses, radio is a quasi monopoly and still is a gold mine in Belgium. In Flanders, too, there is always a cow trade around the licenses, plus the necessary political lobbying.

The hard truth: Johan Vande Lanotte (sp.a) does not hold back about the crisis: “We sacrificed people over 75 years old.”

  • In an interesting conversation with De Standaard, the former Deputy Prime Minister does not spare the medical approach to the crisis. “They wanted to prevent the hospitals from being caught off guard. So in ten days, 2,000 places have been created here for intensive care, good. But at the same time it has been decided to keep the people in the residential care centers there as much as possible. So in this crisis we told the weakest that they would receive less care. I think that’s bad ”, he says.
  • Those who lived at home and were 75 years old could go to a hospital. But those who were in a residential care center did not even have that option, says Vande Lanotte. “People who were sick stayed there. With less care, because a residential care center is not a hospital. That is the choice we have made as a society. ”
  • “As a resident of this country, I feel bad about it. (…) If my father had still been there, and had not received the care he needed, then I would have gone to court“Says the lawyer very clearly.
  • Vande Lanotte wonders if more places could have been created for intensive care. In any case, he insists to learn from this crisis. “We organized the operation of the hospitals perfectly. But it has come at the expense of the elderly in those centers and we have accepted that as a society. Have we sacrificed those people over 75? Yes I think so.”

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