De Wever and Magnette looked each other in the eye: talking again for the first time since failure in March

N-VA chairman Bart De Wever (N-VA) and PS chairman Paul Magnette held a first meeting on government formation, under the watchful eye of sp.a chairman Conner Rousseau. The meeting between PS and N-VA at the highest level is highly symbolic, after a “gentlemen’s agreement” between the two in March to make an emergency cabinet failed. The PS and sp.a discussed social spending, health care financing, climate transition and investment as their “priorities” with N-VA, but also with CD&V and Groen.

In the news: The N-VA and PS are “on speaking terms“.

The details: The two socialist chairmen, Magnette and Rousseau, received De Wever last Wednesday.

  • The sossen are busy“, This Friday appeared in this newsletter, due to a few party leaders. Because, the PS and sp.a president have taken the initiative, as the largest political family in the House, to receive their fellow presidents and start the first talks to form a new federal government.
  • Four chairmen have already been received. Nobody really wants to break through discretion at the moment. But it is already clear that these are not just visits to the gallery. “It is already more concrete than exploring the ‘how and what’ of the process. We start from the priorities of the PS and sp.a“, Says a red source close to the process.
  • The intention is that everyone indicates their priorities, which must absolutely be arranged in a coalition agreement, but also a number of “red lines“Can formulate: which is certainly not possible. The socialists themselves work around four priorities: social spending, health care financing, climate transition and “investment”.
  • No work is being done on the text, nor does the duo claim the role of ‘informateur’. But at the same time they immediately shifted into top gear, by receiving the “biggest” party chairman on Wednesday: De Wever himself. Thereby Magnette nevertheless takes a risk: just last weekend he distanced himself from the N-VA on RTL, underlining “Not having seen De Wever since March”. So three days later they sat around the table: front and behind the scenes can be quite different with the PS.
  • That both meet again is certainly thanks to Rousseau. The young sp.a president worked hard to win the trust of both, and the bringing together the country’s two greatest political forces.
  • In March something really broke between the two. For months, in endless government formation, De Wever and Magnette were forced to talk and explore the possibility of a coalition. That once failed spectacularly under the leadership of contract holder Koen Geens (CD&V), but in mid-March De Wever and Magnette reached an agreement to bring PS and N-VA together in an emergency government. When Magnette blew up that deal on French-language TV channels a few days later, it left serious scars.
  • It is therefore an important first step for both of them to come together again, in order to open up all options regarding coalition formation. But of course this does not guarantee a real possibility of a cabinet with PS and N-VA. The latter was a bit bored with the leak because it was “is very premature” all of them.
  • Incidentally, the red duo received three more chairmen last Wednesday, including Joachim Coens (CD&V) and Meyrem Almaci (Green). Contacts are planned with four other chairmen. But it is clear that concrete progress has not been made immediately: it threatens to become a complex negotiation process, of which only a first step has been taken.

Turmoil on the super core: In the meantime, the meeting between the core of the government and the party leaders was quite turbulent.

  • Magnette and Rousseau would like to discuss “investments” with the other chairmen in their confidential discussions. By that they mean one ambitious recovery plan that is necessary is to keep Belgium out of a massive economic recession. They are aiming for a huge plan, about 10 percent of GDP.
  • The PS chairman also raised this point on the super core: “There is still no recovery policy worthy of the name, while all neighboring countries are already working on it. We can’t wait for a new federal government to form, or the recession will deepen with us, “said Magnette, who urged the government to start working on such a plan anyway. “September is too late. ”
  • Thereby Magnette waved a graph, who had to strengthen his plea. This showed the comparison with other European countries and (the lack of) Belgian recovery measures.
  • But with that he stepped on the sore toe of the prime minister, Sophie Wilmès (MR). At the MR, it is pinching that the socialists are suddenly, in addition to the federal government, taking initiatives to create a new coalition, but at the same time they are in the super-core, and are supporting the current minority cabinet. The MR prefers to finish the trip at least until September, and would like to go even further: with six ministers and the prime minister, they are in one seat.
  • Wilmès lashed out particularly hard at Magnette, when asked about a recovery plan: “The government is doing its best, These are particularly difficult circumstances, and we just ask that everyone be constructive, ”she said magnettely, in aggrievedness. She repeated that such a thing also requires a full-fledged government.
  • Rousseau then tried to appease: “Madam Prime Minister, I like it women who occasionally get angry“, Which broke the ice a bit and made the muscles laugh on the Prime Minister. But the socialists repeated their offer: can a policy of recovery start? “And if a fully-fledged government is needed for that, are you going to take the initiative as prime minister?”
  • The greens also joined the question: can a recovery plan be worked out? For the greens, the component of “Sustainability” is an essential part of such a recovery plan. It immediately indicates that such a plan requires solid ideological choices.
  • But MR chairman Georges-Louis Bouchez left no doubt about it: “Such a recovery plan can only be launched by a government with a strong majority behind it. And negotiations about such a plan will be at the very heart of a coalition agreement to come. One cannot go without the other. The responsibility of the parties is immense, ”he lashed to the PS on Twitter, who eventually refused to join an emergency government.
  • On VTM News Rousseau once again reinforced the red question yesterday: “There is really a need for recovery policy. That is why we need to talk now, and we are doing that too. It has to happen now, if politics can’t get back, when can it? ” Not all other fellow chairmen appreciated the fact that he searched for the cameras: “Discretion would be better.

A file to follow: The last word about the second stayers has not yet been said.

  • One of the most controversial measures that was not scaled back to the last Security Council: the prohibition for second-stayers to go to their property. Certainly on the coast, that prohibition feels firm.
  • On the super core, the theme came up again. Rousseau, among others, argued that this did not make sense, because there is no virological need to keep people away. Marc Van Ranst, among others, has repeated this all too often. Moreover, there is a social dimension: “People long for the sea, get some air. My mailbox is bulging, ”said Rousseau.
  • Moreover, there it is economic argument: Sea merchants also crave the higher number of customers they would normally have seen.
  • Both CD&V chairman Joachim Coens and N-VA group leader Peter De Roover joined the question: the coast must “open up” again. This is particularly striking for the Christian Democrats: both Minister of the Interior Pieter De Crem (CD&V) and West Flemish governor Carl Decaluwé (CD&V) have already gone to great lengths to enforce the prohibition to come to the coast as firmly as possible. to make.
  • Coens also backed up his plea to reopen the coast on Twitter, with an excerpt from the 1976 hit by Maggie MacNeal: “I want to go back to the coast“.
  • The question is whether, with increasing political pressure, the ban is political can be maintained for a long time. “Nothing will change until June 8,” was the message from the last Security Council.

Also note: Prime Minister Wilmès had an absolute bad day yesterday.

  • At the MR they meanwhile are watching with suspicion how Alexander De Croo (Open Vld) “profiles” according to them. Because now that Gwendolyn Rutten (Open Vld) is literally in her last days as chairman of the Flemish liberals, De Croo is increasingly taking over contacts with party leaders. And that bothers Bouchez, who sees a maneuver by the Flemish liberal to compete for “his” prime minister for the Sixteen.
  • This leads to something in the Brussels Airlines file irritation: it is De Croo who made the lead takes, but a few critical comments in the press about the much smaller role of the prime minister internally raised some tension yesterday.
  • The super-core then laid one friction with the PS exposed, in the presence of all other party chairpersons. Also not the most pleasant experience: Wilmès and Magnette who clash in front of everyone else.
  • Wilmès then paid a few visits to Brussels hospitals to support the staff. But she got one very cold receptionorganized by the socialist union. Because the staff formed an “honorary hedge” by standing with their back to the prime minister at the entrance of her car.
  • It delivered striking images of about a hundred nurses, doctors and other staff, with his back to the Prime Minister’s black Mercedes.
  • In French-speaking Belgium, the anger is very great about the approach to the crisis: Minister of Health Maggie De Block (Open Vld) is the head of Jut, but Prime Minister Wilmès also received a lot of attention in recent weeks. Include one grim open letter from health care personnel addressed the prime minister.
  • The fact that it has now been decided by royal decree to be able to reclaim the staff in times of emergency and that non-medical staff may also be allowed to perform medical tasks, caused anger to spread completely: the Christian union has already filed a strike notice, for Brussels and Wallonia.
  • Wilmès couldn’t help but say that with a “message of reconciliation” came. “Everyone is aware of the plight of the hospital staff. It was there before the crisis and the difficulties have increased, ”she told RTBF.
  • Yet one boost: in De Zondag, Deputy Prime Minister Koen Geens (CD&V) will take up Wilmès again today: “It is a hell of a job, being prime minister of this country. I said that years ago, and I repeat it today. I have no desire for the Sixteen. It is even thankless what Mrs Wilmès has to do today. This material is so sensitive that it cannot do good for anyone. ”

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