Is there still life for purple-green, or Vivaldi? In the Senate, the dream is severely hit. The assembly will reopen its doors tomorrow, and the appointment of ex-Ecolo president Zakia Khattabi to the Constitutional Court will immediately be on the agenda. That vote counts as a strong test for Vivaldi: all those parties are needed to give Ecolo their way. But troubled relationships between MR President Georges-Louis Bouchez and Ecolo President Jean-Marc Nollet are now evaporating every hope for Khattabi.
In the news: Ecolo’s ambitions to appoint their former chairman to the Constitutional Court will soon fail in the Senate.
The details: The appointment of Khattabi had become a very symbolic file in the Wetstraat.
- High voltage in the Senate, it is something that is not immediately common in the death house next to the House. But now it hemisphere with the red plush reopens its doors (with respect for social distancing) there will be an important vote on the agenda tomorrow.
- As early as the autumn of 2019, the French-speaking greens tried to have their ex-president, the Brussels MP Khattabi, appointed to the Constitutional Court. That legal body consists of professional judges supplemented by politically appointed people: the tradition is that each party sends a legal specialist or expert. But there are no regulations: like this don’t need a law degree at all.
- Normally, there is an unwritten rule not to plunge each other’s candidates, as it takes two thirds of the vote, or 40 out of 60 senators, to make such an appointment. That’s how the sp.a got there without any problem their candidate Yasmine Kherbache voted.
- But Khattabi did provoke a lot of opposition from the start. In her political career, she certainly did not only make friends: both Vlaams Belang and N-VA jumped in, calling her an “open border activist”. But also with other parties was not immediately great enthusiasm for, at a secret vote where you are never completely sure of support, but still want to give Khattabi a career as a judge.
- For example, the appointment was promoted to a bad one at the end of 2019 symbolic file: Ecolo asked and got a so-called Vivaldi coalition around their candidate, just when such a purple-green construction was also in the air in the Wetstraat.
- When in January her nomination finally took the lead in the Senate, she did not make it in the first round, with 37 votes out of 60. In a hurry, even Georges-Louis Bouchez (MR) was summoned to the Senate, to vote personally. But also in the second round it did not work: someone had not kept to the agreements, much to the delight of N-VA, Vlaams Belang and Els Ampe (Open Vld), who voted against. But because the vote is secret, it never became officially clear who broke his word.
- That was especially symbolic a defeat for the Vivaldists: they just dreamed of showing in the Senate that a progressive coalition of liberals, socialists, greens and Christian Democrats could work and find each other around such a sensitive dossier, against the N-VA.
- But two voices already torpedoed that dream. A survey among all groups more than teaches that presumably it was the PVDA senatorswho withdrew their support in the end.
And now: Ecolo stubbornly clings to their candidate and refuses to push anyone else forward. But Khattabi is going to be like this now collateral damage in an escalating conflict between MR and Ecolo.
- Jean-Marc Nollet (Ecolo) then made it a point of honor to have Khattabi appointed. He pointed out “that the rule of law would be endangeredIf the other parties would not award Ecolo that nomination, and also spoke of an “aggressive, sexist and racist campaign” by N-VA against their ex-chairman.
- There is something else to be heard among the Flemish Greens: “Perhaps it was a bit too ambitious to immediately want to go to that Constitutional Court as the outgoing chairman. Because in that job of party leader you inevitably come into conflict with other parties. Better to be there a cooling off period in between? ”
- Anyway, Ecolo pushed through weeks ago: Khattabi should and should be on the Senate’s agenda. But meanwhile relations on the French-speaking side cooled to such an extent that the MR is now withdrawing its support. Immediately, Khattabi can no longer get 40 votes.
Why this matters: The file is symptomatic of how MR and Ecolo are in each other’s hair.
- “You serve a sign that has already been rejected not again. If people did not want to eat it for the first time, why try to ram it through the throat again? ”, Is the dry comment in circles around MR chairman Georges-Louis Bouchez. The French-speaking liberals no longer give support. “After our chairman is so attacked by Ecolo, it is a matter of credibility. If MR were to fold for the greens now, Bouchez would be viewed strangely internally ”, the explanation says.
- For weeks, there have been more than skirmishes going on between MR and Ecolo.
- As coalition partners in the Walloon government, they share a government, but the atmosphere soured there in such a way that an emergency consultation was required on a file of solar panels to smooth out the folds. “It is not the MR ministers in that Walloon team, but Bouchez who apparently wanted to renegotiate the coalition agreement and so corrupts relations, ”is one of the ecologists. “He was not at the table at the time and therefore does not feel bound now. But it does not work like that.”
- The federal attitude of Nollet, the Ecolo chairman, is irritating: he is part of the super core, he has supported Wilmès II, but “permanently he is setting himself during those meetings, and just play pure opposition, “according to the MR. “Intolerable.” They have not forgotten that Ecolo openly attacked the Security Council, with Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès (MR) as its face, among the French-speaking liberals.
- Also the RTBF chairmanship, who went to Ecolo while the MR held that post, has fallen badly.
- Then there was the file of one extra bicycle lane on the Wetstraat and also the rescue of Brussels Airlines, where MR and Ecolo met again and again.
- But the deepest wounds were struck in RTL studios when both Bouchez and Nollet were guests at Cest pas tous les jours dimanchetwo weekends ago. There, the coalition members flew each other, making it personal. “Even Raoul Hedebouw (PVDA) was less aggressive, it was Nollet who suddenly our chairman’s football club was dragged along, to attack him as an individual. “
- The conclusion has now been drawn in the Gulden Vliesstraat, the MR headquarters: no more Vivaldi party in the Senate. Because between blue and green it will not be soon.
- That is also the manifestation of what several party chairmen in the Wetstraat have been saying softly for some time: purple-green or Vivaldi is becoming very difficult. There is simply no “spark“More between greens and liberals, and the PS is also already in the Walloon government tired of Ecolo’s behaviorthat waves too much with the finger.
Important to note: In the meantime, CD&V also has a bit more information about the future formation of coalitions.
- The current minority government appears does not intend to ask the House of Representatives for confidence in June: they want to stay at least until September. The MR has been asking for this for some time, but CD&V is now also confirming this.
- However, it would not be illogical to ask for that confidence in June, as PS chairman Paul Magnette also recently said. Prime Minister Wilmès and her team got that confidence in their appointments in mid-March until September, but with the idea that the proxies would also be extended twice. That does not happen: from June they will no longer have those powers of attorney. For something other than fighting corona neither has the federal government been mandated, so the question is what they should be allowed to do all summer long.
- In any case, this situation means that the king cannot issue an “initiative” until September: a formator or informer will not be thereeven during the summer, which almost all parties want to use to form a government.
- The starting point is then that the initiative to negotiate is best left with that minority government, as long as it is there. At least that is what was agreed among the three government parties at the start of Wilmès II.
- In an interview with Knack, Geens made it clear that he wants to adhere to this: “It is best to negotiate from the existing government”. That gives space to the current Prime Minister, Wilmès, to lead the dance. But in circles surrounding the CD&V chairman, there is another story to be heard: “It is equally possible that, as at the Flemish level, we place the right of initiative with the largest party.” It is clear that Joachim Coens (CD&V) would rather keep his hands free, and not look too much at who is currently in the Sixteen.
- Also Egbert Lachaert, leader of Open Vld, does not intend to do it at all to leave the current prime minister: he wants to start negotiations with a note between the government parties MR, Open Vld and CD&V, but also supplemented with the sp.a of Conner Rousseau. The idea behind this is that you won’t be able to solve it with PS and N-VA alone, but going through the ‘center’ will yield more. Lachaert therefore first aims for purple-yellow.
- At Geens, there is still a clear conviction, even more due to the crisis, that it must be purple-yellow: a stable team, supported by the two strongest parties in both parts of the country. “A matter of common sense.”
The essence: There will inevitably have to be talked about state reform.
- For CD&V, the next government should not immediately pursue a state reform, but it should agreeing a “menu”, a “timing” and a “working method”. That was also the plan in previous attempts to make purple-yellow. She is then beaten for the next elections, to be carried out by a constituent after a ballot.
- As with Open Vld, it is not a foregone conclusion for CD&V that this state reform will only bring more powers to the federal states. On the contrary: for foreign trade, but also diplomacy and the approach to European affairs, would the federal level must be strengthened. The federal funding must also be considered: the federal states are bulging with money, compared to federal poverty. But on the other hand: in addition to, for example, the prison system, health care is something that Geens wants to pass on to the regions, in contrast to Alexander De Croo (Open Vld).
- Several extensive contacts behind the scenes indicate that the French-speaking parties, the PS in front, would allegedly have a hard time with the cameras, but in fact they are not too averse to that. On the contrary, for certain files, such as in particular health care, they are requesting party.
- It is clear that the latter, if the French speakers were willing to respond to this, would be a huge boost for the N-VA, who can thus cross the Rubicon. The question is whether such a thing can also be negotiated with the MR at the table, from the beginning, as “from the government”. Bouchez and Wilmès regularly seem to disagree on matters, but their ideas come together wonderfully on one theme: no state reforms neededunless “to strengthen Belgium”.
Today in the Chamber: Should Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès (MR) go for the firing squad again?
- Weekly, the prime minister of the minority government must face a barrage of questions on Thursday. In the absence of a real majority, this is often intense: Wilmès simply has much more hostile than friendly groups in the Chamber opposite.
- Today predicts not to get much better than the past few weeks. Yesterday’s Security Council delivered what was expected: a few things like hairdressers and markets are now settled. A bit like a school teacher, Wilmès read the lists. What also stood out, the prime minister did not bring much optimism or perspective this time“I can already say that it will certainly not be a return to a normal situation before the summer,” she said. And also explicitly: nothing will change until 8 June. Officially, everyone is therefore still in a “bubble of family, plus four contacts”.
- In this way, the list of what is still not allowed, and what is not clear, continues to weigh. Come on about that again critical questions in the Chamber, later.
- How about the catering industry? That sector longs for news, and has already made plans itself. The fact that in many other European countries, including neighboring countries such as Germany, the cafes and restaurants have reopened in the meantime is a bit painful. They will be closed until June 8, there is no more news here.
- Another tricky file: the second stayers. It leads to great tensions, also legally. Moreover, the virologists fail to declare that “there is no virological need” to prohibit people from going to their chalet in the Ardennes or an apartment by the sea. It remains a matter of political burn.
- Domestic trips are also still prohibited, as are foreign ones tourism. There is a bright spot for the latter: the European Commission has a plan to gradually open the borders and to allow tourism again. Not illogical, 12 percent of all European jobs, especially in Southern Europe, depend on that tourism. The Benelux is also sending a signal to open up the borders between Belgium and our small neighboring countries.
- Much remains unclear for the events. Not for large gatherings, they are not allowed until the end of June. But what about meetings of groups of people like youth movements, or orchestras and things? Nothing settled there yet. And “sports clubs”, what are they, factual associations or a group of friends?
- It remains a politically very difficult situation for the minority cabinet. Certainly as experts, who often even sit at the table, including in the GEES, their own agenda and opinion continue to posit even if it does not run parallel to the Security Council.
Remarkable: CD&V and MR are looking in a completely different direction about Brussels Airlines.
- In the federal government, one file with particular attention is at the top of the pile, now that the corona crisis is raging: the fate of Brussels Airlines. The airline is by far the largest in Zaventem, connecting Brussels with a lot of European cities, so it becomes like “Strategically very important” estimated for the Belgian economy.
- But society is in the hands of the Germans of Lufthansa. They lose about 30 million a day, or nearly one billion euros a monthwhile the crisis lasts. At Brussels Airlines, that is about 1 million a day. The German government is busy negotiating with Lufthansa to grant an emergency loan of around 9 to 10 billion euros.
- The discussion in Germany rages between the Christian Democrats of Angela Merkel, who previously convertible bonds wants to get in exchange for the generous support, and the socialists of Olaf Scholz, who are aiming for a participation of 25 percent plus one share.
- In Belgium, Alexander De Croo (Open Vld) and Koen Van Loo, the boss of the FPIM, the federal investment company, draw up the file. But that leads to what MR frustration, where President Georges-Louis Bouchez (MR) has explicitly been on the file for several weeks. But the information does not flow enough, according to the French-speaking liberals.
- For the MR, which also supplies Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès, it is crystal clear: the survival of a “national carrier” is crucial for Bouchez. That is possible for the French-speaking liberals in several ways: a participation at least in the new Brussels Airlines, but if necessary with a complete restart where the Belgian state takes the initiative.
- “With the 390 million euros now on the table, many options are possible. We should not peg on the hands of the Germans to keep walking ”, it is said. For the MR it is about “a strong brand that we can keep“, But that is possible in all kinds of scenarios,” up to and including a hundred percent takeover “.
- This is striking, because with the Flemish liberals there was always much more reserve: the memories of the state-owned Sabena are not exactly rosy. For a long time, participation was not the target, but now the Belgian position resembles Scholz’s line in Germany: the FPIM asked 25 percent plus one share.
- On the other hand, the Flemish Christian Democrats are also in this minority cabinet. And there is chairman Joachim Coens, himself with a history in the Flemish ports, not at all fond of the idea of a government getting in in an airline.
- “We just entered a liberalized aviation market in Europe, which used to be all state-owned companies. But that story of national glory, that is no longer the case now. A semi-public carrier, that is outdated, ”as can be heard in Wetstraat 89, the headquarters of CD&V. “As if the port of Antwerp would also join the largest shipping company of that port.” That being said: CD&V wants guarantees from Lufthansa against a famous credit line. But stocks in themselves are by no means a motive.
Fake news in the Wetstraat: On Facebook, Vlaams Belang attacks Alexander De Croo (Open Vld) head-on, with what it calls “fake news”.
- “We will have to choose whether we want another catering sector in this country.” With that one sentence, picked from a longer interview with Trends, advertises Vlaams Belang on Facebook. The accompanying text leaves nothing to the imagination: “Of course we want another catering sector in our country! Vlaams Belang supports the catering industry and everyone who works in this sector. Open Vld minister Alexander De Croo plays with the jobs of almost 80,000 people with such an irresponsible statement! ”
- It led to particularly fierce reactions at De Croo. The quote from Trends was completely taken out of context according to his cabinet. After all: De Croo is within the government just one of those pushing to get the economy going again. “I already said this is going to be a marathon, but some sectors will have to run a double marathon. There is little prospect of a substantial increase in economic activity in the catering and events sector. We will have to choose whether we want another catering sector in Belgium. New measures may follow in the coming months, ”the full quote reads.
- That also N-VA group leader Peter De Roover picked the quote, and admittedly with the full text, attacked, wash extra oil on the fire. “If a liberal minister of economics says something like that, you should sit down. Yes, Alexander De Croo, we certainly want a catering industry in this country ”, he commented.
- 1) Take a quote out of context. 2) Push that “news” via Facebook in different groups. 3) Group leader N-VA agrees. CrazySaid De Croo’s spokesman on Twitter. Later explicit communication followed that De Croo supports the catering industry: perhaps it had not been the minister’s happiest statement after all.
- But on the substance there is more going on: “fake news” or at least manipulated news, which is distributed via Facebook for political purposes, was the tech giant going to do nothing about that? It does not seem as if much has changed, because Vlaams Belang remains bad week after week large budgets attack other parties. Among other things, about justice, all kinds of messages from Vlaams Belang appeared on Facebook, which at the very least can be said to be particularly light-hearted with the truth.
- It was Charles Michel (MR), then Prime Minister, who announced this to his State of the Union in October 2018 the government would intensify the fight against fake news. There would be a special fund and an initiative, which would be De Croo. But “because of the fall of the government, that never really got through,” said the cabinet De Croo yesterday.
A sign of the times: The European Union promises to “stop folding for Chinese censorship”.
- An embarrassing affair for the EU and the European Commission in particular seems to have ended. Everything revolved around the actions of the European External Action Service, the EU diplomats are. They had to admit last week to EU ambassadors in Beijing were folded under Chinese pressure to tone down an open letter published in the China Daily, the newspaper considered an extension of the Chinese dictatorship.
- The letter contained a phrase that spoke of the origin and distribution of the coronavirus. But the Chinese readers never saw it: it was partly deleted. Not coincidentally of course: China has particularly strict supervision on the idea that they don’t want to be associated with the pandemic. The fact that the European press is eager to focus on the strains of Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro on a daily basis suits them perfectly: this makes it easy to sell the idea that there was and is much less going on in China itself.
- Today the news came out that China is in Wuhan says he has six new infectionst, and immediately the government decides to have 11 million inhabitants tested. Those figures are so absurd that questions of truthfulness linger heavily on how to deal with the disaster.
- But the EU is right now its back. European Commissioner Josep Borrell, the big boss of the EU diplomats, said at a press conference on Tuesday “that Europe would never again give in to Chinese pressure on censorshipPolitico writes. At the same time, he maintained confidence in the EU diplomat in Beijing. “The ambassador had to make the decision to pass 99 percent of his message, even if it was not yet clear what the Chinese would answer in response,” Borrell defended his diplomat. “The decision was made under time pressure, and just wasn’t the right one.”