Prime minister De Croo advocates cooperation and reform in new book
Crises can only be resolved through cooperation and mutual trust between people, prime minister Alexander De Croo says in his new book. Why the Best is Yet to Come was presented at the Open VLD party headquarters on Monday, with outgoing Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte as the keynote speaker.
For De Croo, reforms are essential, especially in the economy and the labour market. He advocates a new model of economic migration, including circular migration, which allows workers to return to their country of origin. He criticises the "ravages of nationalism", saying: "Romantic nationalists threaten to impoverish us with their illusions."
Cooperation and trust
De Croo's book also focuses on the reorganisation of the state, emphasising cooperation and trust. As an example, he reflects on the Covid-19 crisis, during which he worked closely with Health minister Frank Vandenbroucke of socialists Vooruit. He also refers to the close cooperation with Energy minister Tinne Van der Straeten of green party Groen to make Belgium more resilient to the energy crisis.
Nevertheless, he admits there have been difficult moments, such as the resignation of state secretary for the Budget Eva De Bleeker of liberals Open VLD, the resignation of Open VLD leader Egbert Lachaert and the near dismissal of Foreign minister Hadja Lahbib of francophone liberals MR.
With the end of his term as prime minister in sight, De Croo proposes concrete reforms for Belgian politics, advocating a federal electoral district. This would allow voters across the country to elect national representatives. Currently, these federal representatives are on provincial lists, which limits the accessibility of the vote.
He suggests combining this federal constituency with a proposal whereby each party would nominate a candidate for prime minister. If that candidate wins, they would have a mandate to form a government. "Even better, let's think about how we could directly elect this position," De Croo says.
To make Belgium work better and more efficiently, we need to become more federal, not less
A prime minister should be expected to bring together partners at different levels, he says. The concept of a federal constituency is seen in Belgium as a solution to fundamental political problems. Opponents, however, see it as an attempt to strengthen Belgian structures.
Finally, De Croo addresses the fragmentation of competencies. "To make Belgium work better and more efficiently, we need to become more federal, not less," he says.
"Newly formed governments that at the beginning of their term of office agree on what they want to achieve together on labour or climate, with clear agreements on each one's focus and contribution, are a first step towards removing the embedded mistrust from our system," he says. He advocates four regions - Flanders, Wallonia, Brussels and East Belgium - and suggests that Brussels should be "de-fragmented".
De Croo's 240-page book, published by Pelckmans, comes just over six months before the federal and regional elections that traditionally coincide with the European elections on 9 June 2024. First, De Croo will have to oversee Belgium's six-month presidency of the European Council, which begins in January.
© BELGA PHOTO ERIC LALMAND