Flemish government formation kicks off with meeting on budget

The chief negotiators of N-VA, Vooruit and CD&V started the formation of the Flemish government in Brussels on Friday with a first look at the state of the region's budget. The real negotiations will start next week.

As Flemish formateur, Matthias Diependaele of conservative N-VA is in charge of forging a coalition agreement. After a first meeting with party leaders Melissa Depraetere of socialists Vooruit and Sammy Mahdi of Christian democrats CD&V on Thursday, he convened the chief negotiators of the three expected government parties for the first time on Friday.

The aim was to get a picture of the budgetary framework within which the future government will have to work, based on a presentation by Koen Algoed, secretary-general of the government's Finance and Budget Department. Diependaele said this was only an "informative meeting".

Last week, figures from the Belgian Planning Bureau showed that Flanders will have a balanced budget in 2028. This year, the budget is expected to have a deficit of 3.2 billion euros, excluding the long-running Oosterweel road construction project in Antwerp.

Different views

The budget is one of the main points of disagreement between the three parties. Vooruit and CD&V want to invest more in welfare, education and public transport, while the N-VA believes austerity is necessary to put the budget back in order.

The next government will also have to deal with Flanders' growing debt, caused by successive crises in recent years. According to the Court of Audit, the Flemish debt ratio could rise to 77 per cent of revenues next year, well above the target of 65 per cent. In the coming years, it is expected to rise further towards 85 per cent.

The meeting lasted about two hours in total. The real negotiations will start next week in various working groups.



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