Flemish government in deep crisis: break until tomorrow

After the failed nitrogen negotiations of this weekend the Flemish government is in deep crisis. This morning the government seemed to be collapsing but now the governing parties are giving themselves a break until tomorrow before talking to the Parliament.

The governing parties N-VA (Flemish Nationalists), Open VLD (Liberals) and CD&V (Christian democrats) failed this weekend again to force a breakthrough in the nitrogen dossier that has been deadlocked for weeks. N-VA and VLD have accepted the proposal but CD&V refuses to agree because according to them it would offer too little future to young farmers. 

‘It is important for us that prospects are offered to young farmers, that we can keep food production here with us,’ said Flemish MP and former minister Joke Schauvliege. "It's good that we have a clear position on that.' For Schauvliege, it is clear that CD&V is not leaving the Flemish government. ‘We want to continue talking about the content.’

The crisis made the discussion shifting to the future of the government, with Prime Minister Jan Jambon claiming CD&V should accept the proposal or leave the government. All opposition parties had insisted that Jambon should already come and explain himself in the Flemish parliament today. But majority parties N-VA, Open VLD and CD&V proposed organising the debate on Tuesday, so that in the meantime all parties would have a chance to look at the new concept note on the nitrogen dossier.

The Extended Bureau of the Flemish Parliament say the political administration of the parliament has to make an official decision soon. According to Vlaams Belang party leader Chris Janssens, the majority's proposal is ‘a way of buying time’. ‘This is the biggest crisis ever of a Flemish government. It would be totally illogical for the parliament not to meet today,’ Janssens said.

'We continue to insist on today. If they can make statements in the media, then also in parliament,' socialist parliamentary group leader Hannelore Goeman told Belga.

The farmers

Friday morning around 2,500 tractors headed for Brussels to take action against the Flemish government's agricultural policy. ​ For weeks, the European farm subsidy dossier has been linked to the nitrogen debate, which blocked more than 300 million euros of funds for the farmers.

The liberal party Open VLD favoured decoupling the nitrogen debate from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). ​Today Somers tweeted that 'the money for the Common Agricultural Policy will be released. A justified demand from the sector. After all, it is part of farmers' income.'


New government?

The only way to bring down the Flemish government is to immediately appoint another one. The constitution makes it impossible for the Flemish government to dissolve itself and announce early elections. With the current distribution of seats, appointing a new government is difficult. Suppose Vooruit (socialists) replaced CD&V, the government would only have one seat in surplus in parliament. This means that in votes, each MP would thus have a de facto veto right. Such a thing is undesirable.

The other option is for the government to remain in place. They can then continue looking for an agreement or table the proposal in the Flemish parliament without the support of ruling party CD&V. Both Vooruit and Groen (Green party) already pledged their support for the plans from the opposition. But both of these options saddle the Flemish government with serious image problems. Whether it can then function until May 2024, when the next elections are due, remains to be seen.

CD&V minister of Agriculture Jo Brouns does not yet want to comment on a possible alternating majority with the opposition parties on this dossier: ‘We will have to see what that means. If the dossier comes up for a vote in parliament, we will see what happens there, but for us it is clear that it has to be a consensual decision within the government.’


#FlandersNewsService | Flemish farmers take their tractors to the city center of Brussels, to protest against proposed new rules to reduce nitrogen emissions, on Friday 03 March 2023. The Flemish Government is debating measures to reduce the emissions of the industry and the agricultural sector. © BELGA PHOTO JAMES ARTHUR GEKIERE


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