Belgium will be unable to sign the EU’s Reform Treaty on December 13 and may be on the brink of full disintegration as the Flemish parties today went ahead with their previously announced threats and overruled their French-speaking counterparts by voting in favour of a split of the Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde constituency.
The French-speaking members of the Committee on Home Affairs, where the vote took plave, almost unanimously rose from their seats and left the building as the vote was announced. Their exit was applauded by members of the far-right Flemish Vlaams Belang party, who gleefuly waved at them as they left.
The country is now in a free fall into full political chaos, as this will likely have been the final nail in the coffin for the current government negotiations. On the 150th day without a government, a new executive seems further away than ever.
It is still unclear, however, what will happen next. Comments have been cautious so far, but in any case, there will now be a legal wrangling over the decision to split the constituency that may very well take a few months, before today’s decision is actually implemented.
The country cannot hold another election before that is done, effectively ruling out the possibility of calling an early election to break the deadlock.
In either case, it is now more likely than ever that the country will not have a government with a mandate to sign binding agreements on December 13, when the EU member states are to sign the Reform Treaty in Lisbon.
Today’s move may well have been the start of the process that will lead to the split of the country, as divisions between the Flemish and the French halves of the country are deeper than ever before. There will also be constitutional difficulties in resolving the crisis.