In the early hours of Wednesday morning, following several days of intense talks, senior political party negotiators reached an agreement that would establish the first Belgian government in almost 500 days.
Heading the government will be Open Flemish Liberals and Democrats leader Alexander de Croo, who is currently serving as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and Development Cooperation.
After the deal announcement, De Croo tweeted, “Talent wins games, teamwork wins championships. Thank you to all negotiating parties for the agreement reached.”
“After 16 months of negotiations, I can only feel a sense of relief. But there’s no time to celebrate this agreement because the work ahead for this new government is titanic” Marc Tarabella (BE, S&D)
De Croo is the first Flemish Prime Minister since Yves Letermeleft office almost 9 years ago, replacing interim leader Sophie Wilmès, who was the first woman to hold the highest office in the country.
The government will comprise a seven-party coalition across four political groups that has been dubbed the Vivaldi Coalition, with the colours of the four largest parties (Open Flemish Liberals and Democrats; Green/Ecolo; The Socialist Party, and the Christian Democratic and Flemish Party) reflecting the four seasons of the year.
MEPs have been swift to welcome De Croo’s government, with Renew Europe leader Dacian Cioloș tweeting, “Congratulations to @alexanderdecroo. This is good news for Belgium and the EU. I am happy to welcome a committed, hardworking new Prime Minister to the @RenewEurope political family.”
Fellow Renew Europe member, Belgian deputy Hilde Vautmans said, "We have gone through harder situations, we always emerge from them much stronger. These binding words give us courage. Let's work together now towards a prosperous future for our country!"
S&D deputy Marc Tarabella, a member of the Socialist Party, commented, "After 16 months of negotiations, I can only feel a sense of relief. But there’s no time to celebrate this agreement because the work ahead for this new government is titanic. In this period of health crisis and economic uncertainty, the expectations are considerable.”
He added, “The general interest will have to be an absolute rule of this new coalition; this is neither the place nor the time to play the card of frugal interests. Finally, like most citizens, I am therefore relieved but also and above all impatient."
“This federal government should have had a Flemish majority. It has been nearly 500 days since Belgium had its Federal elections, and the biggest Flemish party - the centre-right party N-VA - has not been counted” Assita Kanko (BE, ECR)
Further comment came from Christian Democratic and Flemish Party member and EPP MEP Cindy Franssen, who said: "It is first and foremost important for Belgium that we finally have a deal. Especially in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, it will be crucial to have a decisive, social and ambitious government to lead the country. The deal literally states that Belgium has resolutely opted for a decidedly pro-European attitude and reinforces it with clear ambitions."
She continued, "I see an ambitious, sustainable, social and pro-European deal, which sets the right priorities. This deal can count on my full support. Time for action now."
Meanwhile, from other side of the political spectrum, ECR deputy Assita Kanko, a member of the opposition and second largest party in the Belgian Parliament – the New Flemish Alliance – took aim at the formation of the government.
In a statement she said, “This federal government should have had a Flemish majority. It has been nearly 500 days since Belgium had its Federal elections, and the biggest Flemish party – the centre-right party N-VA - has not been counted as part of the government’s final conclusion. The Belgian democratic system is broken, and that needs to be fixed instead of being further denied.”
Alexander De Croo's first speech in front of the Belgian Federal Parliament and vote of confidence will take place in the European Parliament as it is the only chamber in Brussels able to host 150 physically distanced MPs.