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Belgium goes 1 year without full government
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Apr 26, 9:57 AM (ET)

By RAF CASERT

BRUSSELS (AP) - Belgium marks an anniversary Tuesday, but no one in this country of 10.5 million people is celebrating.

One year ago, King Albert II accepted the resignation of the government and one election and countless negotiating sessions later, the search for a new governing coalition is still continuing.

Ever since the June 13 elections, negotiations have snarled over the linguistic divisions and the future make up of the country, with parties representing the 6 million Flemings seeking more autonomy in line with their wealth and the 4.5 million Francophones trying to keep together a sense of Belgian nationhood.

Caretaker Prime Minister Yves Leterme said Tuesday that up to three more months could be required to form a coalition.

European Union President Herman Van Rompuy, who was Belgian prime minister before going to the EU in December 2009, called the situation "extremely pitiful."

Van Rompuy said that even though Leterme had taken as much action as his remit as caretaker premier allowed, Belgium would need a full government soon to decide on continued economic policy.

"There is a real chance that in the eyes of the EU we will fall short" in terms of economic policy, Van Rompuy told Tuesday's edition of De Standaard newspaper. Member states have to put longterm economic planning past the EU.

While several EU nations have suffered significant debt problems, Belgium, even without a government, has so far managed to glide through.

"The position of our country is good and we are doing our utmost to keep it that way," said Leterme, whose reign at the helm of a caretaker government has been widely praised.

A caretaker government can only do small adjustments to policy and Leterme also called for more speed in negotiations.

"The longer we wait, the longer we have to postpone reforms and the tougher they become," he said.

The two biggest parties, the N-VA nationalists of Bart De Wever in Flanders and the PS Walloon Socialists of Elio Di Rupo in Wallonia, still have not found any room for compromise and Leterme scolded De Wever - whose party seeks the dissolution of Belgium - for not trying hard enough.

"Forming a government is not the first goal of the N-VA," Leterme said.




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