Geert Bourgeois made waves on the last week-end in the – already complicated – French and Dutch speaking relations in Belgium.
The regional Flemish government and very separatist vice-president stated in De Staandard and Het Nieuwsblad Flanders was targeting full autonomy after the June 2014 Belgian regional and legislative elections with new competencies as Social security, employment or tax system. “If NV-A is inevitable […] French speaking parties will not do anything else that taking into account our conclusions. That’s going on in a marriage. If a partner says ‘I want this’ and the other says ‘no’, so, it’s over” explains very clearly, the Nieuwe Vlaams Alliantie (New Flemish Alliance party) cofounder which is looking for the absolute majority in two very importants ballots for the future of Belgium as State. Nonetheless, his statements were partially questioned by Bart de Wever, mayor of Antwerpen (Antwerp) and current NV-A leader, considering the next-year-election should be a decisive step towards Flanders’ independence within an “evolving process”.
The political reactions came very quickly, especially from the French speaking people. For Joëlle Milquet and Laurette Onkelinkx, both members of the Federal government, the Flemish nationalists put forward their genuine intentions, that is to say the Flanders’ independence from the next year, forcing Brussels and Wallonia to accept the verdict of ballots and the NV-A demands. Ecologists and liberals also share this position, reminding the future of the Belgian capital city is not negotiable, in spite of the Bourgeois’ proposal to co-manage Brussels with the Walloons in the framework of his full autonomy political project. The Dutch speaking parties also criticized the Flemish minister as Kris Peeters, current Flander’s social-Christian minister-president insisting on the implementation of the sixth reform of the State – a new transfer of competencies from the Federal State to the regions and linguistic communities – adopted in December 2011, after more a year and half of negotiations.
Geert Bourgeois’ statements should not surprise the Belgian political leaders insofar as NV-A only is reminding its first and in priority goal: the more or less Flanders’ full independence in a near future. That’s new on the contrary it’s the Bourgeois’ political ambitions now unveiled. The man wants to lead the Flemish region in 2014 and wants to be inevitable in his region and within his party, even if it means, challenging Bart de Wever.
With a more radical position (at least, more explicit), Bourgeois is looking for keeping pressure on the Elio di Rupo federal government and the French speaking politicians but also on the NV-A leader who, despites his charisma and his huge victory at Antwerp on the last October, still seems to hesitate on the leading strategy, multiplying ambiguities and other contradictions. Indeed, with his “full autonomy” Geert Bourgeois affirms his positions and force De Wever’s hand, to he takes his responsibilities vis-à-vis French speaking parties, claiming Flemish nationalists’ claims again.
Finally, Geert Bourgeois hopes to force the Flanders’ and also his political destiny making the June 2014 elections a kind of referendum for or against Belgium. The nationalist minister, 62, wants to enjoy the upcoming situation to have “a major role” within the regional Flemish executive, even if it means questioning Bart de Wever and his strategy to independence. The legislative campaign has already started and the NV-A is trying to impose the institutional issue as main theme to Dutch and French speaking parties both.