Belgium has a government again

After 16 months of negotiations, Belgium finally has a new government consisting of seven parties from the centre-left spectrum. Neither the national-conservative N-VA nor the far-right Vlaams Belang are included. Former Finance Minister Alexander De Croo, a Liberal, is set to become Prime Minister. Commentators are relieved - but not in the mood to celebrate.

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Le Soir (BE) /

Bittersweet joy

Le Soir is sceptical about the new government:

“Let's be honest, this party is about as joyful as a wedding celebration in the middle of Covid. ... After all, it took almost a year and a half to assemble a coalition whose composition and programme do not justify such a delay in retrospect. It is not a collective impulse that unites these parties, but mostly trepidation about the elections. ... The paradox faced by the new government is: it isn't getting off to a good start, but at the same time it bears a historical responsibility, namely to lead the country out of an unprecedented crisis of health, economic development and democracy.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

There's a lot more at stake in Belgium

Yes, it took 493 days to form a government in Belgium, but mocking this could be dangerous, warns NRC Handelsblad:

“It is of course tempting to make fun of Belgian politics, of course with the familiar references to surrealism or absurdity. But this is an oversimplification of the situation and, when it comes from the Netherlands, there is a definite presumptuousness about it. The Dutch political system is also becoming more and more fragmented, and it takes a long time to form a government here as well. But unlike the Netherlands, the existence of the state itself is at stake in Belgium with every change of government, and that is very worrying. ... It is good that the normal democratic parliamentary conditions have now been restored with the new government.”

De Morgen (BE) /

Will distrust run the country again?

De Morgen fears that the mammoth coalition could put obstacles in its own path, but also sees glimmers of hope:

“Perhaps every step forward will be countered with a blockade again. Then, in one year's time, we will be forced to realize that mistrust is running the country along with Primer Minister De Croo. In light of the coalition agreement, the parties at least seem to be aware of the risk. Although some of the provisions are not very clear, they are not without substance and direction. The text conveys the will of the parties to grant each other points - both on the right and on the left.”