Far-right party's motion erects another obstacle to forming a national government and ending country's political crisis
One more example of the communal divisions in Belgium – and yet another obstacle to negotiations to form a government – has arisen.
On 12 May, the 333rd day of Belgium's political crisis, all the mainstream Flemish parties, apart from the Greens, supported a motion by the far-right Vlaams Belang party advocating an amnesty for those who collaborated with the Nazi occupation in 1940-45. The bill suggests effacing all the effects of "sentences and sanctions inflicted on the grounds of alleged breaches of public loyalty". It proposes compensation for "financial prejudice" suffered by "victims of postwar repression or their descendants".
Flemish-speaking far-right parties have been battling for almost 20 years for an amnesty. Until now all the proposals by Vlaams Belang, which is largely isolated, have failed. But when the Flemish Social-Democrats (SP.a) decided to endorse the proposal it opened the way for the Flemish majority in the upper house to authorise a debate. Parliament had previously refused to entertain the idea. "In these difficult times it is particularly worrying that this rule should have been broken," said Philippe Mahoux, a Walloon Socialist (PS) party senator. "It is a major obstacle in the path of those who want to establish stable government," said Francis Delpérée, a member of the centrist CDH party.
Armed collaboration with Germany involved roughly equal numbers from the Walloon and Flemish communities, but political collaboration was more extensive in Flanders. where the Nazis awarded privileges such as releasing prisoners of war and placing militants of the Vlaams Nationaal Verbond, a nationalist pro-collaboration party, in positions of authority in Flemish localities, according to the writer Charles Bricman. In 1943 about 2,000 collaborators enrolled in the Walloon Legion, almost 3,000 in its Flemish counterpart. Nearly 14,000 Belgians fought in the Wehrmacht under German colours. The move looks like a warning to French-speaking politicians suspected of holding up negotiations to end the political stalemate. It might even herald a repeat of the events of 2007, when in the course of committee proceedings in parliament the Flemish majority unanimously voted to split the bilingual Brussels-Hal-Vilvorde district.
Almost four years later the situation has hardly changed. After countless attempts, King Albert II is once more holding talks, after Wouter Beke, the latest in a long line of negotiators, asked on 12 May to be relieved of his duties. After more than two months' discussions the leader of the Flemish Christian Democrat (CD&V) party delivered a thick document to the head of state which, he says, contains the basis for possible agreement.
None of the players seems to believe a solution is possible and the Crown obstinately refuses to consider another election. According to the commentators, the most likely outcome is a negotiated partition of the country, which might also take ages.