On 11 March, we will be back in Brussels for another Eurozone summit convened by good old Herman. And guess who else is coming? Yves Leterme! The diplomats have been telling that he will be there too, a full 271 days after the Belgian elections. Unglaublich! Amazing!

Whenever we meet, we think we are seeing him for the last time. Yves, who is pleasant, relaxed, and even charming, seems to be on great form these days, but our opposite numbers – as you probably noticed at the European summit on 4 February – are weary of having him around. They are fed up of steeling themselves to say ‘how nice to see you’ but ‘what a pity your country is still tearing itself apart’. So perhaps it is time for the Berlin-Paris axis to take control of things once again.

Should the European Union appoint a special envoy to Belgium, like the one it recently sent to Albania, which is also in the grip of political deadlock? I am not alone in asking myself this question, but I don’t think we can contemplate such a move unless Belgium specifically asks for help.

Le Soir 17-02-2010

Let’s talk about it to Yves! There is a precedent for this kind of procedure. We can remind him that at the height of the Greek crisis in 2010 – and while we were pulling the rug from under his government – Georges Papandreou asked a former Italian finance minister, Tommaso Padoa Schioppa, to be his advisor. Of course, poor Tommaso is no longer with us, but that can hardly be my fault.

For the Belgian crisis, we can choose from a full deck of available has-beens with extensive experience of comparable instances of ethnic strife. There is Italy’s Romano Prodi, who had his own N-VA in the shape of the Northern League. Alternatively, what about Spain’s Felipe Gonzalez, who had to deal with the Catalans and the Basques before he distanced himself from such parochial politics; or even Britain’s Tony Blair, who had to slug it out with the Scots, the Northern Irish and, more recently, the Israelis and the Arabs – which is a testament to his reputation as big hitter though not necessarily a very effective one. But even as I am writing, I can imagine you saying with that schöne little moue of yours: but aren’t they all on the left?

Let’s be more proactive than we were on Tunisia and Egypt

If that is an issue, we could always send one of our own. What about Sweden’s Carl Bildt? A former prime minister, who spent some time stopping the Bosnians from killing each other might be just the ticket. Or if you feel that real experience in the field should be the priority, we could always opt for Ireland’s Mary Robinson. Sie ist eine Dame. You do understand German, or were you just pretending last time?

The only problem with this is that Belgians, at least the French speaking ones, apparently don’t like political messiahs, so I’ve also been developing a plan B. What about a big European style convention? Before the last major reform, you remember when we had just sacrificed the Deutschmark, we had a Convention on the Future of Europe with 105 delegates from all the institutions and a whole range of backgrounds.

The entire exercise was spread over two years under the imperial presidency of your predecessor Valéry Giscard d’Estaing. Of course, we were not around back then, but Dominique de Villepin could tell you about it – that is if you are willing to listen to him. He is a fine looking man, a bit like Yves… And the Belgians who were there could explain it to their compatriots. There was Jean-Luc Dehaene, Louis Michel, Karel De Gucht, Elio Di Rupo... and Anne Van Lancker... Now who on earth might she be?

Let’s be more proactive than we were on Tunisia and Egypt! But be careful of WikiLeaks! If the Belgian crisis continues with no end in sight, we should organise a covert initiative. The nice demonstrators from 23 January could “spontaneously” take to the streets, only this time they could march on the Schuman Roundabout to tell the European Commission to order Belgium’s political leaders to get a move on. They would wave copies of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, and in particular article 41, which speaks of the “right to good administration.”

It is a pity things have gone so horribly wrong

The Francophones on the outskirts of the Brussels Land could also make jumbo photocopies of article 21 on “non-discrimination” and article 22 on “cultural, religious and linguistic diversity.” Everyone could shout: “Ich bin eine Brüsseler!” You like it? Well you know, I have surrounded myself with a very good team.

The European Commission’s legal experts might cringe a little, but they know how to behave themselves when the Franco-German couple – what charming expresssions you Franzosen have – tells them to not to cause trouble…

You know that I will have ten regional elections this year, and all of them are crucial. Just like your lot, my voters don’t want to pay for lazy poor people… So I’m going to bang my fist on the table with the Spanish socialists, the Portuguese socialists, and with the Belgians, whether they are socialists or just linked to socialists. I don’t care if it is spending for ongoing costs, there will be no more slipshod budgeting. If it comes to it, I will even impose sanctions!

Alas Niko, the problem is that if the Belgians divorce, the separation will have ghastly implications for the euro! We’ll have to talk about this to Yves when we see him next. He is such a nice fellow, Yves. It is a pity things have gone so horribly wrong. Give my best to Carla.



© Le Soir. All rights reserved. info@copiepresse.be