Bart De Wever, the Flemish nationalist who claimed victory in Belgium's recent national elections, assured European Commission President José Manuel Barroso yesterday (23 June) that the Belgian EU Presidency would be unaffected by ongoing government coalition talks and that a new administration would be in place "by the time real work begins".
Speaking in both Dutch and French, De Wever told journalists last night (23 June) he had "guaranteed" Barroso that the Belgian Presidency, which begins on 1 July, would not be affected by the current period of transition.
"The transition won't affect the efficiency of the presidency," he claimed, noting that outgoing Belgian PM Yves Leterme – who will stay on in a caretaker capacity until a new government is formed – had reassured him that all the necessary preparations had been made for the presidency to proceed.
De Wever indicated that a favourable legislative timetable would also help Belgium, given that July and August are traditionally quiet months for the EU institutions, with many officials on summer holidays.
"Our aim is to have a government in place before October, when the really important work of the presidency will begin," he said.
During their meeting, which was held in French, Barroso informed the N-VA leader of the Commission's current initiatives to stabilise the EU economy and push for a new system of economic governance, and what measures were likely to arise during the Belgian Presidency.
For his part, De Wever sought to assure Barroso that Belgium was fully aware of the current dire state of budget deficits across the EU, and the presidency took the goal of balancing budgets "very seriously" and was prepared for the challenges ahead.
Barroso described the meeting as "fruitful, open and positive" and claimed that while a lengthy exchange had taken place on the economic situation, the Belgian Presidency was only discussed "briefly".
"I am absolutely confident that Belgium, which has always been at the centre of European integration, will remain so during and beyond the term of its presidency, and my discussion with Mr. De Wever reinforced this conviction," he concluded.