A pension reform that is deadlocked, a ‘settled’ ban on gambling advertising that is suddenly called into question and the young greens calling for the resignation of State Secretary Nicole de Moor (CD&V). Vivaldi’s déconfiture continues unabated.
“In this situation, the position of Ms De Moor as Secretary of State is untenable.” The co-chairs of Jong Groen, Kilian Vandenhirtz and Laura Schuyesmans, sent a strict ultimatum to State Secretary for Asylum and Migration Nicole De Moor (cd&v) on Sunday. If she has not found a structural solution to the reception crisis by December 25, she will have to resign from the federal government. Asylum seekers are the reason who sleep in the street in the freezing cold.
The ultimatum is a compromise between the youth department and parent party Groen. If it were up to the young people, a call for the Vivaldi government to fall was already launched at the end of last week. The frustration in green ranks about the lack of a ‘human solution’ is therefore great. “Our members are indeed very concerned,” said Deputy Prime Minister Petra De Sutter The Seventh Daywhere she admittedly did not endorse the ultimatum.
It is not that De Moor has been idle since the outbreak of the reception crisis. Last Friday she gave the core cabinet the guarantee that there will be enough beds available to give everyone a place to sleep. But according to the greens, and according to the largest government party PS, De Moor takes insufficient account of the sensitivities of their left-wing supporters. “This right-wing policy does not suit a government with so many progressive parties,” said Jong Groen.
The fallout to De Moor is the latest in a whole series of conflicts that have unfolded within the De Croo government in recent days. Each and every one of these is symptoms of a government in which distrust towards each other and the urge to score goals towards the rank and file gradually make any compromise impossible. Such an impasse often arises in the run-up to elections, but in this case the government still has a year and a half to go. Moreover, the work is far from finished. They have promised to work on a number of major reforms, including those of pensions, the labor market and taxation.
Breach of trust
Last Friday, there was already a serious clash between Prime Minister Alexander De Croo (Open Vld) and PS ministers Karine Lalieux and Pierre-Yves Dermagne. The reason was a memorandum from De Croo with a number of proposals to adjust the pension reform that was rejected last summer. The summer deal introduced, among other things, a pension bonus of 300 to 500 euros net per year for those who voluntarily continue working beyond the early retirement age, and a higher pension for those who combined part-time work and family.
This first agreement already cost blood, sweat and tears, but according to the European Commission, the government had to do its homework again. Indeed, the reform would derail the costs of aging even further, while the aim was to get them back under control. Without structural reforms, the Commission threatens to withhold 850 million in promised recovery support. This would mean a line through the bill and an international embarrassment.
De Croo proposes, among other things, to tighten up the condition for receiving a pension bonus. Only those who earn less than 4,000 euros gross per month would be eligible. In addition, he wants to cut some favorable regimes for civil servants. For example, he would allow the system of ‘perequation’, whereby civil servants’ pensions automatically rise with civil servants’ wages, to die out. He would also calculate their pensions based on the last fifteen years of their careers, not the last ten. So this is slightly lower.
The PS shudders at the idea of touching accrued pension rights. The party even spoke of a “breach of trust” on Friday because De Croo would have passed pension minister Lalieux with his memorandum. Fundamentally, however, the problem runs deeper. In recent weeks, the PS has become embroiled in two affairs that tarnish the party’s image: the luxury trip of former Walloon parliament speaker Jean-Claude Marcourt to Dubai and the fraud scandal in the EU parliament. Magnette feels the extreme left PTB breathing down his neck.
Down to the last centimetre
That the nervous Magnette is not the only one who is afraid to make compromises, was also shown on Friday by the farce surrounding the ban on gambling advertising, not even a major reform file for the government. Shortly after Minister of Justice Vincent Van Quickenborne (Open Vld) announced an agreement on this ban, MR chairman Georges-Louis Bouchez coolly noted that there was no agreement. To which the prime minister himself made it clear that the agreement had been reached “down to the last centimetre”.
De Croo, herself weakened by the debacle surrounding the dismissal of State Secretary Eva De Bleeker (Open Vld), can only conclude that from now on it is every man for himself. The same goes for himself. The coming week will be sweating during the budget debate in the House. This is followed by preparations for the budget review in March, when the figures must be put back in order. Only then will it become clear whether the coalition partners will grant this prime minister anything.