The Co-President of a leading French-speaking Belgian party has condemned a proposal by right-wing Flemish nationalist party N-VA for Flanders and Wallonia to co-govern the Brussels-Capital Region.
According to La Libre Belgique, a controversial "secret meeting" was held on 17 January this year at the headquarters of the Parti Socialiste (PS) to discuss potential institutional reforms relating to Brussels. Attendees included representatives of Belgium's leading French-speaking parties, including Ahmed Laaouej (PS), Céline Fremault (Les Engagés), David Leisterh (MR), Rajae Maouane (Ecolo) and François De Smet (Défi).
Speaking on the radio programme Bonjour Bruxelles on Tuesday, Maouane confirmed that the meeting involved a discussion of a possible revision of Brussels' special status and also noted her own party's strong opposition to any such reform.
"We spoke about the Brussels situation, about the potential reform," she said. "But for us, our first partner is the Flemish Greens. We will work with everyone who wants to make Brussels a separate region and master of its own destiny. We often forget the position of Brussels in the negotiations about reforming the state."
Maouane added that she was "absolutely" against N-VA's proposal for Flanders and Wallonia to co-rule the Belgian capital. "We want Brussels to be in the charge of Brussels residents. As a separate region with more than a million people, it must be treated with respect."
The secret meeting between representatives of Belgium's major Francophone political parties had been largely condemned by Belgium's Flemish parties for sowing divisions between Belgium's Dutch-speaking and French-speaking communities. It also drew strong criticism from Belgium's sole bilingual party, the left-wing Workers' Party of Belgium (PTB-PVDA).
"We must think about creating more unity in the country and refederalising certain issues, such as health or the climate," Giovanni Bordonaro, the President of the PTB-PVDA Brussels-Capital Region, told La Libre Belgique. "The PTB is open to discussions, in full transparency, with all the parties that support this unity. Brussels is a bilingual region, we have this asset to create this unity in the face of the separatist bloc."
Several further meetings between Belgium's Francophone parties are expected within the coming weeks. The next is due to take place before the Easter holidays.