The European Commission has asked Belgium to review its draft budget plan for 2020 and resubmit it as soon as possible to the Commission.
In a letter sent on Tuesday, the Commission asked Finance Minister Alexander De Croo to adapt the draft budget plan, taking into account remarks it had made on the draft.
As the federal government is currently a caretaker one, it had submitted a provisional 2020 budget with unchanged policies. However, such a budget would not be in line with European guidelines, Commissioner Pierre Moscovici and Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis warned.
Minister De Croo (Open Vld) noted in a tweet on Tuesday that a caretaker government did not have the power to define a real budget. He added that the letter, which did not come as a surprise, needed to urge everyone to speed up the formation of a government.
The letter was sent to Prime Minister Charles Michel and to preformateurs Rudy Demotte, of the Parti Socialiste, and Geert Bourgeois of the Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie, De Croo disclosed.
Pending the formation of a new government, Belgium’s caretaker administration functions under the system of provisional tranches, each equivalent to one-twelfth of last year’s budget.
The formation of a new government has been blocked since the May 2019 elections, so Belgium’s draft 2020 budget was submitted in mid-October based on last year’s policy. Budget Affairs Minister Sophie Wilmès (Mouvement Réformateur) told Parliament that a new budget would be presented as soon as possible after a new executive took office.
In their letter, the commissioners said implementing the draft budget would worsen the country’s structural deficit by 0.3% whereas it should have been improved by about 0.6% of GDP annually.
This is due mainly to a 4.7% increase in primary expenditure, which would greatly exceed the maximum increase recommended for EU countries: 1.6%