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Belgian government negotiations hit by Covid-19 case

Egbert Lachaert, one of two royal appointees tasked with steering coalition negotiations, has tested postivie for the new coronavirus. © Belga

Belgium’s protracted government formation has been dealt an unexpected blow after one of the royal appointees tasked with exploring options for a potential coalition tested positive for Covid-19.

Egbert Lachaert, president of the Flemish liberal Open VLD is set to go into self-isolation for 14 days after he tested positive for the virus on Tuesday, the party announced in a press release.

“Open Vld President Egbert Lachaert was tested for the coronavirus this morning, 8 September, and this afternoon he learned that he is positive,” a statement provided by spokesperson Thomas Vanwing read.

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In a tweet, Vanwing said that all meetings planned for today have been cancelled and that other party chairmen and advisors would be tested for the virus in the course of the day.

The news throw a spanner in the works at the already convoluted negotiations for a new federal government —which recently became the longest in modern Belgian politics to date—, which has seen parties wrangle over coalition perspectives for well over a year.

Lachaert’s positive test and subsequent quarantine also risk slowing down talks at a crucial moment, as parties race to clinch a coalition deal before the current government’s special powers expire on 17 September.

According to the party, Lachert is for the time being set to continue monitoring the negotiations via videoconference with fellow appointee Conner Russeau, the president of the Flemish socialist party.

It is not clear whether Lachaert has any symptoms of the virus or why he had to take a coronavirus test in the first place. Vanwing did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Gabriela Galindo
The Brussels Times