A group of 30 Belgian business leaders have written an open letter to the country’s politicians, expressing their rejection of the idea of early elections.
Belgium’s political parties appear to have reached an impasse in talks to try to form a knew federal government coalition. And with the lack of agreement and the limited possibility of finding one, many minds are now turning to the option of holding new elections to allow the voter to express a clear opinion through the ballot box.
Belgium has now been without a fully-functioning government for 271 days since the elections in May last year. Approaching the halfway point, in other words, towards the record held by Belgium for the longest period without a government, 589 days achieved in 2011 following elections in 2010.
But the political impasse is putting the business world under pressure and creating a great deal of uncertainty, the CEOs say. “New elections and then even longer delays are not an option,” the letter says.
The letter is an initiative of Ingrid Ceusters of the real estate group Ceusters, which owns Wijnegem Shopping Centre; Jo De Wolf of logistics property group Montea and Saskia Van Uffelen, Benelux director of the French IT group Gfi.
The list of 30 signatories also includes Dirk Lindemans, Managing Director of Lindemans brewery, Wouter Torfs, CEO of Schoenen Torfs, Veerle Baert Moortgat, CEO of Flanders Fashion Design International, Luc Priem, ad-interim CEO of G4S and Heidi De Pauw, CEO of Child Focus.
“The current situation is a worrying example for our young people, and gives a disturbing image of leadership,” Ceusters told De Tijd. “That’s what creates indifference, which translates into a lack of solidarity. Political uncertainty stifled economic growth and courage among entrepreneurs.”
“We can get by today and tomorrow,” said De Wolf. “But the lack of a vision for the future is a problem.”
Van Uffelen, meanwhile, issued a number of challenges.
“The government needs to invest urgently in lifelong learning, or within 20 years we’ll be left with high unemployment we’ve created ourselves,” she said.
“At this point it’s more economic to make people redundant than it is to provide continuous training. We want to roll out innovative projects, such as 5G, but we lack the politic infrastructure.”
And before the government can meet these challenges, there has to be a government in place.
The letter also regrets the lack of women at the politicians’ negotiating table, despite the appointment on Wednesday of Sabine Laruelle, president of the Senate, to explore the possibilities for the king.
“After 270 days there was an urgent need for more diversity around the table,” the letter says. “It is no accident that in the Scandinavian countries, where women are more involved in politics, that unity, sustainability and confidence have beneficial effects on the economy. Studies … show that companies with more women in top posts perform better.
“Therefore, dear politicians, bring that feminine touch to the negotiating table, and throw the political games overboard. Use your fresh enterprising brain to arrive at the necessary compromises; integrate a feminine insight in the negotiations and show the guts to cut through the Gordian knot. That is how we can avoid new elections, which will split us more and cost us valuable time and money. Let us finally begin to get our economy ready for 2030. The country and its businesses will thank you for it.”