Belgium. In Belgium, again, an acute government crisis
ensued, which did not receive any solution during the year.
In April, Prime Minister Yves Leterme resigned, for the
third time since the 2007 election. The five-party coalition
he led collapsed due to disagreement over constituency in
the Brussels region. It is a long-contested issue that
reflects the deep divide between Dutch-speaking Flemish and
The government collapse triggered new warnings about
political stalemate and the risk of the country falling
apart in its constituents. Fears were hardly dampened by the
new election held in June.
has a population of 11.46 million (2019). The winner of the election became the Flemish nationalist
party NV-A (New Flemish Alliance), which in the long term
wants an independent Flanders. The party went from 5 to 27
seats in the House of Representatives. The second largest
was the French-speaking Socialist Party, PS, which received
26 seats. The losers of the elections became the Christian
Democratic and Liberal parties in both camps, as well as the
right-wing Flemish nationalist party Vlaams Belang.
Tense government negotiations followed between NV-A as
well as socialists, Christian democrats and environmental
parties on both sides the language barrier, a total of seven
parties. As before, the Flemish parties demanded greater
independence for the regions, while the French-speaking
people slowed down. Both PS leader Elio Di Rupo and NV-A's
Bart De Wever made attempts to form government.
Information on sexual abuse of children within the
Catholic Church shook the Belgians during the year. The
bishop of Bruges resigned after admitting that he had
mistreated a boy for several years. An internal commission
then received testimony from over 500 men and women exposed
as children. Most of the abuses took place in the 1960s and
The House of Representatives voted in favor of a ban on
clothing that conceals identity in a public place. Security
reasons and "Belgian values" were cited as reasons, but
there was no doubt that the law was aimed at Muslim veils.
The proposal was passed in the House of Representatives with
unusual agreement across language boundaries, but stuck in
the Senate because of the political crisis.
The worst train accident in Belgium in half a century
occurred in February. Eighteen people were killed and about
150 injured when two commuter trains crashed at high speed
south of Brussels. The accident caused several weeks of
traffic disruptions, even to neighboring countries.