Monday, January 05, 2009

Belgian King Swears in PM Van Rompuy, Cabinet

-- From Wikinews

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Belgian parliament on Friday approved the new Van Rompuy I Government consisting of the same five political parties that formed the last ruling coalition, temporarily ending the country's political crisis. Lower house deputies approved the Motion of Confidence by a majority of 88 votes to 45, with no abstentions. "Don't judge the government... by its intentions but by its results, but no results in the very short-term, judge us in 2011," Van Rompuy told the lawmakers.

Herman A. Van Rompuy (herman van rɔmpœy) had officially been invested on Tuesday as Belgium's third premier in a year by King Albert II. He addressed parliament Wednesday seeking quick economic measures. In his declaration, he urged the passage of bills to rejuvenate an ailing economy heading into deep recession and sought to resolve the 18 months political crisis after the country spent over nine months in caretaker rule. He also asked for full restoration of confidence amid the near-collapse of the country’s two largest banks.

"The previous government proposed such a plan (pumping 2 billion euros or $2.84 billion, into the economy next year, part of a 200 billion euro EU-wide stimulus package). It must be enacted as soon as possible," Van Rompuy said. "It is clear that in the coming weeks and months the government will take new initiatives to cope with the challenges that the crisis poses for the economy and employment," he added.

In his lower house of parliament speech, Van Rompuy also called for experts to testify in an unbiased parliamentary inquiry on Yves Leterme’s cabinet's alleged attempt to influence the judges into allowing the breakup of Fortis, once Belgium's largest bank. “The investigation should be carried out serenely and without bias,” he said.

Van Rompuy, age 61, is a conservative Belgian Flemish politician and member of the CD&V (formerly called CVP) who succeeds Yves Leterme. On December 28, 2008, he was asked by King Albert II to form a new Government after he was reluctant to take up the role of Prime Minister after the Leterme I government had fallen on 22 December 2008 due to the bank bailout scandal.

The Van Rompuy I Government became the new federal government of Belgium on December 30. It comprises 15 ministers and seven secretaries of state. Eighteen of the 22 ministers served in the same posts in Prime Minister Yves Leterme's government. Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyễn Tấn Dũng on Friday has sent congratulatory messages to the new Premier.

Prime Minister Yves Leterme has offered the resignation of his government on December 18 to King Albert after a crisis erupted surrounding the sale of troubled Fortis bank to BNP Paribas. Leterme, Justice Minister Jo Vandeurzen, and Didier Reynders were accused of violating the separation of powers by trying to influence the Court of Appeals and of exerting improper influence by the First Chairman of the Court of Cassation. Three days later the resignation was accepted by the king.

Meanwhile, the Flemish opposition led by Flemish nationalist NVA party, Jan Jambon, challenged the legitimacy of Van Rompuy's government, calling it "a government which does not represent a majority of the Flemish people". Other opposition parties also questioned the created "Fortisgate" parliamentary commission of enquiry alleging it was a scheme to acquit Leterme.

The Kingdom of Belgium is in northwest Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts its headquarters, as well as those of other major international organizations, including NATO. Belgium covers an area of 11,787 square miles and has a population of about 10.5 million. Belgium shares borders with France, Germany, Luxembourg , and the Netherlands.

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