Three years on, even the French speakers are convinced that some sort of state reform is needed. There are still taboos though. Social security is one of them. The French speakers fear that once this is split up, there will be nothing left to hold Belgium together. They also object strongly to the idea of children “receiving less child support, simply because they live in one part of the country”. Or the unemployed being treated in a different way, for the same reason. Yet according to indiscretions, that is exactly what is on the table at the government formation talks. Time does chip away at taboos.
There are Flemish taboos too. Especially N-VA, the nationalist party that won the 2010 federal elections, has plenty of them. N-VA sticks to the principle of never compromising on matters that make Flemish independence harder to achieve. One of these is a federal constituency, comprising the whole country. Such a constituency would make it a lot easier to resolve the prickly issue of BHV. It would also undo the present situation of Belgium consisting of “two democracies”. Most parties favour the idea of a federal constituency, but to the N-VA it remains taboo.
Besides taboos, there are also practicalities that stand in the way of state reform. Changing the constitution requires a majority of two-thirds in parliament. This majority can be achieved by a government made of many parties, or, alternatively, support can be found amongst the opposition.
Everyone looks to the greens now for their support. Joëlle Milquet, of the French speaking Christian-democrats, called for them to join the government, just to be sure. Her plea was not received well, as Milquet has a reputation for disrupting state reform talks in any possible way. Caroline Gennez, of the Flemish socialists, however, asked for the same thing.
Her message was directed at N-VA and CD&V. Both parties would rather leave the greens out, as their presence would strengthen the leftist element. This, they feel, would go against the general right-wing way Flanders voted. And so, along the long road towards a federal government, new taboos are born.