Federal government accord: What you need to know

Summary

So what is in that accord that took 16 months to negotiate? Here are the basics, from pensions to abortion

More police, health-care workers

As we all know by now, four Flemish parties and three French-speaking parties formed a federal government last week, 16 months after the 2019 elections. Why does it always take so long? Because hammering out a government accord that everyone can agree on when Flanders votes right and Wallonia votes left is challenging, to say the least.

The now moderate-left government that has resulted agreed to an accord that includes €3.2 billion extra for new legislation, from higher pension payouts to more police officers. Here are the basics of the new federal government accord.

Higher pensions  The minimum pension will be gradually increased to €1,500 a month. That would apply to those who have earned a full pension, meaning having worked full time in Belgium for at least 45 years.

Higher benefits payment  The amount received in benefits for those on welfare would be raised to ensure it is above the poverty level. According to the EU, the poverty line is €1,184 for a single person and €1,781 for a couple. The increased pension and benefits package would cost €2.3 million, a lion’s share of the total budget for new policies.

Economic recovery  An economic recovery plan during and following the coronavirus crisis would be used in a variety of ways, from better digitalising of governmental offices to subsidies for the rail service.

Health-care sector  Health-care workers can expect increased salaries and benefits, as well as some 4,500 more members of staff.

Police and military  Some 1,600 more police officers will be hired, with a focus on neighbourhood policing. There will be more money for the army as well.

Migration  Refugees who are minors will no longer be kept in detention centres but a more efficient system of repatriation must be developed as well as concrete policy for transmigration.

Environment  The government hopes to achieve emission-free company cars by 2026. The decision as to whether to gradually decrease dependency on nuclear power has been postponed until the end of 2021.

Abortion  One of the sticking points of trying to agree to a federal accord early on in the talks was extending the period in which a woman can request an abortion from 12 to 18 weeks. Flemish nationalists N-VA and French-speaking socialists PS were negotiation the formation of a federal government for many months and could not agree on this issue.

The current government decided not to include it in the accord, saying that it “would be further studied”.

Photos, from top: ©Tommy/Getty Images, ©Kurt Desplenter/BELGA