Europe

Belgium reaches one year without a full government

Yves Leterme and Herman Van Rompuy (24 March 2011)
Image caption Yves Leterme succeeded Herman Van Rompuy as prime minister in November 2009

As Belgium marks one year without a government, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy has called the political impasse "extremely pitiful".

The former Belgian prime minister told the De Standaard newspaper that the country would need a full government soon to decide on economic policy.

Member states are required to put long-term economic planning past the EU.

Caretaker Prime Minister Yves Leterme has said three more months might be needed to form a governing coalition.

Mr Leterme succeeded Mr Van Rompuy as prime minister in November 2009, but resigned in April 2010 after his government collapsed.

He stayed on as caretaker until early elections in June. The separatist New Flemish Alliance (NVA) emerged as the largest single grouping. The French and Flemish Socialists together won more seats overall.

NVA leader Bart De Wever has been unable to form a coalition administration since, far outstripping the world record recently set by Iraq.

"Of course, what we are seeing today is pathetic," Mr Van Rompuy told De Standaard on Tuesday. "I will be the last to deny it.

"But our economic fundamentals our healthy and the federal government is doing what it should be doing," he added.

Belgium's economy grew at an annualised rate of 1.6% at the end of last year, allowing its budget deficit to fall to under 5%.

The country has also been praised for its handling of the EU's rotating presidency last year.

Mr Leterme told reporters on Tuesday: "The position of our country is good and we are doing our utmost to keep it that way."