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Europe

Belgium Strikes Coalition Deal After Long Limbo

Belgian political parties struck a deal Tuesday, March 18, on a program for a coalition government under Christian Democrat Yves Leterme. He is due to take control on Thursday, after a nine-month-long standstill.

A Belgian flag is seen flying at the Cinquantenaire monument in Brussels

A group of five parties were involved in reaching the political compromise

"It's a good deal for a government, with balanced measures," Flemish Christian Democrat leader Yves Leterme told Belgium's RTBF radio, according to the AFP news service. The agreement will likely see Leterme sworn in as prime minister on Thursday.

The five parties involved in the compromise, and which currently form Belgium's interim government, must now agree on the composition of the future cabinet to ensure that the plan can put a final close to the country's political turmoil.

Belgium's Yves Leterme

Yves Leterme is expected to head the new Belgian government

The agreement on a political program evolved after a night of negotiations between two Dutch-speaking Flemish parties and three francophone parties, which allowed a permanent coalition government to be arranged with a negotiated agenda.

Deal measures could take time

Francophone Socialist party chief Elio Di Rupo, current liberal Finance Minister Didier Reynders and the leader of the French-speaking centrists, Joelle Milquet, have all endorsed the new deal.

Di Rupo said the agreement would provide a boost to the poorly paid, the retired and those receiving welfare. The deal also includes measures to address climate change.

Reynders, however, said it would take years to turn some of the broad policies into concrete action, according to AFP.

Map of Belgium and its linguistic divisions

Belgium is split along linguistic lines

Belgium has been in political limbo since legislative elections in June 2007, with the generally more affluent Flemish north seeking greater regional powers, while leaders in the poorer French-speaking southern region of Wallonia want political powers held by a central government. Other differences have existed in social, health and justice policies.

The political instability has also prompted some to speculate that the country could be split in two along linguistic lines.

Leterme's Christian Democrats came out ahead in last year's general election. The leader is due to be sworn in on Thursday, after taking over from outgoing Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, who had agreed to stay on as interim leader until now.

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