Parties agree on sixth state reform in Belgium, powers transferred to regions and communities

Federated units to be responsible on further areas in allowances, health and employment · Di Rupo says deal provides for "more harmonious life" of sub-state entities · N-VA criticises agreement, says no "Copernican revolution" foreseen

Eight political parties have struck a deal on the sixth state reform in Belgium, which foresees the transfer of several new powers to the country's regions (Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels) and communities (Flemish, French and German). According to Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo (left image), new powers will be funded by a transfer of 20 billion euros to the regions and communities. Di Rupo says that the state reform could be put to the vote in the Parliament of Belgium in autumn. The reform could then be implemented in July 2014.

According to De Redactie, among the powers to be handed out to regions there are child allowances, driving tests, standards of care in hospitals, and several areas in employment policy.

Di Rupo argues that the agreement will allow a "more harmonious life" of sub-state entities within a "more modern federal state and stronger regions and communities".

Pro-independence Flemish party not satisfied with agreement

The deal has been struck by eight federalist parties: Flemish and Francophone Socialists (SP.A and PS), Greens (Groen and Ecolo), Liberals (Open VLD and MR) and Christian Democrats (CD&V and CDH). But the now largest Flemish political party, pro-independence N-VA, says the agreement will only transfer 90% of the budget needed to implement the new powers received by the regions and communities. N-VA also criticises that the transferred powers are not exactly a "Copernican revolution", although it accepts to receive those new powers.

N-VA leader and Antwerp mayor Bart De Wever has also reacted by saying that, if it depends on his party, no seventh state reform will ever exist in Belgium (which obviously does not mean that the pro-independence party is now accepting statu quo): "After [2014 general] election, we want to assume our responsibility at all levels". This somewhat cryptic sentence can be better understood if taken into account the fact that N-VA is expected to win the most votes in Flanders. Their leaders then expect to force Belgium to turn into a confederal state.