Belgium’s Federal Government and federated entities reached agreement on the 2018-2021 Stability Programme on Friday, for the first time since the budgetary roadmap, updated each year by late April at the European Commission, became binding in 2013.
“It’s a first and a positive first: the Federal State and the Federated Entities agreed on a joint budgetary trajectory to present to Europe,” Federal Minister of Budget Sophie Wilmès said in a press release. “It’s a beautiful victory for federal cooperation. It is proof that with effort and will, the Belgian model can function very well.”
Belgium will therefore be able to present a consensual Stability Programme to Europe on Monday, in addition to the National Reform Programme already validated on Wednesday by the Consultative Committee. In the Stability Programme, the country confirms its will to achieve structural budgetary balance by 2020 at all levels of government.
In the past few years, efforts to reach consensus had sometimes been stymied by issues such as a dispute over earnings from personal income taxes, austerity blamed on the Michel Government by the socialist-led administrations (Wallonia, Brussels and the French Community)and the exclusion from the budget of certain major infrastructure projects such as the completion of the Antwerp ring road.
This project, like others, is still the subject of discussions with the European Commission under the “flexibility clauses” of the Stability and Growth Pact, with a view to obtaining a budgetary green light.
“We need strategic investments in Belgium because that is also how we’ll be able to ensure the long-term sustainability of our public finances,” commented Mrs. Wilmès, who is from the Reformist Movement (MR) Party. “The context is particularly favourable for a more ambitious policy in this regard.”