Belgian King Albert says the country's lengthy political stalemate could permanently damage its residents and hurt the cause of European integration.
The monarch said Wednesday he had hoped that a new government could be sworn in Thursday, Belgium's National Day. But King Albert said that “unfortunately” that would not happen as lawmakers from the Dutch-speaking region of Flanders continue their 13-month standoff with legislators from French-speaking Wallonia over the future structure of the country. They have been struggling to craft a deal on how to transfer more federal powers to the regions.
The impasse has now left Belgium with the distinction of surpassing Iraq as the country without a government for the longest time.
King Albert said if the gridlock lasts much longer it “could negatively and concretely” affect the economic and social well-being of all Belgians.
In addition, he said the impasse could damage Belgium's standing in Europe, and “even the momentum toward European integration.” Belgium is a founding member of the European Union and many of its agencies are located in the Belgian capital, Brussels, as is the NATO military alliance.
King Albert said the continental coalition has already been hurt by populism and skepticism about the 27-nation bloc.