The seven Vivaldi parties concluded a coalition agreement after an all-night marathon meeting. Money is earmarked for social policy and recovery and invested in rail, police and justice.
The final consultation lasted more than 21 hours, but the liberals, socialists, greens and CD&V managed to reach a substantive agreement after a night of negotiations. The remaining bottlenecks appeared to have been cleared up around six in the morning.
The seven parties have reached an agreement on 3.2 billion euros in new policy, De Tijd learned from a negotiator. For example, the initial wish list of EUR 11 billion has been considerably shortened, which should help not to derail the already large budget deficit.
Of the 3.2 billion euros, 2.3 billion goes to social policy. According to the socialists, the aim is for minimum pensions to rise to EUR 1,500 net by the end of the legislature. On top of the wealth envelope and indexation, 1.2 billion euros has been made available for this. Self-employed people also receive the increase.
However, reservations are still being made on the liberal side. It has been agreed that the minimum pension will increase by 2024 to EUR 1,580 gross for those who have completed a full career. “Whether that is enough to speak of a net EUR 1,500 remains to be seen,” he said.
The Vivaldi parties are also reintroducing the pension bonus withdrawn by the Michel government. Anyone who works longer than is required by the rules will accrue additional pension rights. The self-employed will accrue retirement benefits for future career years in the same way that employees do – now they get less.
Furthermore, families with children get a helping hand. The government is making childcare cheaper through tax channels. Persons with disabilities who decide to start living together will see their benefits fall less than now.
Digitaks en drinking lasting
The remaining billion euros in new policy goes to investments, especially in the judiciary and police. 1,600 agents are recruited every year. The Vivaldi parties believe that the security departments have received too little money in recent years and want to rectify this.
A series of new measures have been developed to finance the new policy. This includes a digital tax for large internet companies and a minimum tax yet to be worked out. Stepping up the fight against tax and social fraud should generate money, as well as implementing a tax reform by 2024 and ending tax regularization.
There will be no capital gains tax or a new securities tax. This is important for the liberals, because in this way they want to make a difference with the purple-yellow project that the N-VA and the PS had set up, but which could never be completed.
The new income must ensure that the budget does not derail further. Vivaldi is facing a gap of 24 billion euros, or 5 percent of GDP, for 2021. The seven parties want to make an annual fiscal effort of 0.1 percent of GDP from 2021, to which, depending on the growth, an additional effort of 0 to 0.5 percent is added.
Investments and recovery
In addition to the 3.2 billion euros in new policy, there will also be a billion euros in new investments. That money will mainly go to the railways and to the digitization of the government, again focusing mainly on the judiciary and the police.
To get the economy, which was hit hard by the corona crisis, out of the doldrums, there will be a transformation fund for investments. Current relaunch measures, such as the investment deduction for SMEs and the tax exemption for hiring the first employee, will be extended. The VAT rate on demolition and renovation will be 6 percent everywhere. A cost of one billion is attached to that temporary package.
A number of labor market reforms are also being held out. It concerns a flexible work organization, converting part of the severance payments into a training budget and making it easier to combine work with benefits.
Driver’s license with points
Current policy will be continued in the field of asylum and migration. Efforts will be made to make return policy more efficient, as it now often proves difficult to expel people from the country. The number of places in closed centers, from which people are deported, would therefore be increased. Children should not be locked up.
For the judiciary, work is being done on faster procedures, for example for shoplifting, to prevent recidivism. There will be a driver’s license with points for those who have repeatedly committed serious traffic offenses.
Nuclear trip and company cars
There was already clarity about other elements of the coalition agreement, such as the nuclear exit. The intention is that it will come in 2025, although the door to keeping two reactors open longer is still ajar. The final decision will be made in 2021. It has also been determined that new company cars must be emission-free from 2026.
Initially, the negotiators hoped to be able to land late at night, but eventually it became night work. The seven parties spent longer than thought on the institutional. CD&V wanted guarantees for a new state reform and demanded, among other things, that Article 35 of the constitution would be opened, thus opening the door to confederalism. However, that would not have worked.
Two ministers will be empowered to prepare a state reform in the run-up to 2024. Article 195 of the constitution will be subject to revision, so that a broad state reform can be carried out in the next legislature.
Finally, on an ethical level, it was agreed that the ‘parties that make up the government are committed to reaching a consensus among each other, with mutual respect for each other’s positions, before taking legislative initiatives on these matters’.
It must give CD&V a guarantee that no relaxation of euthanasia or abortion legislation will be implemented by means of a variable majority.
On Wednesday evening, the Vivaldi parties organize conferences, where their supporters must give the green light. We are especially looking forward to the CD&V conference, because some of the supporters have doubts about Vivaldi.
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