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Belgian report Belgian report
by Euro Reporter
2011-08-18 07:47:19
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Muslim face veil fine paid off by French businessman

Rachid Nekkaz, a French businessman, travelled to Brussels to settle the 50 euro fines handed out to teenagers aged 16 and 17. It has been illegal to wear the face veil or 'niqab' in public places in Belgium since July. Mr Nekkaz, who is standing as an independent in next year's presidential elections in France, is opposed to the niqab but says governments should not intervene to decide who wears what and when.

"I am profoundly laic, profoundly republican and I cannot accept that a great country like Belgium votes for and applies anti-liberal laws," he told local press. "I think this is a very dangerous downhill slope," he said. "Today we might stop women wearing the niqab but tomorrow who will prevent a parliament from voting for laws that ban miniskirts or that ban tattoos or pierced ears? You never know where this kind of downhill slope will end."

Mr Nekkaz created a million-euro fund called the "Fund for the defence of laicity and liberty" from which he says he will pay all fines imposed on women for wearing the niqab in public. He is also threatening to take both Belgium and France – where a similar law exists – to the European Court of Human Rights. After Brussels he is scheduled to travel to Roubaix, France, to pay a 75 euro fine.


Belgium begins new coalition talks to end deadlock

Belgium's politicians resumed talks on Tuesday in a bid to end a more than year-long political deadlock which has tested the unity of the nation split between its Dutch and French speakers. Elio Di Rupo, head of the francophone Socialists and favourite to lead the country, met with caretaker prime minister Yves Leterme to discuss Belgium's finances.

Leterme has been overseeing affairs since legislative elections in June 2010 failed to lead to the formation of a new government. The crisis has seen Belgium split between the Dutch-speaking Flemish population in the north which is demanding more autonomy for the region and the French-speaking south. In the coming days Di Rupo will lead talks with the heads of eight parties who agreed last month to hold negotiations without separatist movement the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA).

The breakthrough was reached after the Christian Democratic CD&V in Flanders decided to break ranks with the Dutch-speaking region's biggest party. The announcement followed an unusually sombre warning from King Albert II, who said the deadlock threatened the country's economic and social well-being with negative repercussions for the European project as a whole. Belgium has been without a government for 429 days, securing it the dubious world record as the nation without an official administration for the longest time.


Belgium yields fall in T-bill auction

Belgium's three-month borrowing costs fell to their lowest level since February at an auction of three- and 12-month treasury bills, the debt agency said on Tuesday.

Belgium raised 3.004 billion Euros ($4.23 billion) in the auction, at the top end of its range of 2.2 billion and 3.0 billion Euros.  The average yield for three-month treasury bills fell to 0.879 percent from 1.146 percent at the previous auction at the beginning of August. The yield is the lowest since February this year.

For the 12-month treasury bills, the average yield fell to 1.113 percent from 1.884 percent at an auction in July.  Further details of the latest results can be found by double clicking within the brackets

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