21 May 2004
BRUSSELS – Belgian ministers miss more EU meetings than any other nationality, it was revealed Friday.
A report found they skipped 19 out of 79 Council of Ministers meetings organised in Brussels in 2003 – almost a quarter.
The study was delivered by French deputy Jacques Floch to the French National Assembly to highlight why France could be losing influence in the European institutions.
However, no other country’s attendance proved as poor as Belgium’s. French, Austrian and Danish ministers were the second worst, missing 18.9 percent, while the Portuguese missed just 2.5 percent and the Italians none at all.
Some ministers were found to be worse culprits than others. Although Finance Minister Didier Reynders didn’t miss a single Economic and Financial Affairs Council, Budget Minister Johan Vande Lanotte didn’t turn up for a single one of the three meetings held in July and November.
Federal Minister for Transport Bert Anciaux had a record absentee rate of 57.14 percent – he put in an appearance for just four out of seven of the transport meetings.
The study didn’t surprise many Belgian diplomats who have long complained about absent ministers. They say when ministers are absent Belgium’s influence in negotiations is considerably weakened.
One diplomat, speaking anonymously to La Libre Belgique, also accused ministers of attending meetings largely to play to the media.
“It’s not uncommon to see a minister sense a hot issue, put it on the agenda at the Council of Ministers, make a statement about it to the television cameras and then disappear,” he said.
[Copyright Expatica 2004]
Subject: Belgian news