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Peeters crosses swords with Reynders

Published on 07/02/2013

Flemish minister-president Kris Peeters CD&V is not happy with federal foreign affaris minister Didier Reynders’ MR intention to create a function of economic advisor as a support for the federal diplomatic staff. He feels Reynders is overstepping his mark as foreign trade and economic policy are a regional power. But neither negotiations between the two ministerial offices or an official letter could convince Reynders to change his mind. Moreover he is backed by European Commissioner and former foreign affairs minister Karel De Gucht, who says the regions’ resistance is simply political gameplaying and adds that business people abroad have advised federal diplomats for years. Embassies have after alle an economic role to play, he believes. The statements by De Gucht annoyed the Flemish government. Flemish minister for public governance Geert Bourgeois N-VA said that “De Gucht, as a European commissioner, should refrain from commenting on constitutional discussions”. Peeters reproached De Gucht for his lack of knowledge on the matter and is now increasing the pressure on Reynders by testing the Royal Act against the constitutional division of powers in Belgium. “If there are doubts about the distribution of powers, then this should be clarified as soon as possible,” he said in the Flemish Parliament, adding that he will base further steps to “nullify the misuse of power” on these legal recommendations. The federal government is meanwhile locked in behind-the-scene talks with the regions to determine a code of conduct in respect of the division of tasks among federal diplomats and regional economic representatives. Peeters hopes to resolve the issue by summer. “We must not allow ourselves to be fobbed off,” he says.