Expatica news

Wallonia’s Parliamentary speaker sorry for gaffe

26 October 2005

BRUSSELS – Wallonia’s Parliamentary speaker José Happart (PS) has apologised to francophone MPs for comparing political corruption to buying cigarettes or petrol in Luxembourg.

On Wednesday, news agency Belga reported that he had told the Walloon parliament: “I apologise to those people who were shocked by that.”

Happart’s remarks on 15 October were made during the celebrations for the 25th anniversary of the parliament in Namen after the public booed a number of politicians.

Walloon politicians, especially the PS party, have been under fire for the last two months after a string of allegations emerged about individuals abusing their public positions.

Four men have so far been charged with fraud in relation to the housing company La Caroloregienne, in Charleroi, but new scandals are being reported weekly throughout the region.

Happart, who was the former mayor of Voeren, was angered by the jeers at Namen and asked: “Who has never bought a packet of cigarettes in Luxembourg or filled their car up with petrol there?”

Such actions were also a form of fiscal fraud, he said.

The following day he compared the reactions of the public to the climate in the 1930s when fascism was on the rise, “the years in which democracy had it difficult”.

To justify himself to Wallonia’s MPs, Happart said the anniversary celebration delays and the booing had made him lose his temper.

“I forgot that anger is a bad advisor and the example I used was inappropriate,” he stated.

He went on to criticise the atmosphere that had been created by the social housing scandals. “I hope that this heavy mood of general suspicions will quickly come to an end,” he said.

Both the greens and the centre-right MR members judged his apology half-hearted. “We were waiting for a stronger gesture,” said Serge Kubla (MR). “You’ve been deliberately reserved and limited [in your apology].”

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Belgian news