Ex-Belgian premier Leterme eyed as foreign minister

9th July 2009, Comments 0 comments

Belgium's former prime minister Yves Leterme is favourite to become next foreign minister, replacing incumbent Karel De Gucht who is to join the European Commission, according to national media.

BRUSSELS - The switch is expected to be made public in the coming days, once talks between their respective parties are finalised on the formation of a regional government in the northern Flanders region, newspapers said.

Fluent in French and Dutch and born of parents from both linguistic communities, Leterme is staunchly Flemish.

His stance has often rankled the French-speaking Wallonia community, the poorer part of the multi-lingual kingdom.

The 49-year-old Christian Democrat led a series of failed attempts to push through controversial reforms devolving federal powers to the regions, before resigning along with his government on December 19.

But De Gucht said Leterme "would be a good foreign minister who also knows European politics well because it is an environment that is familiar to him."

De Gucht announced Tuesday that he would replace his countryman Louis Michel at the European Commission.

Michel holds the humanitarian aid and development portfolio and with the commission's mandate ending in late October, he is heading back to national politics.

Belgium will take over the European Union's rotating presidency for six months from Spain on July 1, 2010.


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