Former Belgian premier returns to cabinet in reshuffle

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Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy's new cabinet was sworn in Friday after a reshuffle that saw his predecessor Yves Leterme named foreign minister.

Brussels - Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy's new cabinet was sworn in Friday after a reshuffle that saw his predecessor Yves Leterme named foreign minister.

Leterme replaces Karel De Gucht who officially started work Friday at the European Commission in place of countryman Louis Michel with the humanitarian aid and development portfolio. Michel is heading back to national politics.

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

Fluent in French and Dutch, Leterme is staunchly Flemish. His stance has often rankled the French-speaking Wallonia community, the poorer part of the multi-lingual kingdom.

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

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

Of the other major changes, Annemie Turtelboom shifts from immigration and aslyum to the interior ministry while socialist Michel Daerden has been given responsibility for pensions.

AFP / Expatica

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