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Flanders' new government ministers sworn in

20:19 03/10/2019

The ministers who will handle portfolios for the next five years in the new government of Flanders have been announced. While some are familiar faces, they don’t all have the same portfolio they had in the previous government.

The ministers were sworn in yesterday in parliament. Four are members of N-VA, three of CD&V and two of Open VLD. The new ministers are:

Jan Jambon (N-VA)  Minister-president of Flanders as well as minister of foreign affairs, development co-operation, culture and ICT

Lydia Peeters (Open VLD)  Peeters had taken over the energy portfolio from Bart Tommelein when  he became mayor of Ostend last autumn. Now she has been shifted to mobility and public works, one of the region’s most challenging portfolios

Zuhal Demir (N-VA)  The former federal minister of equal opportunities and poverty issues becomes the new energy minister. She has also been handed the crucial environment post, as well as tourism and justice. Justice is a new portfolio in the Flemish government.

Hilde Crevits (CD&V)  The former education minister is now responsible for the economy, labour, innovation and agriculture. As minister of innovation, she will be working closely with energy and environment minister Demir.

Ben Weyts (N-VA)  Previously the Flemish government’s minister of mobility and tourism, Weyts has now been handed the education portfolio, which N-VA announced months ago it wanted to control in the Jambon I government. He is also hanging onto the portfolios of animal welfare and issues related to the Vlaamse rand (Flemish periphery) and will also take on sport.

Wouter Beke (CD&V)  The chair of the Christian-democrats since 2010, Beke becomes a Flemish minister for the first time. He is responsible for welfare and issues related to poverty. Beke will give up his post as head of CD&V.

Bart Somers (Open VLD)  The winner of the World Mayor Prize has been asked to apply the ideals and framework used in Mechelen to the whole of the region in a new Diversity post. He is also the minister of interior affairs. Somers has already resigned at Mechelen’s mayor and handed the job over to party colleague Alexander Vandersmissen, who was in charge of mobility and citizens’ affairs on the city council.

Matthias Diependaele (N-VA)  The party leader in the Flemish parliament and city councillor in charge of mobility and public works in Zottegem now takes over as budget and finance minister. His portfolio also includes housing and heritage.

Benjamin Dalle (CD&V)  The youngest minister at 37, Dalle was the biggest surprise of the announcement of the new ministers. He has been put in charge of Brussels affairs as he lives in the capital. His portfolio also includes youth policy and media. He comes to the position with much political experience: With a background in law, he has acted as advisor to many CD&V ministers and vice-prime-ministers. He was also chief of staff for former state reform secretary Servais Verherstraeten and therefore one of the architects of the sixth round of state reforms.

Minister-president Jan Jambon also delivered an opening parliamentary speech yesterday. “We have delivered a government accord that I hope proves to be worth the wait,” he said, referring to the four month period of negotiations following the elections in May.

“It is a government accord that looks at the realities of the future but also addresses the concerns of the Flemish people,” he continued. “Many Flemish people are worried about our society, and we cannot overlook that. People are angry because even if they work hard, they have little left at the end of the month, angry because they feel like the advantages and hardships are not evenly distributed, angry because they feel they are at a disadvantage. They are also angry because, according to them, politicians do not concern themselves with these feelings. I can understand this anger.”

The opening of the speech was a reference to the number of people who voted for the extreme right Vlaams Belang party, which came in second only to N-VA in the regional elections. The subject of a cordon sanitaire since the early 1990s, Vlaams Belang is not in the majority government coalition. The new government accord agreed to by the coalition of N-VA, Open VLD and CD&V toughens the residency requirements of non-EU citizens who live in Flanders.

Jambon went on to touch on points in the new accord, including investments in education, fighting the climate crisis through innovation, lowering the unemployment rate and a balanced budget by 2021.

“I suggest that we write the next chapter of our story together, talking about the limits of politics, the business sector and a shared society. A story that everyone can get behind, regardless of their roots, their beliefs or their gender.”

Photo: The new ministers, from left: Mathias Diependaele, Wouter Beke, Zuhal Demir, Ben Weyts, Bart Somers, Jan Jambon, Hilde Crevits, Benjamin Dalle and Lydia Peeters. ©Jonas Roosens/BELGA. This article first appeared in Flanders Today.

Written by Flanders Today