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Liesbeth Homans sworn in as interim Flemish minister-president

21:43 03/07/2019

Liesbeth Homans has been sworn in as the interim minister-president of Flanders, becoming the first woman to lead the region’s government. Homans, 46, was previously vice minister-president and replaces fellow N-VA party member Geert Bourgeois, who is taking up a position in the European parliament following May’s elections.

“As a historian, that means something to me,” she said of being the first female minister-president, “even though I am not the biggest advocate of quotas. I believe in the principle of the right man or woman in the right place. It is nice that I am now in the history books.”

Homans will be in the post until the new Flemish government is formed, which would normally happen before Flemish Community Day on 11 July. However, N-VA chair Bart De Wever has paused negotiations, meaning Homans may remain in the role for several months. She is unlikely to lead the new government, though, with De Wever and Jan Jambon the frontrunners for the position.

Last week Homans was taken to hospital, where she underwent tests in the cardiac department. She has already returned to work, however, and this morning met King Filip and prime minister Charles Michel at the palace in Brussels to take the oath as minister-president.

After studying history at KU Leuven, Homans began her political career in the cabinet of Flemish minister Johan Sauwens of the Volksunie party. Since 2014, she has been the minister of administrative affairs, housing, cities, civic integration, equal opportunities, poverty reduction and social economy in the Flemish government.

She will continue to cover these issues as minister-president, while fellow N-VA minister Ben Weyts adds Bourgeois’ heritage and foreign affairs responsibilities to his portfolio.

CD&V chair Wouter Beke was also present at the ceremony on Tuesday, to be sworn in as the new federal minister of work, the economy, consumer affairs, equal opportunities and tackling poverty. He replaces Kris Peeters, who is also taking up a seat in the European parliament.

Beke retains his position as the chair of CD&V and is the first to lead the party while also serving as a minister. The party will hold leadership elections in September in which Beke has said he will not stand.

His position as minister is also temporary, until a new federal government is formed. “As far as I am concerned that should be as short as possible,” he said, “because it’s best we get on with negotiations at the Flemish and federal levels.”

Photo: Liesbeth Homans is sworn in as Flanders’ new minister-president
©Eric Lalmand/BELGA

Written by Flanders Today