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Political Courage Prize awarded to Sophie Wilmès and Marc Van Ranst
Former prime minister Sophie Wilmès (MR) and virologist Marc Van Ranst are receiving the Political Courage Prize today from B Plus, a non-profit organisation that advocates for Belgian solidarity and reinstating powers at the federal level.
The organisation chose Wilmès, now federal minister of foreign affairs, for her ground-breaking role as Belgium’s first female prime minister as well as her popularity on both sides of the language border. “Although you are a supporter of the Union des Francophones, you have been supportive of federalist institutions,” said B Plus about Wilmès. “In 2018, for example, you championed the refederalisation of certain powers.”
Van Ranst, meanwhile, has impressed the organisation with his response to those who would politicise the current health crisis. “Although you polarise the public and spark controversy, you do so for the right reasons. After all, if you are no fan of extremism, you cannot help but polarise.”
Pact for Belgium
Former winners of the B Plus prize are the late Wilfried Martens (CD&V), a former prime minister; Gwendolyn Rutten, former chair of Flemish liberal party Open VLD; and cyclist Philippe Gilbert.
The organisation also maintains a Pact for Belgium statement, to which many Belgians have signed their names. They announced several new signatories today, including long-serving federal parliamentarian Herman De Croo (father of current prime minister Alexander De Croo), state secretary of science policy Thomas Dermine and author Bart Van Loo.
Dermine is a surprise as he is a member of French-speaking socialists PS, which – like Flanders N-VA – are in favour of a more confederate state and power to the regions. B Plus are staunchly anti-separatist, advocating for fewer regional ministers, with health ministers being one example.
Photos, from left: ©Laurie Dieffembacq/BELGA, ©Nicolas Maeterlinck/BELGA