Has Belgium's ambitious agenda already been shot down by its diplomat's attack on EU Parliament? - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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Has Belgium's ambitious agenda already been shot down by its diplomat's attack on EU Parliament?

Wednesday, 7 July 2010
I always thought diplomats were naturally discreet and uncontroversial because of the importance of the their jobs, but now I’m starting to wonder whether assuming power in the form of the six-month rotating presidency has gone to the head of the Belgian diplomats.

I say this as the row erupts over comments made by Jean De Ruyt, the head of the Belgian Permanent Representation to the EU, who in an interview with the Belgian paper De Tijd said that the European Parliament represented the "biggest stumbling block" to the Belgian EU council presidency.

"The biggest stumbling blocks for the Belgian presidency are with the European Parliament, an incalculable and badly organised partner,” he said.

You don't know whether the opinion of the MEPs is being decided by the content of a matter or by the wish to be visible and show its own power. In some matters they don't even know that themselves."

Jean De Ruyt (Photo: Représentation Permanente de la Belgique auprès de l'Union Européenne)Now, Mr De Ruyt, left, is supposedly considered one of Belgium's most experienced diplomats having previously served as the ambassador to Poland, to Italy, as well as the Permanent Representative of Belgium to NATO and to the UN in New York.

But he seems to have forgotten how important the Parliament has become thanks to the new powers it has gained through the Lisbon Treaty. It now enjoys new powers in several key areas, including budgetary matters and for the first time, MEPs have their say with member states on the entire EU budget.

It is therefore undeniable that MEPs are keen to 'flex their muscles', and demonstrated this in February when they rejected the Swift deal earlier this year between the EU and US.

Responding to the criticism, Jo Leinen (S&D, DE), who is the Chairman of the Parliament’s Environment Committee, is quoted by theparliament.com as saying, "For someone in his position to make such comments really is quite astonishing. Clearly, the problem is that some people have still not come to terms with the new powers now enjoyed by parliament under the Lisbon treaty.

"This is something that appears to be more of a problem for diplomats rather than politicians. Some people have to realise that parliament's new position is a reality,” he said.

"These comments are very unhelpful, particularly at the start of a presidency."

In addition, the former leader of the ALDE group and my local MEP, Graham Watson, said rather wisely that "the European Parliament exists, the Belgian government does not. The Belgians should get their own house in order before they criticise others."

I simply cannot believe that with such an ambitious agenda outlined, Belgium can afford its diplomats making such comments that will surely now come back to haunt them as they try to promote their bills through the Parliament.


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