Politics

Theo Francken is temporarily banned from secret parliamentary committees after tweet with sensitive information

Theo Francken is banned for the rest of the parliamentary year from parliamentary committees to which the duty of confidentiality applies. President of the House of Representatives Eliane Tillieux (PS) announced this tonight. An imprudent tweet from the N-VA Member of Parliament is the basis of that sanction.

The Committee for the follow-up of foreign missions in the Chamber meets behind closed doors. Because sensitive information is regularly communicated there, for example about troop movements, the MPs present are not allowed to communicate about this afterwards. N-VA Member of Parliament Theo Francken did so in March, when he tweeted that the Belgian army would not participate in Operation Barkhane, a French mission in Mali this year. Defense Minister Ludivine Dedonder (PS) had said this in that Commission.

Loss of pay

Dedonder then sent a letter to the secretariat of the Commission asking them to “apply the regulations”. According to the minister, Francken’s tweet had diplomatic repercussions, because the French were not yet aware of the decision. The Follow-up Committee subsequently investigated whether the duty of confidentiality had actually been violated. This has happened behind closed doors in recent weeks. The majority of the members were of the opinion that Francken did indeed not respect the duty of confidentiality.

The N-VA Member of Parliament was heard yesterday by President Eliane Tillieux, who concluded the same. “Based on the elements, the violation of the duty of confidentiality must be established,” Tillieux announced tonight. Francken may no longer be a member of the organs of the House to which the duty of confidentiality applies until the end of the ordinary session in 2021. The Flemish nationalist may also not be replaced in the Follow-up Commission. In addition, Francken also loses 20 percent of his parliamentary allowance for three months.

Chamber regulations too strict

The House Rules normally provide for Francken to be expelled from the Committees for the rest of the legislature with a duty of confidentiality, but Tillieux finds that regulation too strict, she said. The President of the House wanted to take the principle of proportionality into account and will submit a proposal to include it in the relevant article of the regulations, he said.

Francken himself insisted at the time that it had not broken the rules because he had not shared sensitive information that could endanger troops abroad. A policy intention of the minister has nothing to do with confidentiality, he said. The N-VA Member of Parliament also accused Minister Dedonder of a political motive.

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