It is still COVID that the clock is already striking: after the Christmas holidays, 2021 really starts and the approach to the crisis immediately dominates every political debate. A Consultation Committee is scheduled for Friday, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo (Open Vld), this weekend again firmly in the media, left the door ajar for relaxation. But his deputy prime minister, Frank Vandenbroucke (Vooruit), is already closing that door completely: “There will be no relaxation on Friday”, he stated firmly, this morning on Bel RTL.
In the news: The federal government is keeping a hard line. Or at least Vandenbroucke.
The details: The same patterns will also emerge in 2021. The Minister of Health, Frank Vandenbroucke (Vooruit), has an iron grip on the entire COVID approach.
- It was Prime Minister Alexander De Croo (Open Vld), who put his nose to the window this weekend, with a very careful announcement that now Friday the first Consultation Committee of 2021 will follow, on which the federal government and the federal states are examining the COVID measures.
- The Prime Minister spoke in two words, but still cautiously positive:
- “My feeling is that we rather going in the right direction. Give us a few more days or a week to see how the figures develop further ”, the prime minister referred to the delay effect in reporting due to the holidays: people are less likely to be tested.
- “Everything keeps going well, then you can talk about adjustments. But I’m not going to put a date on it. I would like to give perspective, but I think giving false hope is worse ”, he stated VTM News.
- “If you want to go back to the hairdresser, stick to the rules“, He also spoke somewhat admonishing, in De Zondag then. So the carrot and the stick.
- But there is not much carrot. Because this morning on Bel RTL, Vandenbroucke left no hope whatsoever about what may be decided on Friday. “There will be no relaxation on Friday, that is clear. We are going to monitor the numbers, but if they decrease further, we can move towards easing. Only it will not be there yet. ”
- With that, the Minister of Health is not leaving any more openings. Vandenbroucke already set the goal at 800 new infections per day, as a barrier, to be able to talk about a relaxation. Today that number is still 1,589 infections per day, a decrease of 27 percent compared to last week, but still double the target figure.
- Vandenbroucke did not answer explicitly whether he is sticking to the target figure of 800 per day, but he did say that “we should thank the population for the declining figures”, “this is an excellent result”. “But the virus remains fully present in our society. ”
- Immediately, Vandenbroucke was also firm about the current measures, in particular about the obligation to organize home work. “This is mandatory for all employees who can work from home. We want one large number of companies, with so-called “flash” checks. My excellent colleague from Werk, Pierre-Yves Dermagne (PS), is working on that ”, said Vandenbroucke.
- Vandenbroucke pushed towards the Flemish, Walloon and Brussels governments about the compulsory quarantines, especially after the rules have become stricter about people living abroad. “That is the competence of the federal states, they have promised that they will follow up on this, that has been agreed. They provide support, follow-up and control of the quarantines, we have agreed that. ”
Why this matters: Once again, Vandenbroucke cuts everyone off.
- After three months of federal government, the first, very enthusiastic feeling about the composition of the team has ebbed away. The prime minister keeps repeating his mantra “that this government is a true reflection of society“, Mainly referring to the fact that there are half of the women in the team.
- But at the time, the return of Vandenbroucke was praised by friend and foe, a masterstroke by Conner Rousseau, the Vooruit chairman. He had fought hard to get the post of Public Health, then immediately come up with the surprising casting.
- Today, a different sound is heard here and there within the government. The enthusiasm gives way to some friction. There is a lot of “respect for the workforce” of Vandenbroucke. But a lot of people who knew the Vandenbroucke at the time, as Deputy Prime Minister in the federal government, and later as Flemish Vice Prime Minister, points out “he hasn’t changed”. “The opposite would actually have been surprising.”
- “It would would be good if he would get a little more sleep now and then“Is how a colleague can laugh at the core. “Let’s say he is very present on every corona file.” But at the same time it is acknowledged “that Vandenbroucke plays a crucial role” in the current approach to the corona crisis. “And he does that well, even if the line is a bit firm.”
- In addition, it is a clear policy of the Sixteen not to let themselves be separated: De Croo absolutely wants to stay in line with his deputy prime minister, which is why he has already adopted a fairly strict approach a number of times in the past, “against into their own party line ”, so can be heard from an Open Vld top match. “But he doesn’t let Vandenbroucke go an inch. ” That Vandenbroucke seems to be correcting his own prime minister this morning is annoying to say the least.
- They have also seen the same with the other coalition partners: “At the moment, in full crisis response, that duo of the Prime Minister and Vandenbroucke is indeed strongly dominating,” according to the headquarters of a government party. “The question is what happens next. It is then up to authorities such as Finance, Work and Pensions to score with their reforms. The big recovery plan is on the table. But will Vandenbroucke then understand that he must leave space for others? It really remains to be seen, but who knows, he might surprise me ”, said a Vivaldi party chairman.
- The dynamics with the federal states in the Consultation Committee will also be one to follow. Because until now it worked “excellently” between Prime Minister De Croo and his Flemish counterpart Jan Jambon (N-VA), the Prime Minister has already expressed his satisfaction with this on a number of occasions. But that is a difficulty for Jambon, especially for his own party: will the Flemish government continue to slavishly undergo the dominance of the duo De Croo-Vandenbroucke? At N-VA it is seen with sorrow by some toppers.
To follow: The vaccinations are underway, as is the criticism.
- Hard numbers in this corona crisis, it remains painful for Belgium. After we have been number one for months in terms of number of deaths in relation to the number of residents, still far above, among others, the United States, where the approach is also far from positive, the vaccine figures are now coming.
- On January 3, yesterday, Israel sat down 12.57 percent of its population, which has been vaccinated.
- Bahrain rose 3.47 percent at number two.
- The United Kingdom was already up anyway 1.39 percent of its population, with figures dating back to December 27.
- Even the US, which was lagging behind with decent lockdowns, was already on January 2 1.28 percent of their population. More than half a million Americans are vaccinated every day.
- On the other hand, there are Belgian figures, where only 700 older citizens have been vaccinated so far, or less than 0.01 percent. “We vaccinate at the speed with which the vaccines are deliveredPrime Minister De Croo tried VTM News to defend the case.
- But from their own advisers, the so-called “experts”, it still sounds another story: Vaccineologist Pierre Van Damme mainly talked this morning on Radio 1 about “now first spend a lot of time on quality”, as an explanation.
- “It is striking, a number of people said a few months ago that it was” all going way too fast “, the development of a vaccine. And now that they are here suddenly one cannot wait to be vaccinated“, Said Van Damme.
- “We start with a great eye for quality. By the end of this month, we want to have completed the 820 residential care centers. We learn what is happening in other countries: what if an overdose is administered, that the temperature is maintained at the wrong temperature? We especially want now spend a lot of time on quality and that goes well. From weeks two or three we will “scale up”. “
- The question is whether that will suffice as an explanation. It lasts with the schedules envisaged by the EU and Belgium months before decent figures are finally reached for the entire population. And that while it will go much faster elsewhere. That opens the door to months of frustration.
- It is also painful: at the same time, the Flemish public service for Care and Health is already launching a new communication campaign. Singer / presenter Bart Peeters should become the face and the voice to convince people to take a vaccine.
- “We have good faith in that the Fleming will make the right choice, to restart life ”, says Joris Moonen, the spokesperson for Care and Health. “We will also have a strong presence on social media,” he announced.
- But Moonen also had to defend himself against the criticism that it all takes so long to get going. “It takes four days to master the procedures“, So is Moonen’s explanation on Radio 1.“ Only when the vaccines are really there, that’s a different feeling, they have to try it out in peace. ”
With a view to the future: Willem-Frederik Schiltz (Open Vld) enters the Alderman’s College in Antwerp. But will he be the blue Antwerp leader?
- Who will be the leader of the liberals in Antwerp in 2024? That question seems remote today, but in politics the next elections are always the most relevant. And for Antwerp, as in all of Flanders, there is an appointment in the big election year ’24.
- But the question has been around for a while, especially since the arrival of Sihame El Kaouakibi, the new star in the blue sky in Antwerp. The Antwerp girl has made it no secret before that she dreams of a political career in the largest city in Flanders, and a shot at being mayor, preferably with a city list, which goes beyond just its current game, Open Vld.
- The Tensions between El Kaouakibi and the current party leadership ran high in the spring of 2020, when in the Flemish Parliament she did not want to support the coalition agreement about the practical tests, which she had nevertheless negotiated with. The then new chairman Egbert Lachaert (Open Vld) boasted to coalition partners that he would “make short work” of that dissent.
- But in the end, Lachaert and El Kaouakibi smoked the peace pipe. The fact that Open Vld meanwhile federally chose a coalition without N-VA, made much more possible: Antwerp could agree with that perfectly. Only about Antwerp she could not resolve.
- Because that is where the headmanship remained the stakes of a battle in the future. Open Vld formed a coalition with Vooruit in Antwerp in 2018, but especially with Bart De Wever’s N-VA. In doing so, they negotiated well: for barely two seats in the city council, they received one and a half alderman’s mandate.
- Because leader Philippe De Backer (Open Vld) immediately disappeared from the city council, newcomer Erica Caluwaerts (Open Vld) was given a seat on the city council in 2019, next to veteran Claude Marinower (Open Vld), who stayed ships. She will succeed Marinower in 2022.
- But from 2022 there will be an extra Open Vld ships. It has now been decided that Willem-Frederik Schiltz, who was also entitled to the seat in the city council as a successor, will immediately become alderman.
- An important step, because Schiltz is also party leader of Open Vld in the Flemish Parliament. But he will not give up that job: he will combine both. He already seems like that not much room to make for El Kaouakibi, who nevertheless insisted on space for her, in order to be able to continue her plans for the city list and a shot at the mayor’s sash.
Read: The interview of the year, so far, was undoubtedly that with Kris Peeters (CD&V) in De Tijd.
- “It was perfect with Kris”, it was a statement by Dirk Van Mechelen (Open Vld), who was in the Flemish government with Kris Peeters (CD&V) at the time. Peeters came back to it somewhat musingly, in the farewell interview, before moving to the incredibly well-paid job of vice-chairman at the European Investment Bank in Luxembourg, and therefore leaves politics.
- “I don’t think I’m a tragic figure”, reads the title, and the interview filled it in: “Sometimes it is difficult and you sometimes wonder: how is that possible now? Because you no longer exist, while the world just keeps turning ”, admitted the former top politician, who also admitted that the adrenaline of Wetstraat was addictive.
- “As a top politician, the moment always comes when you feel that it is no longer right. That something is going on, that your flow is being affected. And then it goes terribly fast. As soon as you are no longer at the top, you will quickly be put on another track. The media are also very hard on this: suddenly you are no longer interesting. There is something in that sense tragedy in top politics, in the way you are deported. ”
- But Peeters cannot let the curtain fall on his own stage, without being particularly bitter about his own party. And his election defeat in Antwerp in 2018, when he moved to the biscuit town specifically to try to become mayor. “I thought I would get the job done. And so I went for it. In retrospect, that was one uphill battle which I couldn’t win. ”
- “Afterwards I made the reservation whether that happened premeditated. Receipt, I have decided that myself with full understanding. So I am not going to say that I have been tricked. But a number of people in the party must have thought: “Let him move from Puurs to Antwerp. And if that becomes his Waterloo, then that is a bonus. ‘”
- “And then you see that your own party does not counter that, that one does not form a phalanx, As the N-VA always does. On the contrary, in my own party there were those who quickly said: “Look, Peeters has lost”, he lashes out.
- Plus, he also promises that he still has something in his case, on internal details: “In my basement there are seven cardboard boxes with all petits cahiers that I kept at important meetings. If the moisture does not affect it – my basement is already flooded – I would like to open a book about how people behaved then. That’s all in those books. ”
- Within the party leadership it is subtly pointed out that Peeters “first had doubts about the twenty thousand euros net, plus fringe benefits”, before he wanted to accept the job in Luxembourg. “He can’t complain, I think ”, is how a veteran of CD&V put it in a plastic way.