MR's Hadja Lahbib replaces Sophie Wilmès as Belgian Foreign Affairs Minister

MR's Hadja Lahbib replaces Sophie Wilmès as Belgian Foreign Affairs Minister
Credit: Belga / Hatim Kaghat

Mouvement Réformateur's (MR) Hadja Lahbib will succeed Sophie Wilmès as Foreign Affairs Minister, who officially resigned from the Federal Government on Thursday.

The news was announced by party leader Georges-Louis Bouchez during a press conference Friday morning. In her acceptance speech, the former RTBF journalist referred to how her experiences in her previous profession will help her take on this new challenge.

"As a journalist on the ground in regions such as the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and elsewhere, and as a documentary maker, I have always wanted to build bridges between shores that are sometimes very apart," she said.

She added that her desire to contribute to making things happen, and her conviction that a fairer, freer and more respectful world is possible, eventually pushed her over the edge to accept the position.

"I will therefore be the new Belgian Minister for Foreign Affairs, European Affairs, Foreign Trade and Federal Cultural Institutions." In her speech, she recognised that she had no political background, but that this allowed her to act more freely as a "citizen who is concerned about the state of the world."

Wilmès' departure

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sophie Wilmès officially resigned from the Federal Government on Thursday after already temporarily stepping aside in April to make more time for her family after her husband was diagnosed with aggressive brain cancer.

“My husband’s illness will be a difficult battle that I want to fight at his side and at the side of our children,” Wilmès said. “My current duties in the government do not allow me to do so.”

Now, Lahbib, who was born in Wallonia, and grew up in Brussels, will be taking over her post. She was previously a presenter at RTBF and was also known for her reporting on foreign affairs. In addition, she was the Vice-President of the Superior Council for Media Education (CSEM).

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"From today, I will have the honour of being the face of Belgium abroad, I will defend its interests and the democratic values that are ours and fundamental freedoms at a time in our history when they are more than ever in danger," she said, referring to the war in Ukraine.

She said that this played a big role in her decision, explaining that this has a wider impact on the world, including the energy crisis Europe finds itself in, as well as more global issues, such as climate change and famine.

"This is the state of the world today, a state that calls for us to rise above our traditional interests and solidarity, to find concerted and respectful solutions, to strengthen our ties with our European and international partners.

Lahbib will be sworn in by the King on Friday morning.

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