The parliamentary Finance Committee President, Eric Van Rompuy (Flemish Christian Democrats), called on Sunday for parliament’s respect. Evoking the Sudan crisis, he did not mince his words towards the Prime Minister, Charles Michel. He said that the head of the federal government has become the New Flemish Alliance’s “puppet”.
During its last meeting in 2017, the government decided to entrust, to the General Commission for Refugees and Stateless Persons (known as the “CGRA”), the task of conducting an investigation into the abuses that Sudanese citizens are thought to have suffered after their repatriation. On January 2nd (last Tuesday), the Prime Minister published a message on Facebook calling for a distinction in the debate on this issue, and justifying the government’s policy in this sphere.
The deputy accuses that, in doing so, the Prime Minister has protected in political terms the Secretary of State, Theo Francken, although the findings of the investigation are still awaited. “This shows little respect for parliament. Having said that, the Prime Minister has become the New Flemish Alliance’s puppet.”
On Thursday, parliament will decide upon the motions placed before it following the parliamentary questions addressed to Mr Francken before the Christmas recess. The deputy’s interpretation of the position is game over. “Various positions have already been taken by Belgian and international media, and Francken now has a ‘blank cheque’, as it were, to continue to his given line of communication on Twitter and Facebook.
Van Rompuy observes, more generally, that the role and power of parliament will decline. He says, “Parliament must consider in detail how it operates. Instead of being preoccupied with issues such as pay and the plurality of political offices held [known as “cumul des mandats”], we should consider how, in this era of both social media and 24-hour websites, we can still retain our relevance within the sphere of public debate. There is a risk of parliament simply becoming a voting machine to guarantee the government a majority both in commissions and plenary sessions. Sometimes, I try to have a critical stance within this majority but that becomes simply ‘frustration’ (sic)”.