The colonial period must be studied by scientists in an international historical context, Prime Minister Charles Michel noted on Tuesday, adding that Parliament had the capacity to take initiatives in that regard. He did not comment on the idea that Belgium should apologise for its colonial past, as a UN committee of experts has suggested, but reiterated that he was puzzled by that committee’s methodology.
“We think scientists, academics need to play a leading role, analyse this part of our history objectively, rigorously and calmly,” he said at a meeting of the Chamber’s Interior Commission. “Belgium’s colonial era is part of our history, just as the colonial period is part of the history of other countries. It goes without saying that this history needs to be placed in a much broader historical context.”
Michel was responding to questions from parliamentarians Gwenaëlle Grovonius (Socialist Party) and Véronique Waterschoot (Ecolo) recalling pending initiatives at the Chamber aimed at creating a scientific framework for political debate on the country’s colonial past.
Ms Grovonius mentioned a PS amendment to a resolution by Mouvement Réformateur parliamentarian Richard Miller on the restitution of colonial works while Ms. Waterschoot referred to a bill by the Ecologists that is to be examined by the Commission on 13 March.
The Ecolo bill is aimed at initiating research on the role of the State in colonization with a view to generating a political discussion. “Just five minutes of political courage” are needed, said the Ecolo parliamentarian, who added that adopting the draft before the end of the current legislature would enable the incoming government to take it up as soon as it is formed.