Prime Minister Michel (MR) said, “We will not decide on F-16s, as long as we do not have all the information” during a debate in the House on Thursday, while coalition partner N-VA stressed the importance of renewing the F-16 fleet. Michel continued, “We will not make decisions as long as we do not have all the information. I know that some people want to take quick action, but I learned that it is always better to first collect all the information. We need to know who knew what, and we need to know why certain information was not communicated.” The Prime Minister also called for calm and patience regarding the investigation into the replacement of Belgium’s F-16s.
Richard Miller (MR) and coalition partner N-VA went further than Michel in their assessments. “The priority of our group is the renewal of our fleet,” Miller said. Karolien Grosemans (N-VA) added: “We have economising on our defence for far too long. We are the laughing stock of NATO. Our F-16s must be replaced.” She also said that the government has not only been guided by a report from the defense staff to replace the F-16, but there are also NATO standards that had to be followed.
The opposition parties hit back at the government with Dirk Van der Maelen (SP.A) saying, “… by postponing the hearing with the army leaders until after the Easter holidays, you (the government) are unemployed for a month. We have to start now. ‘Citizens demand and deserve transparency.”
Kristof Calvo (Groen) criticised Minister of Defense Steven Vandeput (N-VA) saying, “Mr. Vandeput has already lost all credibility to manage file like this, which is worth billions. The most important question is: why did Steven Vandeput know nothing? The N-VA is now going shopping with the money of the taxpayers.”
The Brussels Times