Belgium’s foreign minister Didier Reynders will find out today if he has been successful in his bid for a top job with the Council of Europe.
Reynders (photo), currently working with former minister Johan Vande Lanotte to sound out the parties on the chance of forming a new federal government, is one of two candidates remaining for the job of secretary-general of the Council of Europe. The choice between him and Croatian foreign minister Marija Pejcinovic Buric will be made today by the votes of the 324 members of the body’s parliamentary assembly.
The Council of Europe, based in Strasbourg, was created in the ruins of the Second World War in 1949, and brings together 47 member states representing 827 citizens. The body is not related in any way to the European Union. Its main functions are the promotion of democracy and the protection of human rights. As far as the general public is concerned, its main importance is the European convention on human rights, and the court in Strasbourg which rules on such matters.
As foreign minister of their respective nations, both candidates have been members of the Council’s ministerial committee, which meets once a year with the secretary-general in the chair. The job has a term of five years renewable. The incumbent is the Norwegian Thorbjørn Jagland, who has held the office since 2009.
Reynders has one thing in his favour, and one weighing against him. On the one hand, the post of commissioner-general of the organisation is already held by a woman from the Balkans – Bosnia to be precise. On the other, a letter signed by some 150 academics earlier this month described him as “unfit” to hold the job of secretary-general, because of his government’s policy of repatriating only orphaned Belgian children from Syria. That position, the letter said, was not in keeping with the institution’s commitment to the protection of all children affected by war.
The vote of the parliamentary assembly today will be asked to decide on a candidate by a simple majority. If that is not possible, a second vote will be taken tomorrow to decide on a weighted majority.