Belgium’s federal foreign affairs minister Didier Reynders failed yesterday to be elected to the post of secretary-general of the Council of Europe, in a vote of national representatives.
Reynders (photo), who as well as being foreign minister and defence minister in the outgoing federal government is also one of the two senior politicians chosen by the king to seek out a possible new government coalition, lost in a vote to the Croatian foreign minister Marija Pejcinovic Buric, who becomes the second woman to hold the post since the Council was created in 1949.
Belgian senator Petra De Sutter (Groen) is a member of the parliamentary assembly charged with electing the new secretary-general. She told the RTBF the result had come as a surprise.
“The atmosphere changed a little this week,” she said. “The other candidate gave a better presentation than she had in April, and the talk in the corridors was that she had more of a chance.” Reynders, she said, had left delegates with the impression he was “a little too sure of himself”.
“Mme Buric is a woman, and it’s certain the man-woman effect was in play. Certain delegations, including the Russians, would have preferred a secretary-general who was a little less strong and a little less competent than Didier Reynders.”
Reynders with 105 votes in the assembly lost to Buric on 159. The result means he will most likely remain part of the Belgian federal government, as vice-premier and probably foreign minister, although the post of defence minister, which he took over when N-VA left the government in November last year, will likely be filled by a full-time minister.
In the meantime, his responsibility as one of the two senior politicians charged by the king with sounding out the parties for the formation of a new government is due to end on Monday.
“I congratulate Marija Pejcinovic Buric with her election as secretary-general and wish her much success,” he said after the result. “I would like to thank the Belgian members of the parliament for their support, and the teams who helped me to conduct a good campaign.”