Belgium’s new prime minister Alexander De Croo is in a sprint to complete a string of swear-in formalities in order to join fellow heads of state at his first EU Council Summit.
De Croo’s cabinet on Thursday is rushing him through two key events which clash with the start of the EU summit: his government declaration and the transfer of powers from the incumbent premier, Sophie Wilmès.
“We are expecting him today, but it will depend on his agenda,” a Belgian EU official told The Brussels Times, adding that he was unable to say whether he would make it on day one.
De Croo is already set to miss leaders’ doorstep arrivals, set to take place from 1:00 to 2:00 PM, as his government declaration before Belgian lawmakers is slated for 2:15.
Social-distancing requirements mean the event will exceptionally take place in the EU Parliament building, just a stone’s throw away from the summit.
A spokesperson for De Croo did not reply to multiple requests for comment on his participation in the summit, already postponed as fellow Belgian, EU Council President Charles Michel, went into coronavirus quarantine.
The two-day EU leaders’ summit is expected to tackle thorny foreign policy subjects such as the political crisis in Belarus, EU-China relations and Turkey’s destabilising actions in the Mediterranean, as well as the recent poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
With De Croo’s agenda still charged on Friday —when he is set to return before Belgian lawmakers to ask for confidence in his government, which is set to be voted on on Saturday— plans are already in place for Michel to replace his fellow countryman on day two of the summit.
Gabriela Galindo The Brussels Times
Correction: This article has been amended to clarify that De Croo would not attend a transfer of powers ceremony in Brussels.