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Belgium in Brief: Belgium Gains Two Princesses

In weeks punctuated by figures, negotiations (Brexit & Belgian government) and political rallies, a big story of the past year was quietly ticking along in the background.

Now, as a result, Belgium has two new Princesses and a new Prince.

As of yesterday, Delphine Boël, the 52-year-old illegitimate daughter of King Albert II, is officially a princess of Belgium, the Brussels Court of Appeal decided.

Boël is now changing her name to that of her father, namely ‘of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha’. Her children, Joséphine and Oscar, also become princess and prince of Belgium and should be addressed the same way. Here’s the rest of the story.

In other news, Sophie Wilmès steps down, another protest is coming, and – as always – the latest figures to keep you up to speed.

Belgium in Brief is a free daily roundup of the top stories to get you through your lunch break conversations. To receive it straight to your inbox every day, sign up below:

1. Only 5 EU countries contain green zones for Belgian travellers

Only five countries in the European Union still have green zones for travellers from Belgium, where they can go without coronavirus restrictions, according to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

Following the latest update, only a few of those relatively safe green zones remain on the European map, namely in Sweden, Italy, Poland, Croatia and Bulgaria. Read more.

2. Sophie Wilmès steps down as Belgium’s first female prime minister

Sophie Wilmès has taken over Belgium’s foreign affairs, officially stepping down as the prime minister who saw Belgium through the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a transfer of powers ceremony on Thursday, Wilmès was welcomed into the ministry’s headquarters in Brussels’ Sablon neighbourhood by resigning minister Philippe Goffin.

Handing over the keys, Goffin lauded Wilmès time as caretaker premier, during which he said she “masterfully handled the coronavirus crisis.” Read more.

3. Coronavirus: New cases rising, but rate of increase is slowing down

While the number of coronavirus related deaths in Belgium remains relatively low, the average has risen steadily to seven per day, according to the latest figures by Sciensano on Thursday.

Over the past week, an average number of seven deaths occurred per day, up from the average of 5.3 the week before. In the first half of September, Belgium recorded an average of approximately 2 to 3 deaths per day. Read more.

4. Wilmès gifts new Belgian PM a record of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons

Former Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès gave her successor Alexander De Croo a vinyl record of ‘The Four Seasons’ by Antonio Vivaldi upon handing over the badge to 16 Rue de la Loi, the Prime Minister’s office.

The gift is a nod to the fact that the new government has become known as the Vivaldi coalition, because its four components are thought to represent the composer’s Four Seasons: red for socialists PS and sp.a; blue for liberals MR and Open VLD; green for ecologists Ecolo and Groen; and orange for Christian democrats CD&V. Read more.

5. 30 students quarantined after teacher ignores Covid-19 symptoms

Thirty students were quarantined after being taught by a teacher who ignored her symptoms and in the meantime tested positive for Covid-19.

The incident was “stupid and unwise”, said the Vives University College in Kortrijk, where the class was being taught.  Read more.

6. Anti-far-right protest organised in Brussels on Saturday

A counter-demonstration to a Vlaams Belang (VB) protest that last week drew thousands of supporters of the far-right party will take place in Brussels on Saturday.

Several anti-fascist and left-wing organisations are seeking to energise demonstrators to gather in Brussels’ Gare Centrale to denounce the VB’s “nauseating ideas.” Read more.

7. Poll: Only 38% have confidence in the new government

Only 38% of Belgian voters have confidence in the new government led by Alexander De Croo (Open VLD) sworn in yesterday, according to a poll organised by Le Soir-RTL Info-Ipsos-VTM-Het Laatste Nieuws.

De Croo himself does better, with 48% confidence.

The poll was taken on the day the new government was announced and took its oath. The new team behind De Croo is almost entirely new, with many ministers taking on a government role for the first time. Read more.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times