‘Belgian Mr Bean’: state secretary ridiculed over ‘incomprehensible’ Dutch
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‘Belgian Mr Bean’: state secretary ridiculed over ‘incomprehensible’ Dutch

Mathieu Michel being sworn in as state secretary for the digital agenda. © Belga

First-time Federal State Secretary Mathieu Michel is making a splash over his general policy note presentation, with criticism of its contents upstaged by what some have called Michel’s “incomprehensible” spoken Dutch.

Lawmakers and Twitter users alike have swarmed on Michel’s address to the Chamber on Wednesday evening, slamming him over his poor knowledge of one of the official languages of the country.

“Mathieu Michel is a little bit like our Belgian Mr Bean,” one Twitter user wrote as he shared a video of the state secretary for digital affairs stammering, switching to French and struggling to find his words as he unveiled his policy vision in Dutch.

“At this level, this is clearly incomprehensible,” wrote another user, saying Michel’s grasp on Dutch was embarrassing, while another said that, with each word, the francophone liberal (MR) “gave 5% more to the Flemish nationalists.”

Back in October, Michel’s arrival at the highest levels of the Belgian government raised eyebrows, with many pointing out his lack of experience outside regional politics as well as his family ties.

Michel is the younger brother of Belgium’s former prime minister, Charles Michel, now the president of the EU Council. Their father is Louis Michel, a former Belgian deputy prime minister and EU Commissioner, now an MEP.

Michel, who on Wednesday went over questions of online privacy, was also criticised over his statements on social media’s role in shaping discussions about Belgium’s politics.

Media and opposition MPS zoomed in on Michel’s awkwardly-delivered affirmations that social media was unfit for political debate.

“Mathieu Michel, son of Louis, brother of Charles (…) finds that social media is not euh… the place to talk about politics uh… allez… to discuss,” one user tweeted.

Georges-Louis Bouchez, the president of Michel’s ruling MR party, came out in his defence, clapping back at the who ran with that lead for “taking [Michel’s] words out of context.”

Gabriela Galindo
The Brussels Times