Saturday, 18 July 2020
Despite appearing to lash out at Belgium on Friday, on his arrival in Brussels for the European Summit, Luxembourg’s Xavier Bettel had French fries in the European Quarter on Saturday with his Belgian counterpart, Sophie Wilmès, during a break in the marathon meeting.
To Bettel’s dismay, Luxembourg was coded orange by the Belgian Foreign Ministry in the travel advisory section of its website. This means travel to that country is possible if certain conditions are met: there needs to be increased vigilance; both quarantining and testing are recommended on returning from such countries, although neither is compulsory.
“Luxembourg is following the recommendations of the World Health Organisation (WHO) of testing, testing, testing,” Bettel said on Friday. “You cannot then penalize countries that are doing so. If you test a lot, it’s normal to find many positive tests,” he stressed, arguing that Luxembourg was now being excluded from certain countries just for doing its work.
However, Bettel was not specifically targeting Belgium. Ms Wilmès had already been in contact with him ahead of the summit and had confirmed that the Belgian authorities would take testing into consideration in their assessment, according to a good source.
Raising the issue with his European peers, Bettel was even reported to have referred positively to Belgium’s attitude.
Should the choice of the orange-coloured, typically Belgian, Samurai sauce chosen by Prime Minister Bettel for his fries, be seen as symbolizing a thaw between neighbours?
Some observers point, rather, to the fact that while Benelux leaders tend to like being seen together, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, leader of the so-called “frugal” countries seen as part of the reason for the stalemate in budget negotiations, was conspicuously absent.
While Mr. Bettel and Mrs. Wilmes were at their fries, together with the heads of Malta and Esthonia, who knows what the “frugal” ones were eating?
The Brussels Times