Joëlle Milquet, one of the major figures of recent national politics for Christian democrat party cdH, has surprised everyone by withdrawing her name to lead the party list for the federal election in May in Brussels. Instead, she will take a job within the EU Commission. Milquet graduated in law from the university of Louvain-la-Neuve in 1984, later specialising in EU law at the Europa Institute in Amsterdam. She served for a time in the office of the Belgian judge at the European court before becoming involved in centre-right politics. She became a senator in 1995.
She took over the chair of her party in 1999, and later served as education minister in the Walloon government, and holding the posts of vice-premier and equal opportunities minister in the federal governments of Yves Leterme and Herman Van Rompuy.
In 2017 she was commissioned by Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the EU Commission, to deliver a report on the rights of victims (PDF, EN). The report, released in March this year, was well-received. As a result, she told the RTBF, Juncker offered her a job as a coordinator within his services of victims’ rights across the EU.
“He asked me to put into action the proposals [contained in the report], firstly a round of short-term measures, to allow him to launch the first phase of the strategy,” she said. “And also to prepare a second phase for the next commission. Because there will still be a number of medium-term and longer-term measures, so getting involved in the process has a longer-term outlook.”
The effort required, she said, would be too much to take on in addition to a general election campaign. “When you work on a campaign you have to give it 200%,” she said. “If you’re asked to work more than full time on an urgent matter like a large part of new reforms which have to be carried out in the next few months, that demands all of your time, never mind an election campaign. I didn’t want to cheat the voters. I wanted to be clear.”
Her place at the head of the Brussels list for her party will be taken over, at her request, by Georges Dallemagne, formerly a doctor with Doctors Without Borders, later a local councillor in Brussels, later a member of the federal parliament.