It was agreed in the Consultative Committee Wednesday that the Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Didier Reynders (MR) would plead at the European level in favor of an embargo on arms sales to Saudi Arabia, Flemish Minister-President Geert Bourgeois (N-VA) reported to the Flemish Parliament. During the Flemish parliamentary budgetary discussions, opposition parties sp.a and Groen reiterated Flanders’s request for a formal ban on arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Within the coalition, CD & V also calls for a new assessment of the situation.
Flemish Prime Minister Geert Bourgeois still insists that an embargo by Flanders alone would be “counterproductive,” for, in fact, the region has not sold arms directly to Saudi Arabia for years.
Last October, Mr. Bourgeois had promised to put this item on the agenda of the Consultative Committee, which is the organ where topics concerning different levels of power are discussed, so that all entities of the country reach a common position.
According to the Flemish nationalist, the Coordination Committee considered the issue on Wednesday at Flanders’s request. It was agreed that the Minister of Foreign Affairs Didier Reynders would plead in favor of a ban implemented by the entire European Union. “This proves that Flanders plays an active role on this issue,” Geert Bourgeois added.
This announcement did not convince the opposition. Through sp.a’s MP Tine Soens, doubts were expressed concerning the feasibility of a European embargo, and the Flemish Government was urged to act forthwith at its own level.
Belgium is in 6th place on the list of EU countries that exported the most weapons to Saudi Arabia in 2017. The assassination of journalist and Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi last 2 October at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul (Turkey), revived demands for a European embargo, which the European Parliament has been requesting for a long time. But countries like France or the United Kingdom are opposed.