Between 11 and 15 November 2021, two members of Wallonia's Parliament travelled to the World Exhibition in Dubai on a luxury trip that included business class flights, a guide for over €3,000 and came to a total cost estimated at €19,000 for the four-day trip, according to documents obtained by Le Soir.
On 16 September 2021, the Office of Wallonia's Parliament agreed on the expensive trip but changed its mind a few weeks later due to concerns over Qatar. However, that didn't stop the Parliament's President Jean-Claude Marcourt (PS) nor the Registrar, Frédéric Janssens, from going.
According to Le Soir, Marcourt and Jansson stayed at the luxury Palm Hotel in Dubai when they visited the World Exhibition, paying €4,333 for their four-night stay, funded by Wallonia's government. Similarly, business-class flights cost €4,266 per person, with a meal budget of € 1,100.
The eye-watering figures weren't challenged when Le Soir contacted Janssens and members of the Parliament's Office.
Other members of the Office of the Parliament- Sophie Pécriaux (PS), Jacqueline Galant (MR), Sybille de Coster-Bauchau (MR) and Manu Disabato (Ecolo) were meant to go as well, with a budget of €6,600 approved for each person. However, they decided against going withdrawing their approval for the trip.
A high-flying parliamentarian
Controversy has surrounded Janssens for several months after he was suspended in mid-September when a complaint was filed against him for harassment. He allegedly threatened an employee, saying they "would be in the mortuary by noon".
Le Soir lists other trips that Janssens made over the years, including visits to conferences around the world during the summer months on business class trips. In August 2019, he travelled to a legislative summit in Nashville, Tennessee for three days which he coupled with a five-day trip to Washington.
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The exact point of his trip to Nashville is unclear; how the Washington trip would be beneficial for Wallonia's government is also uncertain. Nor is it apparent why Parliament agreed to fund these excursions.
Marcourt doesn't emerge from the story unscathed. He was unable to manage his registrar and failed to provide a detailed report of the trip. Only four sentences were filed which complain that the two couldn't use the VIP lounge upon their return from Dubai.