Belgian Gender Equality Secretary faces calls to be sacked for 'unethical' use of personal logo

Belgian Gender Equality Secretary faces calls to be sacked for 'unethical' use of personal logo
Belgium's under-fire State Secretary for Gender Equality Sarah Schlitz (Ecolo). Credit: Belga / Nicolas Maeterlinck

Sarah Schlitz’s position as Belgium’s State Secretary for Gender Equality is under threat, with a parliamentary vote on her future set for Thursday. The French-speaking Green is accused of lying over the use of her logo on websites for government-subsidised projects.

The issue was first brought up by the Flemish nationalist MP Sander Loones (N-VA) who claimed that Schiltz’s logo was displayed on an exhibition website at the Dossin barracks, a transit camp of the Second World War, from which, in German-occupied Belgium, arrested Jews and Romani were sent to concentration camps.

Under the regular procedure, these projects would display a neutral logo relating to the Federal Government and not that of a minister. A "blunder" for which Schlitz was reprimanded by the parliamentary committee tasked with controlling electoral spending. The State Secretary then apologised and explained that she had not personally asked for her logo to be included on these websites.

However, the story did not end there, after La Dernière Heure revealed last Thursday that a previous call for projects launched by the Federal Government had explicitly called for applicants to "mention the support of the State Secretary." This would, in effect, mean that Schlitz was calling on non-profits to explicitly mention her name on their projects.

The demand was then removed from the call for proposals albeit too late, and not enough to avoid the ensuring the political scandal.

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These "outrageous" accusations led Schlitz’s office to claim that she had already argued her case to the parliamentary committee. They "once again" explained that it was the Institute for the Equality of Women and Men that had proposed for her name to also be included as a source of funding. “She regrets this blunder and expressed as much to the committee,” they concluded.

Nonetheless, the Federal Government has given Schlitz a week to prepare her defence after allowing the Chamber of Representatives to vote on her future on Thursday. If a majority of MPs believe that the State Secretary had lied to the committee, she will be forced to resign.

The ongoing issue may also have a snowball effect on Belgian politics, with other politicians accused of having made the same mistake as Schlitz. De Standaard, for example, claimed that the Flemish Environmental Minister Zuhal Demir (N-VA) also used her logo for subsidised projects.

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