Thursday, September 2, 2010

Is there a Belgian Prime Minister?

This is not a question that many people spend sleepless nights over, least of all Belgians. However, it seems to have come up a couple of times recently. Yesterday I and other people on a forum were asked how many British people knew who the Belgian Prime Minister was. I replied that nobody knew that as they mostly did not have one but continued in yet another political crisis. Then there was a response from a blog reader to my posting about the State of the Union Address. He said that there were several other Presidents in the EU, including that of the Council of the European Union, which is still a rotating position currently held by Belgium. Therefore, said President was the Belgian Prime Minister, Yves Leterme. To be fair, the reader did admit that he had looked it up. Well, we would all have to look it up.

All the same, I think that is out of date. You have to get up early to get out of bed as Groucho Marx said in the famous auction scene in The Cocoanuts and the same is true for Belgian politics. It would appear from this Wikipedia entry that Yves Leterme was, indeed, the Belgian Prime Minister but resigned in April. This BBC story appears to confirm that: the resignation was accepted by the King on April 26. On the other hand, the King also asked him to stay on in a caretaker capacity, something that seems to happen rather a lot to Belgian politicians.

So what are we to make of this story from Bloomberg?
Elio Di Rupo, the French-speaking Socialist party leader in Belgium, will continue talks aimed at forming a new national government after King Albert II refused to let him give up the mission.

Di Rupo said today that Flemish nationalists and Christian Democrats did not agree to a compromise over finances and regional powers aimed at forming a seven-party national government. Di Rupo then met with the Belgian king at the palace in suburban Brussels.

“Mr. Di Rupo asked the king to be relieved of his mission,” an e-mailed statement from the royal palace said. “The king refused and asked him to continue his mission.” Di Rupo accepted, the statement said.
We should not forget that there was another inconclusive election in June and they are still searching for that elusive government. So there we are: you pays your money and you takes your choice. In the meantime: who is the President of the Council of the European Union?


  1. This site doesn't make the answer obvious, though it really should do so:

    I couldn't face more than a few minutes on the site but there is a pdf listing Leterme as PM – although I assume it's months old. (Another page bills the high rep as "Lady Cathy Ashton", making her the daughter of a countess, marchioness or duchess.)

    It's arguable that in this six-month period the Belgian PM has more influence than most of the coalition cabinet over how Britain is governed. It would be nice to know for sure who he (or she) is...

  2. I have to admire your strength of character, Clarence. Couldn't really go through all that myself. As a matter of fact the individual politician does not have all that much influence over how Britain is governed. Even the country that is in the chair is not exactly influential most of the time. There are exceptions such as when a new treaty is discussed. It is really all those institutions that matter. I am afraid it is almost impossible to find out who the Belgian PM is. Every time one turns round it is somebody else.

  3. Leterme is the current Belgian Prime Minister. And therefore the current President-in-office of the Council of the European Union.

    If a new Belgian government is formed before the end of the year, then obviously there will be a change to the above.

    In any case, on January 1, the Hungarians take over for their first ever Presidency. They will be assisted by the two previous incumbents, namely Belgium and Spain.



  4. Nick,

    No one else seems to think that Leterme is the current Prime Minister. Does he know?

  5. Helen,

    Yes he does. At least his website does. And his Wikipedia page agrees, so it must be true :)

  6. Who am I to argue with a politician's website? ;-)