The falls: Belgium is increasingly in the spotlight with a muscular foreign policy. Trump loves money for the Palestinians? Belgium fits right in. Israel demolishes Eu-projects in the West bank? Our country leads the group that financial compensation demands. This Brave Little Belgium against Donald Trump? “I speak rather of “Principled Little Belgium”’, says minister Alexander De Croo, ‘a small country with strong principles.’
Minister of development Cooperation Alexander De Croo (Open VLD), and returned last night back from the World Economic Forum in Davos, where he is the only member of the Belgian delegation as a ” contributor …
Minister of development Cooperation Alexander De Croo (Open VLD), and returned last night back from the World Economic Forum in Davos, where he is the only member of the Belgian delegation as a “contributor” had occurred. The Croo took part in panel discussions and contributed to reports that the Forum discussions feeds.
Were you working on your international profile, with the eye on a career outside the Belgian politics?
‘I do not in this way, to career planning for the longer term. The portfolio development Cooperation has in any case very strong, my eyes widened, and active in international fora is also particularly useful in Belgium to further politics.’
You were very surprised when your president of development Cooperation entrusted to you. We now see another De Croo, before and after?
‘Yes, sir. This chief minister confronted me with realities that will have a lasting impression left. During discussions on the vluchtelingencrisis I often think back to that one particularly impressive moment in time in a refugee camp in Goma, in the east of Congo. Refugee life there dichtgepakt together, on a mountain of lava. I talked about it in a shed with a hundred women, who very candidly told us about the high risk of sexual violence. To cook for their children they have outside the camp to collect firewood. The risk that they will be raped, is particularly large. That has me deeply touched.’
It was also so angry when the secretary of state for Asylum and Migration Theo Francken the word ‘clean’ used, with respect to migrants?
“I was very critical about the language that Theo when wielded, and I am pleased that prime minister Michel me with this is bijgetreden. I regret to say that migration generally, but is rarely positive is exposed.’
Theo Franckens language appeals to a significant segment of the population. He is popular.
‘Je préfère perdre une élection que mon âme. I want myself not to be tempted to more and more statements, I have no appetite for such a politics of the gut feeling. Politics running for me around conviction and commitment. As regards asylum and migration, I suggest a hardening fix, but mostly of the language. You need to make a distinction with the policy, and that remains in Belgium, yet very human. The number of humanitarian visas is higher than before, and also in terms of the reception of refugees need our country absolutely not to blush.’
Your decisions are becoming stronger. Recently, you made the quick drive financial assistance for freedom for Palestinian refugees, after Donald Trump, the American contribution drastically had been reduced. This led you all the group of EU-countries claiming compensation from Israel, for the destruction of EU projects in the West bank. And a year ago, collected together with the Netherlands fast extra money in for programming of births in Africa, again after Trump on the American contribution had beknabbeld. Is the ‘ Brave Little Belgium, in the fight against Trump?
“I would rather speak of “Principled Little Belgium”, a small country with strong principles. A foreign policy is more than just having an opinion. It revolves around principles, and those principles, you must act. The decisions you enumerate, were, piece by piece, no decisions against Trump, but before anything else. Before women, and before humanitarian aid to the Palestinians. For the donors ‘ conference on programming of births in Africa, the Netherlands took the initiative, and we quickly followed. At that conference last year, 181 million euros promised, in the meantime, we have more than 400 million euros.’
‘UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, is a humanitarian organization. That must be outside of the political playing field, but Trump has UNRWA politicized, by money. We took then the decision to quickly a financial drive of 19 million euros spread over the next three years. That is important, because the Palestinian children in UNRWA schools have to stay in school. Or, we may want extremists to grow?’
‘In the Middle East, we choose no party. We were strictly for Israel, and have agreed in writing to compensation for the destruction of European development projects in the occupied West bank. But I’m also already been tough for the Palestinians. Earlier this week the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in Brussels pointed out that we are unacceptable to find that a school with Belgian money is built, the name ” prince of a Palestinian, who. Abbas assured me that the problem will be solved.’
The Belgian decision to have extra money for the Palestinian refugees, it quickly went around in the Middle East. But this intervention really make an impact? 19 million euro will remain a small amount. Had you no greater can make a difference, by other EU-partners involved-such as with the requirement for compensation to the address of Israel?
‘If we find other EU partners had sought, then, we never had the same speed to be able to act. UNRWA has a lot of ongoing projects. It is important that the humanitarian organization not on dry seed. Therefore, we have the first tranche of 19 million euro paid. In the mean time, Sweden is also additional money for the Palestinians free, and also goes to the Netherlands after or an extra effort is possible.’
We make myself enough money for Development aid? The budget is 0.4 percent of GDP. You will receive regular criticism of development organisations.
(brightly) ” We are the seventh donor in Europe. It’s not about how much money you spend, but to the impact. In the past the budget was on development of a machine of expenditure, now we put it in as a tool for foreign policy. There is a European agreement to achieve the target of 0.7 per cent, by 2030. Now, there is some obsession with easily measurable target, but in the meantime, the recent years worldwide 850 million people lifted out of poverty thanks to free trade, a growing SME landscape, and the help of private partners. Now take our partnership with the Gates Foundation to fight against the sleeping sickness in Congo. That Foundation explains one euro on the table for each euro that we invest. Who is criticizing our spending, do you hear never about this kind of initiatives.’
In the Congo occurs Kabila highly repressive against his people, and that free elections demands. You want to make a fist against that government, by a part of the bilateral aid to postpone and spend on humanitarian assistance and the strengthening of burgerbewegingen. Is that the right strategy?
“It can’t be otherwise. You can only in development cooperation if the government of the country in question, partners with whom you have a policy can define, for the benefit of the population. I see at this time, not a single partner with the Congolese government, with whom that is possible. Congo has no government anymore, but has deteriorated into a structured system of self-service. With the exception of the regime-Kabila we received from the Congo very much support for our decision, not the least of the very activist Church. We let the Congolese do not fall, and that is why we support humanitarian projects and burgerbewegingen. Congo has a strong, vocal opposition is needed.”
While our country, the Congolese opposition is trying to strengthen, hunting France and Spain, their economic interests in the Congo of Kabila. The French oil company Total preys on a large concession to the Albertmeer, and the Spanish consortium ProInga, subsequently, to the construction of a new dam on the Congorivier. Speaks our country Paris and Madrid then?
“We Belgians do not want on the wrong side of history. On European forums have Didier Reynders (minister of Foreign Affairs, MR) and I regularly broached. In West Africa, we were often told that we Belgians indeed speak French, but not French. That was meant as a compliment. Macrons marketing move in Africa is different from the Belgian policy, which puts emphasis on the humanitarian side.’
Kinshasa says koudweg that the Congo, our country is not at all necessary for its development. The hard approach that you choose, however, impact? Was it not wiser to first strong EU partners to search, before you Congo the wait aanzegde?
“In the past we managed the joint EU sanctions against Congo to approve it. That work today is less good. At the same time, we need the Congolese reaction to do not overestimate. Despite the propaganda from overheidshoek the Congolese government is very isolated. Belgium is not misguided to work. We are on the side of the Congolese population, which is in all freedom as a political leader wants to choose. Belgium remains one of the most important engines for development in the Congo, and we want to avoid that engine stops.’
“Therefore respond we will the statements from the Congolese government, while we continue to work with the Congolese in the field of agriculture, health and education. Forces Kinshasa us really to stop that work, the Congolese government also consider the consequences for its citizens. We do not wish to participate in the escalation where the Congolese government clearly is. We continued working in the Congo, how difficult the government-Kabila us now.”