Who are the new federal ministers?


Or rather, which existing ministers just got handed new portfolios, following N-VA’s exit from the federal majority coalition

The Belgian shuffle

Following the N-VA resignation from the federal government, several ministerial portfolios had to be scooted onto the laps of existing ministers.

Here’s a run-down of who is no longer a minister or state secretary and who is now handling their portfolios. The ministers handling their portfolios will also continue to handle their previous portfolios.

  • Theo Francken, former state secretary of migration and asylum

Francken’s entire portfolio has been given to Maggie De Block (Open VLD), who held the position of migration secretary from 2011-14. De Block is also the minister of public health.

It is a crucial time for this portfolio, as a new policy that Francken ushered in last month is causing protests and complaints from newcomers and refugee organisations. Both claim that the new policy of only 50 asylum registrations per day coupled with a women-and-family-first approach is forcing a great deal of single men to live in the streets.

  • Jan Jambon, former minister of security, internal affairs and state properties

Most of Jambon’s portfolio has been given to Pieter De Crem (CD&V), state secretary for foreign trade. De Crem now has the unique position of being both a minister and a state secretary.

Jambon’s state properties portfolio – overseeing the management of buildings that the state either owns or rents – goes to Koen Geens, also justice minister.

  • Johan Van Overtveldt, former finance minister

Van Overtveldt’s finance dossier goes to Alexander De Croo (Open VLD), who retains his portfolio of development co-operation. De Croo’s other portfolios – the digital agenda, telecommunications and post – are being transferred to Philippe De Backer, minister of social fraud and the North Sea.

  • Zuhal Demir, former state secretary of equal opportunities, poverty, fiscal fraud, science policy and urban development

The lion’s share of Demir’s portfolio will now be handled by Kris Peeters (CD&V), also minister of consumer affairs, labour and the economy. Science policy, however, has been taken up by budget minister Sophie Wilmès (MR), and urban development will be handled by Denis Ducarme (MR), minister of SMEs, agriculture and social integration.

  • Sander Loones, former minister of defence and civil service

Loones has only been defence minister for a month, taking over from Steven Vandeput as he prepares to become mayor of Hasselt following the local elections of October. The defence post will now be taken up by Didier Reynders (MR), also minister of foreign and European affairs and federal cultural institutions. Affairs related to civil service will now be handled by Wilmès.

The speaker of the house, meanwhile is still N-VA’s Sigfried Bracke. While someone from the majority coalition would normally be speaker, the government is currently working with a minority ruling coalition, so replacing Bracke as speaker would require the co-operation of the opposition. No announcements as to a new speaker have yet been made, and Bracke is continuing as normal in the post this week.

Photo: A special meeting of the council of ministers on Sunday
©Dirk Waem/BELGA