Vivaldi and the Difficult Relationship with Truth: A Non-Exhaustive Review

The Vivaldi government regularly played the truth in 2022. Prime Minister Alexander de Croo (Open Vld) and Tinne Van der Straeten (Groen) were caught most often making questionable statements, but Justice Minister Vincent van Quickenborn (Open Vld) and the Minister of the Interior Annelies Verlinden (cd & v) They were not entirely unpunished. .

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Tinne Van der Straeten: “We will expand the last two nuclear power plants at my request, on my initiative”

At the end of August, Energy Minister Tinne Van der Straeten (Green) congratulated herself in Terzake that she was the initiator of the ten-year extension of the life of the two youngest nuclear power plants, Doel 3 and Tihange 2.

However, it was the Greens who stubbornly insisted on a complete phase-out of nuclear weapons in 2025. Only after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 did they see the light. A month later, the federal government reached an agreement to keep the last two nuclear power plants open for a longer period, in order to ensure security of supply.

Negotiation

Negotiations with Engi then began, but the government failed to complete them by its self-imposed deadline of 31 December. Just before the summer holidays, she had already concluded an agreement in principle with the operator Engi, which would have resulted in a binding contract before the end of the year.

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On New Year’s Eve, Prime Minister Alexander de Croo (Open Vld) and Energy Minister Tinne Van der Straeten (Groen) sat with the Inge summit until 6 pm, but without result. The two members of the government issued a press statement that evening saying that “more time is needed to reach an agreement that fully satisfies both parties”. The government hopes for a landing “in the short term”, but no longer dares to set a deadline for itself.

De Croo on WhatsApp messages: ‘You can’t release something that doesn’t exist’

Did Prime Minister Alexander de Croo (Open Vld) give his nod to the public explanatory note to the budget that entrusted fellow party member and former State Secretary for Budget Eva de Bleecker as its political boss? Documents published by Knack Weekly show that it is.

In De Bleeker’s public explanation, the budget went into the red €1.3 billion more than Prime Minister De Croo announced during the ‘State of the Union’, because it included the cost price of a VAT cut on gas and electricity. As a result, the budget deficit increased from 5.8% of GDP to 6.1%, the largest among all EU countries. At the Finance Committee, de Croo claimed that he did not agree with the script before him. Not long after, de Bleecker had to leave because she would have made a “material mistake”.

“calibration channels”

However, internal email traffic published by Knack shows that De Croo’s cabinet did not request an adjustment to the cost price of reducing VAT or increasing the budget deficit, even through so-called “standard channels”. In the WhatsApp conversation between the two treasuries, Wetstraat 16 did not make any comments about the fact that the cost price of the VAT reduction and the larger budget deficit were not adjusted.

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De Croo has always denied the existence of these WhatsApp messages, both in an interview with De Morgen and in the Parliamentary Committee for the Interior. However, he later admitted that Cabinet employees communicate with each other in every possible way, including text messages. But no text message can reverse an official government decision. Never, no way. The Prime Minister says he has never denied the existence of text messages about the budget. “Such a fundamental change has never been in a text message,” he stressed.

Verlinden on police salary increase: “After years of divestment, we have to change the curve”

At the beginning of 2022, the police unions and Home Secretary Annelies Verlinden (CD&V) entered into a temporary social agreement on a police salary increase.

However, during a budget meeting in October, the government reversed the agreed pay increase and linked it to the phasing out of the end-of-career scheme for police officers. As a result, by 2030, officers will only be able to retire from the age of 63, while today the earliest possible retirement age is 58. According to Carlo Meadow, head of the police union NSPV, the government has broken their word.

Endless month

Unhappy with these two government decisions, the police will not levy fines for offenses that do not endanger road safety during the ‘No-Fine Month’, which runs from 15 December to 15 January. Only offenses that cannot be tolerated, such as reckless driving, driving without insurance, and alcohol intoxication behind the wheel, will only be fined.

Van Quickenborn: “Zero Tolerance and Eyes on Police Violence”

Following the murder of a 29-year-old police officer in Schaerbeek, Justice Minister Vincent van Quickenborn (Open Vld) has maintained that there has been zero tolerance towards violence against the police since taking office.

However, the police unions feel abandoned by Van Quickenborn. They condemn the “impunity” prevailing in Brussels and other major cities for perpetrators of violence against the police and other aid workers.

Vincent Hussen, head of the VSOA police union, referred to an intervention at Waregem Koerse in August 2022 in which an officer was subjected to physical violence. “He has not been able to work for months and the rehabilitation process will take another eight months, but the public prosecutor dropped the case because the perpetrator was not known of similar facts,” Hussain said.

guidance

However, the minister said violence against the police would not be put off. According to him, this is because in November 2020, a month after his appointment, he decided to introduce a zero-tolerance directive for all forms of violence against the police. In the context of this directive, the Minister would have required all Belgian chiefs of police to report to him cases of violence against the police that are not being systematically acted upon.

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