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Archive for Belgium

Newsline: Belgium becomes first country to make a woman its ambassador to Saudi Arabia

Belgium has become the first country in the world to appoint a woman as its ambassador to Saudi Arabia, in an apparent show of defiance to the oil-rich autocracy notorious for its abuses of women’s rights. Dominique Mineur, who is currently posted in the United Arab Emirates, will move to the Saudi capital Riyhad to head up the embassy there from next summer, Belgian public broadcaster VRT reports. The public broadcaster cites Belgian government sources saying Ms Mineur’s appointment sends a “clear signal” to Saudi Arabia, which has been slow to reform in comparison to its neighbouring countries.



Newsline: Belgian prince has his £280k state allowance cut after embarrassing diplomatic incident at Chinese embassy

Prince Laurent of Belgium has caused a royal scandal after revealing he attended celebrations to mark the founding of the Chinese army. The prince, who is the younger brother of King Philippe, posted photos of himself attending the event online despite being banned by Prime Minister Charles Michel. Mr Michel issued a decree last December barring Prince Laurent from attending any talks with senior foreign officials without informing the government after a series of controversial meetings, including with the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka. The Prime Minister warned Prince Laurent at the time that his €308,000-per-year (£280,000) salary was at risk, and is now thought to be mulling a fine of up to €30,000 (£28,000). The celebration marking the founding of the People’s Liberation Army was held at the Chinese embassy in Brussels on 19th July, but it was not known at the time that the prince had attended. Controversy began this week after the prince, who is married to British-born Princess Claire, a former surveyor, a posted images of the event on Twitter.


Newsline: Trump nominates sports lovers as UK, Belgium ambassadors

President Donald Trump has nominated the chief executive of an asset management firm to be the U.S. ambassador to the U.K. and a former owner of a baseball team to be ambassador to Belgium. Richard Wood Johnson IV, a longtime supporter of the Republican Party, had been touted by Trump as his likely nomination for the position of U.S. ambassador to the U.K. He has run the New York-based asset management firm The Johnson Company for 30 years and is the owner of the New York Jets, an American football team. In 2006, he was asked to testify before the U.S. Senate over a tax-avoidance scheme he participated in that cost the U.S. Treasury an estimated $300 million. He subsequently repaid the figure. Trump’s pick for ambassador to Belgium, Jamie McCourt, is also a sports fan, having been the president and chief executive of the Los Angeles Dodgers, a baseball team. McCourt, “a prominent entrepreneur and attorney,” backed Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign and, according to the White House press release announcing her nomination, “speaks French.”



Newsline: Violence Erupts at Protest Near US Embassy in Brussels

Brussels police used tear gas and water cannon in clashes with protesters, as thousands gathered at a trade union rally against austerity on Friday. Violence in the area where many government offices are situated caused a lockdown at the US embassy. Around 25,000 people, according to Brussels police spokeswoman, Ilse Van de Keere, marched against austerity and unemployment. They were faced with a heavy-handed police response. Initially, the trade unions expected to see 40,000 demonstrators on the streets of Brussels. Some demonstrators threw oranges and cobblestones at police. Violent clashes also took place near the US embassy.



Newsline: Belgium’s Foreign Minister lashes out against foreign diplomats

Belgium’s Foreign Minister Didier Reynders has had it with foreign diplomats failing to pay traffic fines. Diplomats working in Brussels refused to pay no fewer than 971 fines in the past 3 years, De Tijd reveals. Mr Reynders also mentions particular embassies by name. Over the past 3 years, the Foreign Office was informed about 971 cases of unpaid fines related to parking tickets or traffic offences. The diplomats are abusing the Vienna Treaty on Diplomatic Relations, it can be heard. At present, the Foreign Office sends the embassy or diplomat in question a reminder, but Mr Reynders admits that the cases do not receive a follow-up afterwards. The minister also mentioned names. Where the traditional embassies are concerned, he highlights Saudi Arabia and India as “bad payers”. Where the Permanent Representatives to NATO are concerned, the Turkish diplomats are getting a lashing. As to the European institutions in Brussels, the Permanent Representatives of Greece, Germany, Hungary, Malta, Slovenia and Cyprus are receiving a warning by the minister.



Newsline: Man with knife arrested at Israeli embassy in Brussels

A man wearing a knife was recently arrested before the entrance of the Israeli embassy in Brussels, Belgian press reports said. Police and public prosecutor confirmed the reports. The man, a Belgian converted to Islam and who appeared to be mentally unstable, was stopped by security agents and later turned to the Belgian police for questioning. A second man, of Iranian citizenship, was also arrested when he appeared to be monitoring activities around the embassy building located in Uccle, a Brussels municipality. The building houses the embassy to Belgium and the Mission to the EU. After being questioned by police on their possible links with terrorist operations, the two men have been released. Belgian police assured that there was no link between the two arrests but Israeli authorities reportedly expressed concern over the incidents and the release of the two men.



Newsline: Ecuador closes 9 embassies due to “lack of reciprocity”

Nine of Ecuador’s embassies around the world, including its embassy in Portugal, are to close due to a lack of reciprocity and a desire to cut costs, President Rafael Correa announced. “We have 49 embassies around the world but eleven of these countries do not have any reciprocity and thus without any ambassadors accredited to Ecuador,” explained Correa before identifying the Ecuadorian Embassies to Portugal, the Netherlands, Belgium, South Africa, Austria, Australia and Malaysia as among those slated for shutdown. “There will be a significant reduction in costs and savings to the country,” the president emphasised before adding that he was being “realistic” as while India might not need an embassy in Quito, Ecuador needed representation to New Delhi.