Belgium. According to Countryaah, Finance Minister Steven Vanackere resigned in March following criticism that a union with ties to his Christian Democratic CD&V had been granted favorable loan terms at a state bank. Vanackere was succeeded as Finance Minister by Koen Geens, while Defense Minister Pieter De Crem took over his post as Deputy Prime Minister.
In early July, King Albert II announced that he intended to abdicate and surrender to Crown Prince Philippe. The 79-year-old monarch cited failing health as a reason. He emphasized in his farewell speech that he wants Belgium to remain a united state. The king mainly has ceremonial duties in Belgium, but is considered to have a unifying role and is trying to resolve constitutional crises. On National Day July 21, the 53-year-old Air Force pilot swore Philippe oath in the country’s three official languages during a ceremony in parliament. He became the country’s seventh king.
The leader of the radical Islamist movement Sharia4Belgium, Fouad Belkacem, was arrested in April, causing a sister organization in the UK to issue threats against Belgium. Belkacem was sentenced in June to 18 months in prison and fines for inciting hatred and violence against non-Muslims.
The Senate voted in December for a law on euthanasia for children. The Second Chamber was also expected to adopt the proposal, which would make Belgium the first in the world with euthanasia even for minors. Only mortally ill children with incurable, severe plagues would be covered by the law.
In 2001, Belgium resumed diplomatic relations with the Democratic Republic of Congo. Prime Minister Verhofstadt and Foreign Minister Michel visited the former Belgian colony to promote peace talks that could end the war in the eastern part of the country. Verhofstadt also promised to put Congo’s problems on the EU agenda.
In those years, Europe made the flow of refugees from the Third World and Eastern Europe into a central political theme. Most European countries introduced restrictions to limit the inflow. Belgium followed this trend by removing any financial support for asylum seekers and introducing a rapid deportation practice. This asylum policy was criticized by Amnesty International.
In July 2001, Belgium assumed the presidency of the EU. Tobin tax on the agenda. This tax on international cash flows had been proposed as a means of supporting the Third World. However, the EU did not want to introduce such a tax. On 1 January 2002, the Belgian franc was withdrawn from circulation and replaced with the euro.
In October 2001, the Belgian section of the anti-globalization movement occupied the streets of Brussels in protest against the policies of the EU and other international institutions.
In December, the autonomous Flemish government cut off relations with Israel in protest of the country’s human rights violations against the Palestinians. In early 2002, the autonomous region of Brussels decided to suspend the cooperation agreement signed two years before with Israel.
On April 1, 2002, a synagogue in Anderlecht in Brussels was attacked with a molotov cocktail. The material damage was limited, but the incident led to a sharpening of security. The Belgian court hearing the case against Ariel Sharon decided to dismiss the case on the grounds that the law cannot be applied to incumbent politicians.
The June 2003 parliamentary elections were won by Verhofstadt’s coalition, which won 97 of the 150 seats. However, the Greens declined drastically and were not included in the new government coalition. The government has recognized that one of the current biggest problems in the country is unemployment, and it has therefore set the goal of creating 200,000 new jobs in the period up to 2007.
In September, Belgium became the second country in the world – after the Netherlands – to legalize active euthanasia.
A committee of prominent historians completed an investigation into the 10 million killings. congolans in the hands of King Leopold II’s private army. Brussels apologized for the killing of Congo’s Prime Minister, Patrice Lubumba in 1961. Belgium assumed the moral responsibility for the Lumumba murder, which was killed following a coup d’état carried out by Chief of Staff Mobutu Sese Seko.