Belgium and Ukraine are back on the same page
The fact that the brand new minister of Foreign Affairs, Hadja Lahbib, travelled to the Crimea as a journalist, does not lead to problems in the relationship between Belgium and the Ukraine. This is what minister of Justice Vincent Van Quickenborne (Open VLD), currently acting prime minister, told VTM NEWS.
Van Quickenborne refers to the letter that Lahbib sent to her Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Koeleba. In it she stated, among other things, that the Crimea is illegally occupied by Russia. According to the minister, a reply was received from Koeleba on 29 July.
"The exchange of letters shows that Belgium and Ukraine are on the same page," Van Quickenborne said. "He (Koeleba, nvdr.) does not doubt for a second that our country and the minister herself effectively confirm the territorial integrity of Ukraine. So I can say that there is no problem between our countries."
Van Quickenborne also stated that Belgium will continue to provide arms and support to Ukraine.
"The most important thing is that there is no problem in the relationship with Ukraine. They are grateful for what we are doing," he said.
On Lahbib herself, he said only her performance as minister was important to him.
"I can only comment on her role as a minister, not as a journalist. It is not for ministers to judge journalists," he added.
The new Belgian Foreign minister got into trouble when it became known that, as a journalist for RTBF, she travelled to the Crimea in the summer of 2021. She did so at Russia's expense. On her return she also spoke of a visit to 'Russia'. Moreover, she travelled to the Crimea via Russia, which is punishable according to the Ukrainian authorities. Kiev can therefore deny her access to the country for three years.
Meanwhile, minister Lahbib is on her first mission abroad. Last weekend, she left for New York and the United Nations to defend the Belgian position on the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.
"If you look at the deterioration in relations between the world powers and the increasingly prominent place that nuclear weapons occupy in the public debate, it becomes clear what enormous difficulty this conference faces," Lahbib said about the visit.
"More generally, I will also use this visit to discuss with UN officials and several of my counterparts the current problems and priorities for Belgium."
In the coming days, the Belgian minister is scheduled to meet senior UN officials, including the Executive Director of UN Women Sima Bahous and the Assistant Secretary-General for Europe, Central Asia and the Americas Miroslav Jenca.
© BELGA PHOTO HATIM KAGHAT - New Foreign minister Hadja Lahbib pictured during a concert on the eve of Belgium's National Day, Wednesday 20 July 2022, at Bozar in Brussels.