Change in law could help failed foreign interim director pass exam

The Belgian Foreign Ministry has been waiting for a new director for three years. The interim director, Theodora Gentzis, has not been appointed permanently because she repeatedly failed the exam. A recent change in the law should now change this, writes De Morgen.

The post of Director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been vacant since 2020. Theodora Gentzis (MR) has since held the position on an ad interim basis. Although vacancy notices were published at the beginning and end of 2021 to find a director, Gentzis was unsuccessful on both occasions.

According to Knack and De Morgen, things went wrong for her every time during the so-called mailbox exercise. In this management exercise, a candidate is given a long, fictitious laundry list of emails and tested on whether he or she can deal with them without chaos. Those who fail are not allowed to proceed to the next round, the substantive part of the exam. Despite two recruitment processes for a new director, no one has yet been appointed.

Mailbox exercise eliminated

At the end of 2022, the Belgian government adjusted the selection procedure, which meant, among other things, that the mailbox exercise was no longer an "elimination test". A month later, a new selection round was launched, in which Gentzis would again take part.

It is strange that such a post has been vacant for so long

A month after the law was changed, Foreign minister Hadja Lahbib (MR), a party colleague of Gentzis, asked to reopen the selection process. This could not be a coincidence, say insiders. "It is strange that such a post has been vacant for so long. Obviously, they waited until the law was changed," says a source with numerous years of experience in senior government positions.

The change in the law came just in time to appoint the MR's favourite. Within the diplomatic corps, too, there is a strong, if unofficial, belief that the amendment was tailor-made for Gentzis. In a response to De Morgen, Lahbib's cabinet said the minister had "in no way" favoured Gentzis.

In any case, time is running out to appoint a new director, as Belgium takes over the presidency of the Council of the European Union on 1 January. Filling this role properly requires diplomacy in optima forma with a strong leader. A new attempt is being made to find a suitable candidate.



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