Frederik Vansina assumes command as Belgium's chief of defence

Frederik Vansina is set to take over the command of the Belgian armed forces from Admiral Michel Hofman. "The mission of Defence is to protect the civilian population. We will dedicate ourselves to this with the same vigour and motivation as our predecessors," the new chief of defence told a press conference on Thursday.

Vansina did not say much about his priorities during his mandate. "Two days ago we had the opportunity to present Defence's situation to the preformateur [Bart De Wever] and his team," he said. "We are working for the security of the Belgians, to increase it even more. In this context, we have presented our ideas to the preformateur."

De Wever (N-VA) is meeting the negotiators of Vooruit, CD&V, MR and Les Engagés to find common ground for the next federal government. Defence should not be an issue: in the light of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, most parties agree that Belgium's military needs more money.

The country has the second-lowest defence spending in NATO, at just 1.1 per cent of GDP. The current federal government has promised to reach NATO's 2 per cent target by 2035, but has not made a concrete budgetary proposal. Finding that money will be difficult, given Belgium's precarious budget situation.

Asked about the war in Ukraine, Vansina spoke of a "frightening" sequence of escalations. "What we are looking for is de-escalation," he said. "[Russian] president Putin can stop this war today if he withdraws his troops." He added that Belgium remained 100 per cent behind Ukraine.

The Council of Ministers approved Vansina's appointment on 26 April. He has been deputy chief of defence since July last year. The official handover of command takes place on Thursday afternoon during a military ceremony at Cinquantenaire Park in Brussels.



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