'I would like to remain PM,' says De Croo at the start of important year

Alexander De Croo (Open VLD) wants to remain prime minister of Belgium after the elections on 24 May. "If it's possible," he said in an interview with De Standaard.

De Croo has had an eventful summer. Following the resignation of Egbert Lachaert, he temporarily took over the leadership of Open VLD. At the same time, he had to try to keep the peace in the federal government, which had to decide on the tax reform that ultimately did not materialise.

Many successes

Nevertheless, De Croo argues that the government has had many successes. "We have extended the nuclear power plants in a team where two government partners have their raison d'être in an anti-nuclear agenda," he said. "For the first time, we were able to touch the pension precaution," a system that allows civil servants' pensions to rise automatically with wages.

"But you can't close your eyes at a time when there is a very heated debate within the government about a certain minister," he said, referring to Foreign minister Hadja Lahbib (MR), who has been in trouble on several occasions.

The new political year also promises to be eventful. In the first half of 2024, Belgium will ​ hold the presidency of the EU and organise federal, regional and European elections. The ongoing asylum crisis and the search for 1.2 billion euros to control the budget deficit will also cause friction.

"We have agreed to bring the deficit back below 3 per cent by 2026"

Although Belgium's budget deficit risks European condemnation, De Croo is calm. "We will see. We have agreed to bring the deficit back below 3 per cent by 2026. We can defend that," he said.

"We decided to intervene massively during the energy and corona crisis. And the result is that we have not had a wave of bankruptcies, unemployment has never been lower, economic growth is quite good compared to other countries, and job creation is higher than under the previous government, which had a much stronger economic tailwind."

"I am fully aware of our international obligations"

Regarding asylum policy, the De Croo government has less to cheer about. "I am fully aware of our international obligations. We will do everything we can to create additional places. But if you are in a situation where you have to make a choice, it is understandable that we will not let children sleep outside," he said

"I've been in four governments and migration has always been a sensitive issue, which makes sense. It is about the humanity of politics. Even in this difficult dossier, I believe we can come out of it together, as we have shown every time it seemed that it would not work."



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