Belgian Energy Minister Tinne Van der Straeten has an all out fight with her own coalition partner. EPA-EFE/OLIVIER HOSLET


Belgian Green minister set to sue coalition partner for alleged defamation


Belgian energy minister Tinne Van der Straeten, of the Green Party, says she will file a lawsuit for alleged defamation against Georges-Louis Bouchez, the President of the francophone Liberal Party (MR). Both parties are in the ruling coalition in the Belgian Government.

With a month to go before the European Parliament elections, relationships among members of the Belgian Government are souring. Van der Straeten claimed Bouchez was using “bully-politics” against her.

On May 6, the Liberal politician said he wanted an investigative committee to research the closure of Belgian nuclear power plants. “Things have been said that are absolutely untrue,” he told newspaper De Standaard. 

He alleged wrongdoing by the Greens and by Van der Straeten in particular, regarding communication from the grid operator and the ministry that he said seemed inconsistent.

On May 10, Van der Straeten told VRT NWS: “Bouchez makes statements without any basis, which drag my reputation through the mud.

“I won’t tolerate this sabotage politics any longer.”

She added that she had instructed her lawyer to take the necessary legal steps to file a complaint for slander and reputation damage.

Van der Straeten claimed Bouchez had caused the Government to fall apart with his criticisms and accusations. “Sorry, but I won’t accept such a way of operating. We now have reached the end of the legislature, and it’s only getting worse,” she said.

“This is where I draw the line.

“If Bouchez wants to legalise the political debate, I will file a complaint for baseless statements that are legally actionable.”

Belgium decided to end nuclear energy some two decades ago, initially under a government led by Guy Verhofstadt in 2003. The Greens were the main drivers behind this but most other parties were also in support, with only right-wing groups including N-VA and Vlaams Belang opposing it.

Bouchez, President of his party since 2019, also opposed it and forced MR to change course. When the party joined the current Government, it demanded that energy security would need to be taken into account if it were to back the nuclear phase-out.

When Russia invaded Ukraine and an energy crisis ensued, Belgium decided to keep two nuclear power plants open. But Bouchez has now alleged that the Greens lied in order to push through the nuclear phase out.

“I am convinced that the minister of energy has instrumentalised certain data and reports. Elia [the grid operator] has thus played a political role in this dossier,” Bouchez said.

In her initial response, Van der Straeten noted that the accusations had already been “each refuted” in the past and called them “grotesque” and “a low-blow campaign stunt – unfortunately Mr Bouchez’s trademark.”

Elia said it had always been transparent and noted that the previous energy minister was an MR member.

Bouchez countered: “In September 2021, Elia said there was no problem with closing the power plants and in March 2022, suddenly it’s no longer possible, solely because of that war? So, that means Elia initially didn’t consider at all the risk that gas imports could drastically fall.”

On X he posted: “France organised a large parliamentary commission to understand the mistakes and energy issues of the last 20 years, by hearing presidents of the Republic. Germany is experiencing a lot of edifying revelations on the conditions which led to the exit from nuclear power.

“In Belgium, when we ask for calm but complete parliamentary work on the subject, instead of working with an open book, minister Van der Straeten threatens with a complaint.

“This says a lot about … management and her way of doing things, but also about this habit of the Left to kill the debate in order to avoid assuming responsibilities. The same Left which constantly talks about the costs of the Justice system but which clutters it with ridiculous complaints on a purely political subject” he continued.

“Today, it is the Left that most threatens freedom of expression and open public debate”.