The House approved Friday around 2:30 am with 109 votes in favor, 29 against and 6 abstentions a motion which creates a special commission charged to examine the management of the pandemic of coronavirus. It may become a commission of inquiry “at any time” if it should encounter difficulties in the exercise of its missions.
The text is a compromise proposal from the PS co-signed by the MR, the Open Vld, the CD&V, the N-VA and Défi. This commission will be responsible for examining the measures taken at the federal level on the way in which Belgium prepared for facing a pandemic, the decisions taken since the beginning of the crisis, the management of equipment, the organization of hospital capacities, the availability of screening, the authorities’ communication chain and agreements with the pharmaceutical industry. It will have to carry out regular consultations with the special committees set up in regional parliaments.
The commission will have 17 members and will be assisted by four experts. Its report is expected within 12 months of its creation. Under the Dhondt key, the chair will return to the Open Vld. A fact which aroused the warning of environmentalists considering the important responsibilities exercised by the ministers Maggie De Block and Philippe De Backer in the management of the crisis.
The PTB, the sp.a, the Vlaams Belang, Ecolo-Groen and the cdH wanted to go directly to setting up a commission of inquiry, which seemed to them to be in accordance with tradition in Belgium after a crisis of this magnitude . The Greens and the sp.a, however, supported the establishment of the special committee, unlike the PTB and the VB who voted against. The cdH abstained.
“It is inexplicable!” Try to explain to our people that after such a crisis, we are not going to set up a commission of inquiry. We managed to set up a commission of inquiry into the Brussels tunnels, but not into the coronavirus epidemic, ”underlined the group leader, Raoul Hedebouw.
“It is unjustifiable and incomprehensible”, added Catherine Fonck (cdH).
According to the centrists, such a commission will reproduce the work already carried out in the Health Committee since the beginning of the crisis and which leaves many questions unanswered.
The signatories of the proposal assured that the work would be carried out with all the required rigor and that if necessary, the work would continue in a committee of inquiry.
“I have a little the impression that those who show have already condemned someone. We will do the job seriously. We have a responsibility to the people of this country, to the victims. We will assume it ”, explained Benoît Piedboeuf (MR).
Provisional appropriations until October
The House approved the bill on Friday containing interim supply for the months of July, August, September and October.
Two socialist amendments were accepted Thursday afternoon in the Finance Committee to allow nursing staff dependent on the federal government to benefit from a bonus of 300 euros and increase the resources allocated to the psychological care sector.
These amendments aroused the abstention of the parties of the government coalition and of the N-VA who did not so much contest the substance of the measures as the method chosen, outside of consultation within the “kern extended” to the 10 associated parties with special powers. Laws will still have to be passed to make these texts a reality, said Budget Minister David Clarinval.
Sending F-16 to the Near East
The House on Friday approved a motion for a resolution supporting the deployment of the F-16 as part of the international “Inherent Resolve” (OIR) operation to fight ISIS. Four Belgian fighter-bombers will operate from October and for one year from the air base of Al Azraq in Jordan, both in the Iraqi sky and in the northeast of Syria.
Three missions will be assigned to the F-16s: the protection of ground troops – which will be the most important -, reconnaissance and targeted attacks against Daesh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State).
Ninety-five soldiers will accompany the planes to Jordan and four others will officiate in Qatar, in the American command center.
This deployment is the third of its kind, after participation in 2014-2015 and in 2016-2017.
This time, he will not have a majority in the French speaking ranks. The MR, the cdH and Défi support it. It supports the fight against a terrorist group which has not yet given up its arms and is even threatening to recover from the hair of the beast, they said. The PTB, Ecolo and the PS (with the exception of the former Defense Minister André Flahaut who abstained) however voted against. Environmentalists and socialists have cited the absence of a clear international mandate for intervention in Syria and the way in which US President Donald Trump conducts his country’s foreign policy.
On the liberal side, the tone was with regret. “We were hoping for more support. I appeal to be able to find a certain, useful and effective consensus in the external relations of Belgium ”, launched the deputy Kattrin Jadin (MR).