Belgian government in crisis over fate of FM in Iran visa dispute
The Belgian government could face political turmoil if Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib resigns following the Iran visa dispute.
Belgian parliamentarians questioned Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib, some of her coalition partners on Monday are expecting an explanation for how she handled an Iranian delegation that was invited for a summit earlier this month in Brussels.
However, if no apology is made, this might have far-reaching ramifications beyond her possible departure.
“Hadja Lahbib’s survival is a question of the government’s survival,” said a Belgian official, who was granted anonymity to discuss the sensitive issue.
Lahbib is under fire over the granting of visas to 14 Iranian officials, including Tehran Mayor Alireza Zakani, to attend the Brussels Urban Summit last week. The saga has already led to the resignation of Brussels Secretary of State Pascal Smet.
Her previous appearance in the Belgian parliament did not persuade members of the opposition and some of her government partners, despite Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo's assurance last week that "the incident was closed."
A political party clash
After the incident, Lahbib's party president, Georges-Louis Bouchez, insisted that Lahbib did nothing illegal. Despite her lack of political experience, Bouchez had hand-picked the former reporter to become the country's foreign minister roughly a year ago.
If the other coalition partners force Lahbib to leave, Bouchez is planning to withdraw his party from the seven-party coalition, depriving the Belgian government of a parliamentary majority.
Furthermore, Lahbib's departure would be a chance to criticize Bouchez and emphasize that he made the incorrect decision, according to Vincent Laborderie, a political science instructor at UCLouvain. Bouchez, according to Laborderie, is true to himself by "being quite offensive rather than calming things down."
A possible resignation or fall of the administration would have ramifications for the EU as well. Lahbib, who serves as foreign minister, EU minister, and trade minister, is critical to Belgium's chairmanship of the EU Council in the first half of 2024.