GMF hosts Belgian Defense Minister Pieter De Crem
On December 14, GMF hosted a luncheon roundtable event featuring Belgian Defense Minister Pieter De Crem, with GMF Vice President Karen Donfried moderating. In light of the recent victory of Belgian Prime Minister Herman van Rompuy in the European Union presidential election, as well as the nation's substantial commitment to the ongoing war in Afghanistan, the defense minister provided valuable commentary on critical international issues. De Crem opened his remarks by giving a brief overview of Belgium's domestic political scene and the significance of the nation's role in European and global politics. In additional to Belgium's commitment in Afghanistan, the country maintains a strong presence in Lebanon, Kosovo, and the European Union's anti-piracy force, Operation ATALANTA. Historical ties also bind Belgian troops and resources to areas in the Congo, Burundi, and Uganda. De Crem emphasized the importance of Belgium taking on the responsibilities of an international player, rather than a tiny nation.
Since he took office in 2007, De Crem has stressed reform of the ministry's budget, support for President Obama's policies in the Middle East, and an interest in the seeing closer European integration under the newly-approved Lisbon Treaty. During the subsequent question and answer period, the discussion touched upon the impact of a Belgium EU president; Belgium's position on the recent NATO emphasis on cooperation with Russia; the viability of Turkey's acceptance to the EU; Belgium's ability to provide civil reconstruction in Afghanistan; and, most of all, the crucial issues still to be addressed in the war. Several attendees commented that Belgium's divided and loosely federal domestic politics make it a key example of a successful multicultural political system. However, De Crem pointed out that a country must be politically stable before any type of government can prove useful and effective.