Jasper Jacobs

Minister lied: state intelligence didn't tell her climate teens are being manipulated

The Flemish environment minister Joke Schauvliege (Christian democrat) has admitted she hasn't been in contact with Belgian intelligence services in connection with the climate teen protests and has no information the young protesters are being manipulated.

Earlier, during a new year's speech to the farmers' union ABS, Ms Schauvliege had asked: "Who knows who is behind the climate protests?  State intelligence has confirmed this!"

Speaking on VRT radio Ms Schauvliege concedes she was never in direct contact with state intelligence and that she got ahead of herself: "I didn't willingly tell an untruth.  I have made a mistake."

"I'm not trying to talk myself out of it, but heaps of trash were tipped over me on social media last week and I didn't get much sleep."

"I'm shocked by the way I made remarks and I would like to apologise."

Ms Schauvliege points to threats to protest made by environmental organisations when she took office 3.5 years ago.  She also referred to farmers’ protests in 2003 targeting her predecessor Vera Dua, who was labelled a "green whore' and that may have led to the electoral defeat of the greens in the subsequent election.

In her speech to ABS, given when she was allegedly suffering from a lack of sleep, Ms Schauvliege noted that many protesters didn't realise they were part of a system: "I know who is behind the movement, both the Sunday protests and the teen protests.  I was told by state intelligence."

Strikingly, concentrating on demos isn't really a job for Belgian state intelligence.  The climate teens, who are urging politicians to take action against climate change and are playing truant every Thursday, deny that they are being directed by anybody. 

Meanwhile the greens have called for Ms Schauvliege's resignation.  Björn Rzoska, green group leader in the Flemish Parliament: "The minister has lied about the state intelligence service and is criminalising committed citizens".

The greens will be tabling a no confidence motion against the minister on Wednesday.

Flemish PM Geert Bourgeois (nationalist) has already indicated that he felt Ms Schauvliege's words were "unfortunate".