PM De Croo’s Glasgow speech: “a waste of money”?

Last week’s speech by Belgian federal PM Alexander De Croo at the climate change conference is continuing to spark controversy.  A popular post on social media shows the Belgian leader addressing an empty hall at the COP26 in Glasgow.  “What a waste of taxpayer’s money” says one commentator.  “A sad performance” is somebody else’s verdict.  Is nobody really interested in what Belgium thinks?

The photo is real.  The PM did deliver his speech to a practically empty hall last Tuesday. The person who posted the photo raises the question why the media claim Mr De Croo was “addressing world leaders”, when the hall was virtually empty.  He has a point, but Belgian diplomatic circles deny that the PM’s effort was money wasted.  It means government officials, politicians and committee members were busy, but elsewhere, they say.

After speeches by government leaders negotiators take over the technical discussions. 

“Behind the scenes of a climate conference you enter a universe of formal and informal negations” says Belgian chief negotiator Peter Wittoeck. “Concluding that nothing is happening on the basis of a photo of an empty hall is not correct.  There are two large halls for plenary sessions and speeches and dozens of smaller halls for committees and meetings.  It’s heaving with activity in the corridors.”

“Countries don’t negotiate separately with each other in order to reach a consensus.  There is a European negotiating team with representatives of all EU nations.  It carries out talks with other participating countries.  Belgium has four representatives”.

“Next week, if there is a consensus text on a climate plan the plenary hall will once again be full!”  

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Belgium's chief negotiator Peter Wittoeck

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