After 10 years as prime ministertaking on the challenge of succeeding an overwhelming giant like Jean-Claude Juncker at the head of the Government of Luxembourg, Xavier Bettel He has been forced to step aside after losing the elections. The arrival of Luc Frieden It also means saying goodbye to the chair European Council, where he was already one of the oldest members. “Today is my last summit. It has been an honor to represent my country in the EU and I want to thank all those with whom I had the privilege and pleasure of working. I will miss you all. XB,” he tweeted with a selfie surrounded by a dozen smiling leaders.
Bettell lawyer, former councilor, former aldermanformer deputy, first gay to head the Executive of the Grand Duchy it is without a doubt the most Belgian of all non-Belgians of world politics. By marriage, since his partner is a Walloon architect. Because of that strange mix of liberal, universalist and local values. For its contradictions, improvisations and daily twists. For its flexibility and pragmatism. Because of the mixture of gravity and frivolity. For giving lessons by pretending that the income of the Duchy is not what it is. Because of that unique ability of Benelux to generate politicians who understand that nothing, absolutely nothing, is impossible. That everything can be solved with open-mindedness, patience and patches. That everything can be achieved by spending enough hours discussing, with creativity and without ideological or economic fundamentalism.
Bettell is a practicing Catholic perfectly comfortable with ancient institutions, but who was adamant about the separation of Church and State. A liberal in almost everything, but conservative when it came to family, someone to whom marriage seemed as important for its rights as for its beliefs. Being Belgian, or Luxembourgish, means swimming like a fish in water where most would drown in despair. It means seeing a way when the rest only finds closed doors. It inevitably means being part of coalitions. Where, as a friend says, the Trotskyists would be the equivalent of Macron’s voters in France, the BNG, Ciudadanos and Sumar, or PP, PSOE and ERC can be on the same team without anyone finding it a blasphemy, a craziness.
Being Belgian, in Belgium, Luxembourg or anywhere else, means in politics and public relations breaking all the corsets. It means having an ambition, an ego or an infinite naivety that leads you to try to play in divisions that are above your weight, regardless of the size of your GDP or population. It means getting into each and every one of the messes, not giving in to the evidence. Find a way (be nice) to make room for yourself. Bettell comes from a tiny country that has produced Commission presidents, plural. That has had and has pawns in charge of other community institutions. Who moves and behaves as if he were French or German.
The outgoing minister, who will remain as minister without problems with fallen rings, understood that the best, the only way for his voice to be heard was to always participate, something that Spaniards should learn. In front of the cameras in three languages, getting wet, with jokes (like answering calls to journalists’ phones during a press conference), with catchy phrases that will be collected. Belgians, like Basques, are born wherever they want. But they move better.