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Karel De Gucht

Assumed office 
9 February 2010
Preceded by Benita Ferrero-Waldner (Trade and Neighbourhood Policy)

In office
17 July 2009 – 9 February 2010
Preceded by Louis Michel
Succeeded by Andris Piebalgs (Development)
Kristalina Georgieva (International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response)

In office
18 July 2004 – 17 July 2009
Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt
Yves Leterme
Herman Van Rompuy
Preceded by Louis Michel
Succeeded by Yves Leterme

Born 27 January 1954 (1954-01-27) (age 56)
Overmere, Belgium
Political party Flemish Liberals and Democrats
Spouse(s) Mireille Schreurs
Children Frédéric
Alma mater Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Profession Lawyer
Website Official website

Karel Lodewijk Georgette Emmerence De Gucht (born 27 January 1954 in Overmere) is the current European Commissioner for Trade from Belgium. Previously, he had been the Development & Humanitarian Aid Commissioner,Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs, and a former chairman of the Flemish Liberals and Democrats (VLD), a Belgian political party. In January 2004 he was forced to step down as chairman and was temporarily replaced until after the elections of 4 June by Dirk Sterckx. The reason for his resignation was a conflict between Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt and him about a proposal to give non-citizen immigrants the right to vote in municipal elections, which De Gucht opposed. The conflict severely damaged the party's reputation, as reflected in the 2004 Belgian regional elections results.

De Gucht was elected to the Federal Parliament during the general elections on 18 May 2003. He was a member of the Flemish Parliament 1999-2003 and a member of the European Parliament 1995-1999.

Although elected to the Flemish Parliament and European Parliament in the elections of June 2004 he decided to take up neither seat and instead he was appointed the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs on 18 July 2004.

On a trip to Africa in late 2004, De Gucht sparked a diplomatic row when he said that "there is a problem with the political class in Congo" and questioned their ability to tackle corruption.[1]

In June 2005, De Gucht caused a minor diplomatic spat with the Netherlands, when he referred to the Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende as "a mix between Harry Potter and a rigid bourgeois without charisma" in an interview with the popular Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws.

In December 2006, De Gucht condemned the International Conference to Review the Global Vision of the Holocaust, organised in Iran.

For 2006, De Gucht was the Chairman-in-Office of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

In a 2007 interview with Flanders Info, he said the following about the Lisbon Treaty: "The aim of the Constitutional Treaty was to be more readable; the aim of this treaty is to be unreadable [...] The Constitution aimed to be clear, whereas this treaty had to be unclear. It is a success." (1)

In November 2008, while De Gucht was a minister in the federal government, he was accused of insider trading in the case of the near-bankruptcy and subsequent nationalization and sale of Fortis Bank. [1] On October 3, 2008, his wife, Mireille Schreurs, and brother-in-law sold their shares in Fortis Bank, after a governmental crisis meeting to deal with the precarious financial situation of the bank, and hours before the public announcement that the Dutch arm of the bank would be nationalized and the partly-nationalized Belgian and Luxembourg branches sold to BNP Parisbas. [2] An annonymous complaint was received by the Belgian Banking Finance and Insurance Commission alleging De Gucht's wife sold €500,000 worth of Fortis shares. [3] De Gucht acknowledges his wife and brother-in-law sold their mother's shares in Fortis Bank on the date in question for a smaller amount than alleged, but denies that any insider trading was involved. He also points out that he personally lost €85,000 as a result of the nationalization and sale, and that his son, Jean-Jacques De Gucht, and mother kept their shares in the failing bank. [4] The Ghent public prosecutor ultimately decided not to pursue an investigation in the matter stating "there is nothing to indicate that Mr De Gucht encouraged his wife, brother-in-law or any third party to sell their Fortis shares quickly." [5]

In 2009, he denounced statements by Pope Benedict XVI on the futility of condoms in AIDS prevention.[2]

On 2009-05-29 he candidly classified his former party colleague Jean-Marie Dedecker as a libertarian opportunist in a TV interview on Flemish public television (De Keien van de Wetstraat).[3]

European Parliamentary Hearing

De Gucht's statements to the European Parliament ahead of becoming Trade Commissioner were met with dismay by Trade Justice campaigners who claimed 'responses at his three hour hearing revealed his corporate sympathies and gave little indication that the change of personnel at the European Trade Commission will lead to any change in the direction of European trade policy.'[4]

External links


Political offices
Preceded by
Louis Michel
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Succeeded by
Yves Leterme
Belgian European Commissioner
European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid
Succeeded by
Andris Piebalgs
as European Commissioner for Development
Succeeded by
Kristalina Georgieva
as European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response
Preceded by
Benita Ferrero-Waldner
as European Commissioner for Trade and European Neighbourhood Policy
European Commissioner for Trade

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