Karel De Gucht

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De Gucht in Brasília (November 21, 2006).
Picture: Antonio Cruz/ABr

Karel De Gucht (Overmere, 27 january 1954) is the 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 June 4 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 since july 18, Karel De Gucht is the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs.

On a trip to Africa in late 2004, De Gucht made several negative remarks about the capabilities of Congolese leaders. This worsened diplomatic relations between both countries, but only for a short time. His remarks were mostly supported by the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium and denounced by the French-speaking part.

In June 2005, De Gucht was part of a minor diplomatic riot between Belgium and the Netherlands, because 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.

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

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Karel De Gucht

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