Former journalist Hadja Lahbib is the new Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs, replacing Sophie Wilmès, the French-speaking liberal party Mouvement réformiste (MR) announced on Friday.
Lahbib’s appointment by MR president Georges-Louis Bouchez came as a surprise given that she has virtually no political experience. She worked for 20 years as a news presenter for the French-language public channel RTBF. Over the past year, she has worked on Brussels’ bid to become the European Capital of Culture in 2030.
“As of today, I have the honor of being the face of Belgium abroad,” said Lahbib. “Not only is there war on the doorstep of the European Union, but the war also has repercussions all over the world.”
Although she admitted to being surprised to be asked, Lahbib said: “I have no political experience, but I know the area. I was in the field [as a journalist]. Maybe it’s time to change something in politics. Lahbib is Belgium’s first foreign minister of North African origin. She was born in Hainaut in an Algerian family.
Lahbib was sworn in at the royal palace on Friday morning.
After taking a temporary hiatus in April, Wilmès announced Thursday that she was officially stepping down to care for her husband, who is battling brain cancer. In a press release, the former minister indicated that “her current functions in the government” would not allow her to fight by her side “her husband’s illness”.
Bouchez said that Wilmès will remain a deputy during the next parliamentary session and that she will be first the list of the MR party in the legislative elections of 2024.
Lahbib does not assume the role of deputy prime minister from Wilmès, which falls to David Clarinval, the current minister in charge of SMEs and agriculture.