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‘Spider in the web’ of Belgian diplomacy set to be new EU ambassador

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Peter Moors, the chief of staff of Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, is set to become the new Belgian ambassador to the EU after the country’s six month presidency of the Council of the EU period ends in June 2024, according to eight Belgian diplomats and officials. 

His expected appointment, which still has to be formally approved, is part of a big reshuffle of Belgian top diplomats, including key ambassadorial posts such as to Washington D.C. Many key posts — including Washington, Moscow, New York and Geneva — are open. One diplomat joked that this year’s revamp was “the grand slam” of top jobs.

More importantly, it’s the last reshuffle before the Belgian elections of June 2024. Current polls suggest it will be challenging for the current seven-party coalition to continue, meaning that several diplomats working at the top of government could be looking to secure a good posting before the political instability. 

While the actual moves won’t happen until next summer, the decisions are set to be made at the end of this month or early next month, according to five of the diplomats. All of the diplomats and officials quoted in this piece were granted anonymity because of the sensitive nature of discussions.

A veteran of Belgium’s foreign affairs, Moors has combined diplomatic postings with political experience throughout his career, for example as diplomatic adviser to former Belgian prime minister and current MEP Guy Verhofstadt. He has also held director positions at the Belgian foreign affairs ministry and is known by diplomats as “the spider in the web” of foreign affairs decisions in Belgium.

The current Belgian ambassador to the EU, Willem van de Voorde, is set to return to the foreign affairs ministry in Brussels after three postings abroad.  

Bert Versmessen, the current Belgian ambassador to Rwanda, is in prime position to become the future deputy ambassador to the EU. But this has raised questions among Belgian diplomats as Versmessen and Moors are both Dutch speakers and the two jobs are normally split between Dutch- and French-speaking diplomats.

Christophe de Nijs, the European adviser of Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib, is in line to get the third European top job, the ambassador to the Political and Security Committee (PSC).

That poses another challenge as it would lead to (another) all-male top team at the Belgian representation to the EU. Other names circulating for the PSC job include Annelies Verstichel, the diplomatic adviser of the Belgian deputy Prime Minister and former MEP Petra De Sutter. 

Some Belgian diplomats, such as Frédéric Bernard, the chief of staff of European Council President Charles Michel, also have their eye on both Belgian and European diplomatic posts, two of the diplomats said. Bernard is aiming to become the next EU ambassador to Canada, three EU officials said. 

Jacopo Barigazzi contributed reporting.

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