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Belgium’s Reynders eyes top job at Council of Europe

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EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders is hoping to become the next secretary-general of the Council of Europe, the international human rights organization, which would mark a hiatus in his career in EU politics.

The news, which was first reported by Belgian media outlets Le Soir and De Tijd, was confirmed to POLITICO by a Belgian official and a member of the Belgian liberals of the Reformist Movement (MR), Reynders’ party.

The Council of Europe is an international organization which has its headquarters in France and is not a part of the institutions of the European Union, which include the European Council and the Council of the EU.

The 65-year-old Reynders, who is currently the Belgian commissioner in the European executive, had earlier expressed interest in staying on in the next European Commission. But over the weekend, European Council President Charles Michel said he would be running for the European parliamentary election in June for their party. This risks impeding any chance for Reynders to stay on.

Reynders now hopes the Belgian government, a coalition of seven parties including MR, will this week officially nominate him as a candidate for the Council of Europe position. Chances are high that this will happen, the Belgian official said.

In Belgian politics, Michel and Reynders have been known for a long-running feud for control of their party, which culminated in 2010 when Reynders was ousted from the MR leadership.

“It won’t be impossible that Charles Michel will push for Reynders to stand a chance [at the Council of Europe] so he’s out of his way for the next five years,” said the member of the MR, who was granted anonymity to discuss a sensitive issue.

The current secretary-general of the Council of Europe is Marija Pejčinović Burić, who started her five year mandate in 2019. Reynders was an official candidate for the job in 2019, but lost the race to the former Croatian politician.

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