The N-VA on the operation against the Houthi rebels: “Shameful horse-trading without a geopolitical compass”

19 January 2024

The Belgian government has decided to participate in the European operation in the Red Sea against the Houthi rebels. The frigate Louise-Marie will be deployed to protect shipping. The N-VA parliamentary group has reservations: “This is shameful horse-trading by a government without a geopolitical compass.”

“The federal government’s foreign policy has turned into horse-trading. Even basic issues, such as keeping the shipping routes open, are bound to conditions. For it seems that every governing party must please its own supporters before the elections above all else,” responds N-VA group chairman Peter De Roover. “The ink on the agreement is not yet dry, and the De Croo government parties are already disagreeing about its interpretation. The operation is linked to the situation in Gaza. That drastically reduces the chance of a European consensus. Nevertheless, that seems to me to be the first task of the EU Council President, namely Prime Minister De Croo,” says De Roover.

What scope?

Peter is thus referring to MR party leader George-Louis Bouchez, who immediately criticised PS party Minister Dedonder for misinterpreting the agreement. The N-VA also questions the appropriate scope of the agreement, from the mission to the Red Sea on the one hand to the “stricter” Belgian position towards Israel on the other.

Painful lack of geopolitical insight

“Belgium is the eighth largest maritime nation in the world, the Netherlands is the sixth. The Netherlands is taking part in the American mission that dares to truly respond to the Houthi terrorists. Belgium is turning its contribution to an overly cautious European backing mission into shameful horse-trading. Petit pays, petit ésprit” (small country, small minds), adds Francken. “The socialists say they want to protect people’s purchasing power, but when purchasing power is truly at stake because maritime traffic is disrupted due to terrorism, then they don’t do anything. What a painful lack of geopolitical insight.”

Is the Louise-Marie sufficiently equipped?

“Exactly what more will the De Croo government do to protect the ships,” wonders N-VA MP and Defence Committee Chairman Peter Buysrogge. “Is the Louise-Marie indeed sufficiently equipped for this mission? The years of underinvestment in Defence may well be felt then.” Remarkably, it was only last week that the majority parties rejected a resolution by Buysrogge to provide a third frigate with sufficient armament.


“The fact that this decision had to be discussed at length has already damaged Belgium’s international image. But the MR and PS parties’ continued bickering about the interpretation even after the agreement as well is shameful and will inevitably affect our position in the mission,” the MPs conclude. They seek clarification from the Defence and Foreign Affairs committees as soon as possible.

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