Yes, Van der Straeten is at the center of a historic energy crisis. Yes, the pressure from the right is very great. From the opposition and from the own majority. With Georges-Louis Bouchez (MR) as pebble in her shoe. But unfortunately Van der Straeten regularly makes things difficult for himself. She is too often caught in clumsy statements.
In short, that is what you hear today within Groen about Van der Straeten. Although no one wants to tell this on the record for the time being. The support for her substantive work is too great for that, say sources with whom The morning spoke. Perhaps also plays a role: the realization that a party dangling in polls below the symbolic 10 percent limit has no need for newspaper articles about internal concerns.
But it is true: within Groen people are concerned about the clumsy communication of Van der Straeten. “It has to be better. Everyone sees that,” said a source. Reference is made, among other things, to a ruling last Friday. At the start of a cabinet meeting on new emergency measures to protect families against high bills, Van der Straeten challenged the journalists present – with a smile – to call her a technical energy file “that has not been resolved”.
No body language for such a moment, party members thought. And not what you’re supposed to say when you’re already under the magnifying glass. Her statement immediately made the rounds on Twitter.
A week earlier, Van der Straeten had already choked on the announcement that Europe had a deal on the introduction of a price ceiling on imported gas. Not entirely wrong: there was agreement among EU energy ministers. But not quite right: the road to a price ceiling remains long. The opposition saw that ambiguity and jumped on it.
According to green sources, Van der Straeten’s communication has already been discussed – veiled – at the weekly party boards. Elsewhere this is denied. The party leaders seem to see the danger. “We are in talks with Tinne.”
The simple truth is that Groen’s result in the elections in 2024 will largely depend on the image that the federal government participation leaves in the Flemish voter. And the verdict on Van der Straeten will weigh in here. Also because the powers of Deputy Prime Minister Petra De Sutter are particularly light.
Van der Straeten’s cabinet acknowledges that communication is not going well. The minister does not succeed enough in countering the attacks of the right-wing parties N-VA, MR and Vlaams Belang, it says. She sometimes unnecessarily works herself into nests.
At the same time, it is emphasized that Van der Straeten certainly does not shy away from the media. Even though she knows that the opposition is ready to “get her”, it sounds. According to a green source, the outside world is underestimating the pressure Van der Straeten has been under for months to withstand this historic crisis, with a small cabinet and a sparsely staffed government department of Energy. Van der Straeten would also receive threats.
That the media is too quick to go along with the image of ‘the minister falling over her tongue’ is another criticism that crops up in her environment. Conversely, which also deserves attention: the relationship between Van der Straeten’s spokesperson and part of the Flemish media is troubled.
Groen co-chairman Jeremie Vaneeckhout says that Van der Straeten has “his full support”. The two are in daily contact. “There is no better minister to manage the worst energy crisis since WWII.”
Van der Straeten responds by text message. “I am driven by content and results. I refuse to participate in spectacle politics, especially on social media. The bashing, often without foundation, does indeed make it difficult at times. That gets under your skin.” And also: “Undoubtedly, sometimes things could be better, but politics and communication are also people’s work. Politics is teamwork. I feel great support from my party and colleagues.”