The environment minister in Flanders was forced to resign this week after she falsely claimed that unnamed outside influences were directing the tens of thousands of Belgian students who’ve joined Greta Thunberg’s school strike movement.
Joke Schauvliege “provoked a wave of criticism of the wider political class after suggesting the protests were a ‘set-up’ and ‘more than spontaneous actions of solidarity’,” The Guardian reports.
“I know who is behind this movement, both of the Sunday demonstrations and the truants,” she told an audience of farmers. “I have also been told that from state security. I can guarantee that I do not see ghosts alone and that climate demonstrations are more than spontaneous actions of solidarity with our climate.”
“We have not reported anything about this to Schauvliege,” Belgian state security replied, in what The Guardian calls a rare denial. “Neither verbally nor in writing.”
Schauvliege, a member of the Flemish Christian Democrat party, initially tried to salvage her cabinet post by claiming her comments had gone “too far”, but that she hadn’t lied. But during a tearful media briefing Tuesday afternoon, she “announced that she could not continue in her post given the growing controversy,” The Guardian recounts.
“It is difficult to continue to function as climate minister in these circumstances,” she told media.
Belgian strike leader Anuna De Wever, 18, called Schauvliege’s wild claims “manifestly not true” and an “insult to the youth”.
“It is very strange that a minister can lie about such a thing,” she said. “That’s just not the case. Can we stop doubting the movement?” In a statement prior to Schauvliege’s resignation, De Wever’s organization, Youth for Climate, called the allegation “an insult to the authentic engagement of so many young people.”
Last month, the Guardian notes, the chair of the nationalist New Flemish Alliance tried to instruct the students “not to believe in the apocalypse”, but to go back to their books and have “confidence in the future and in the power of innovation”.