This article is part of the special report of the Belgian EU Presidency..
BRUSSELS — Government leaders are rarely the biggest technology enthusiasts. However, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo is an exception.
The 48-year-old is one of the European Union’s youngest leaders and has led the political tightrope of assembling a broad seven-party coalition government for more than three years, after nearly two years without a government in Belgium. .
But before he started leading the country in October 2020, Decroo was a tech geek. He joined the start-up in his early 2000s and then served as Belgium’s Minister of Telecommunications and Digital, where he served for six years. As prime minister, he still oversees the country’s cybersecurity center.
Being digitally savvy will be a boon for tech experts as Belgium prepares to take over the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union on January 1. Belgium will be in Europe’s spotlight as the EU seeks to regulate artificial intelligence and difficult files on online child sexual abuse.
Two members of the Cabinet, Telecommunications Minister Petra de Sutter and State Secretary for Digitalization Mathieu Michel, will run the EU government-to-government telecommunications conference. And Mr De Croo will ensure that his voice is heard. He is recognized as one of the speakers at Masters of Digital, a high-profile event organized by Brussels’ technology lobby, Digital Europe.
The prime minister will remain in charge of the cybersecurity file, and the EU is drafting legislation to help governments respond to large-scale cyberattacks.
Born into politics as the son of former minister and long-time politician Herman de Croo, Alexander de Croo was a free-enterprise liberal like his father and was fluent in both of Belgium’s major languages. He is a rare politician who speaks. He has a French-speaking mother and a Dutch-speaking father).
That has helped him bridge political divides and maintain peace in this troubled country through the pandemic and the cost-of-living and energy crises that followed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
De Croo has also managed to create an image for himself on the world stage. Already in 2015, Decroux was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum and is known for his positive impression at Davos.
For those who want to truly understand the Belgian Prime Minister’s position on technology, the journey begins in 2006, when De Croo, an MBA from Northwestern University in the US, left Boston Consulting Group to join the startup Darts. After trying my luck. -ip, a searchable database of intellectual property cases.
“I gave myself six months to succeed. In theory I could have gone back to my old job, but I didn’t want to crawl back. I forced myself to do it,” he said at the time. He spoke at a startup event. .
Mr. De Croo did not respond to requests to contribute to this article.
But even after Decroo entered politics in 2009 and became the country’s telecommunications minister and “digital agenda” minister in 2014, his love for startups persisted.
Belgian technology leaders praised De Croo’s role in establishing BeCentral, a digital campus open to entrepreneurs and those wishing to study coding and other technologies in a building at Brussels Central Station. ing.
De Croo was part of a group of 28 co-founders who raised BeCentral’s initial funding. And he’s not just a “sign up” guy.[s] Sébastien Deretaille, a serial technology entrepreneur and co-founder of BeCentral, said that like other ministers, he “didn’t produce any paperwork. He was really into it.”
This has created a strong bond between De Croo and the Belgian technology community. “He is just a phone call away from any technology entrepreneur,” Deretaille said.
Mr. Descroux also criticized the Brussels regional government for its slow rollout of 5G mobile phone services, demonstrating a pro-innovation stance.
Mr. de Croo was friendly with Belgium’s technology industry, but was on the verge of conflict with the country’s telecom operators, including Proximus, which remains majority-owned by the Belgian state.
In 2018, he facilitated the entry of a fourth mobile phone network operator into the Belgian market. This led to a heated exchange with his then-CEO of Proximus, Dominic Leroy.
When Leroy left Proximus in 2019, he said: “She defended her company, but as communications minister I have clearly chosen the side of our customers.”
He will have many opportunities to prove his ability to compete with tech companies and carriers as the EU looks to invest in digital networks and boost innovation. He will sit at the top table at the EU summit focused on the EU’s single market next March. He expects technology to be on the menu.
Laurens Cerulus contributed reporting.