July 17 (OPride) --The Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is not “officially” aware of the Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s stay in Belgium, spokesman Joren Vandeweyer told OPride correspondent in Brussels.
"We’ve read and heard those rumors as well but officially, we are not aware of any stay for medical reasons or not," said Vandeweyer. “We have no information from the embassy or the Ethiopian government.”
The spokesman added,” if the Prime Minister is currently staying in Belgium and receiving medical treatment as a private person or patient, then the law of confidentiality is applied -- it is up to PM Meles Zenawi, his family, and the Ethiopian embassy or government to comment or not.”
It appears that Belgium does not know, at least officially, whether Mr. Zenawi is in the country or not. Likewise, the Saint-Luc University Hospital, where Zenawi is said to be receiving treatment, is not disclosing any information constrained by the country's strict law of confidentiality.
OPride Correspondent: what if, hypothetically, MZ dies on Belgian soil - while staying here as a private person, receiving medical treatment: would the Ethiopian government have to inform the Belgian government or not - could the corpse be transported to Ethiopia without informing the Belgian government?
Mr. Vandeweyer: I never heard of any case like that in the past and would have to look into that matter more deeply before answering.
OPride: how can a foreign PM enter Belgium without Belgian Foreign Affairs’ knowledge?
Mr. Vandeweyer: in general, there are two possibilities:
a) There’s an official treaty between Belgium and country X - government officials have a diplomatic passport and are free from any visa duty
b) there is no treaty between Belgium and country X - a government official would need a visa: he can have a long term visa (five years), a normal visa or a visa on medical grounds.
OPride: Zenawi could also be traveling on Schengen visa, which allows the visa holder to travel to 25 member countries using a single visa, and the record would be kept only at the port of entry. One could then transit into Belgium without being identified. But, which of these applied to Meles?
Mr. Vandeweyer: I cannot and will not give any information on any particular case - not for government officials, nor for any private person.
It is not clear why the Saint-Luc Hospital staff would invoke the law of confidentiality in an informal phone contact with the Foreign Affairs spokesman unless Meles Zenawi and his family has requested absolute confidentiality from hospital.
Earlier: Meles Zenawi is receiving cancer treatment in Belgium
OPride sources within Saint-Luc University Hospital in Belgium confirm that Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is indeed receiving treatment there.
“He suffers from acute case of blood cancer,” one source said. Zenawi is believed to be in critical condition, a condition, according to our informant, not likely to improve anytime soon as suggested by his deputy earlier today (see the Bloomberg report below).
“Doctors are attempting to prolong the Prime Minister’s life,” our source added. The Privacy Act in Belgium, which protects patients’ confidentiality, restricts Saint-Luc University Hospital from releasing information on any patients.
Meanwhile, the Ethiopian Embassy in Brussels offered mixed responses. Initially, embassy officials said, "no comment" on the ailing premier’s health but later suggested that the PM was "not on Belgian soil." Later in the afternoon, the Embassy said all questions regarding the prime minister's health should be directed, in writing, to Ambassador Kassu Ilala.