Former member of parliament, former deputy speaker of parliament and former councilor in Ganshoren and poverty expert Jan Beghin, 72, died Tuesday morning after a short but serious illness. Beghin once founded the pet zoo Het Neerhof, was the CEO of Beursschouwburg and helped save the cultural heritage café ‘t Goudblommeke in Papier. Because of his social enthusiasm, he published two books on poverty and was an important figure in Brussels politics.
Surprise everywhere on Tuesday over the news of Beghin’s sudden death (72), a fixed value in Flemish-Brussels politics for decades, after a short illness.
“Jan was a nice, warm, well-read man with a great cultural interest,” says Bianca Debaets, who started in politics as a Member of Parliament in Beghin before switching to Jos Chabert. “Jan was an introvert, perhaps not the prototype of a self-proclaimed politician. He was also genuinely interested in people, including his employees.”
Beghin was born into a large family with nine children in Messines, the smallest town in Belgium as a facility municipality, deep in Westhoek. His father was originally French-speaking, from nearby Ploegsteert, his mother Dutch-speaking. In 1960 – a sister had died in the meantime – the family moved to Ganshoren.
Beghin completed his youth education at Heilig-Hartcollege in Ganshoren, after which he obtained a master’s degree in mathematics and economics from KU Leuven. Meanwhile, he also made drama at the conservatory for a number of years.
According to his wife Ann Morre, Beghin was “a violent ACW” who, after his studies, went to work in the then joint research department of the CVP and PSC. In 1971 he was elected councilor of Ganshoren, where he served as councilor for more than twenty years, from 1977 to 2000. He left the city council in 2004.
In the 1970s, he was the business manager of Beursschouwburg, according to Morre his happiest period at work. It was at this time that people like Jari Demeulemeester, Hugo De Greef and Hugo Vandendriessche founded Mallemunt, and Oda Van Neygen experimented with youth theater in Beursschouwburg, a project that later developed into the Bronx.
“My husband sometimes said that he might want to continue working in the cultural sector,” Morre says on the phone. “But after that, he worked more in politics and later also on social projects.”
Beghin was also politically active at the regional level from the beginning. At the age of 23, he became a member of the Dutch Cultural Commission (NCC) of the Brussels Agglomeration, the forerunner of the Flemish Society Commission (VGC). He was a member of it for a total of 17 years, of which the last years as vice chairman and chairman. In his early years at NCC, he set up the Neerhof orphanage in Dilbeek as policy manager for youth, sports and playgrounds. He was also one of the founders of several town halls.
In 1989, when it was founded, Beghin also became a member of the Brussels Parliament and a councilor in the VGC. “I learned a lot from Jan; he and Jos Chabert have influenced me greatly,” says Bianca Debaets. “They were real people from Brussels, also in the sense of being bridge builders. Politicians who could easily handle both Jan with a cap and ambassadors.”
“Bridge builders also between French and Dutch speakers, who were looking for compromises and consensus. This is contrary to today’s politics, where the smart one-liners devised by marketing agencies are immediately picked up in the media and on social media. He was a file-eater , which was valued. across party lines. “
In 2004, he accepted Pascal Smet’s invitation to be on the SP.A list as a freelancer. Beghin would not have been able to live with the cartel that CD&V had entered into with the N-VA, for him an “anti-Brussels party that wants to end solidarity between Flanders and Brussels”, as he described it to. The standards†
“It would have been a denial of his father tongue to him, analogous to his mother tongue,” says his wife Ann Morre. He retired from politics in 2009.
The shift to the Socialists left deep wounds. Contacted CD&V former colleagues from Beghin state that they have had little or no contact with him since then. In the generation and then party colleague Brigitte Grouwels (CD&V), Beghin was primarily a local politician. “I myself was in favor of the Region taking over the powers of the municipalities, so that led to some discussions.”
“One of the things he has excelled at is a strong intervention in the Flemish parliament – back then he still had a double mandate, now they have been split up – to adjust the size of the City Fund for Brussels. He saw poverty in “Brussels and said that the amount asked was too little money and that amendment was later adopted. As a result, more Flemish money has flowed to Brussels. He has also written two books on poverty.”
Elke Roex, who was MP at the same time as Beghin for a while, will also remember him “because of his fight against poverty, which he was constantly working on”.
Beghin is also involved in the rescue of the cultural heritage café Goudblommeke in Papier, which went bankrupt in 2006. A group of Zennezotten then bought the café from the curator. The café was transformed into a cooperative, and Beghin was one of the shareholders from the very beginning. “He was president of the cooperative for a while,” says Paul Merckx, who succeeded him four years ago.
Beghin also indirectly contributed to the founding of BRUZZ. He co-founded with Roularta This month in Brussels op, a monthly magazine for Dutch-speaking residents of Brussels, a forerunner of the magazine BRUZZ.
In his other side jobs, his strong social enthusiasm and cultural interest again stood out. He was still a member of the board of Atelier Groot Eiland, Brussels Operette Theater, and was chairman of the inter-parliamentary working group of Kurds within the Kurdish Institute for more than 20 years.