The city is a laboratory, a breeding ground for the future. Brussels needs to foster creativity and experimentation, providing spaces to play, practise sports and learn new skills.
Our Brussels Region gives opportunities to children; it gives parents and children the possibility to take on their responsibilities. Our Brussels Region supports them to break away from poverty.
Brussels is to be enjoyed by tram, on foot, by bike, ... while meeting other people. This calls for public transport and spatial planning that strike a balance between meeting others and just passing by.
Well-designed public spaces contribute to a more livable city. Squares and parks should oxygenate Brussels.
In 2014, Pascal Smet once again chooses for Brussels, with all his heart. During the elections campaign he raises the seeds of a new city movement: 100 % Brussels. After the May 2014 elections, he keeps his word and returns to the Brussels Government. 'My heart beats to the rhythm of this city,' he says. 'The very reason of my coming to the Brussels political scene, is the city of Brussels itself.' As the Minister for Mobility and Public Works he can make his dream come true: to foster a sustainable urban development. This implies a new way of designing public space. A bigger emphasis on public transport, more space for cyclists and pedestrians. 'In 2004 I had to act like a bulldozer to make way for innovative ideas and to set things into motion. Today, the cranes can come, construction works can start. In 2003 some people nearly booed at my suggestions to turn the central boulevards into a car free zone. Look at where we stand today!'
'Le courage est d’aller à l’idéal et de comprendre le réel.' Pascal Smet quotes Jean Jaurès. After five years as the Minister for Education in Flanders, Pascal Smet wholeheartedly returns to Brussels. More experienced than ever, and equipped with additional know-how, he returns to Brussels to make it a better, more inviting city.
The June 2009 elections are a success for Pascal Smet and sp.a Brussels, yet they find themselves being excluded from the majority coalition in the Brussels Capital Region. As a result, sp.a Brussels joins the opposition and Pascal Smet moves over to the Flemish government to become the Minister for Education, Youth, Equal Opportunities and Brussels. With those powers, he holds the keys to the «ministry of the future».
'Without a plumber and an electrician, the lawyer will stand pleading in the dark, his feet wet. This touches the very heart of education. One person is better working with his hands, the other is quick-witted, a third one is gifted in languages while the fourth person has a natural ability for technical stuff. Our educational system should allow parents, and their children in particular, to make the right choices.'
In September 2003, Pascal Smet re-enters the political scene. The sp.a president at the time, Steve Stevaert, appoints Pascal as the new Brussels sp.a Secretary of State for Mobility. His arrival in Brussels politics does not remain unnoticed. Pascal feels Brussels should be more ambitious, less complex and a lot greener. Also, he favours more space for pedestrians, cyclists and public transport. Brussels proves to be a rich source of inspiration, tickling the creative nerve of this “neuve Brusseleir” (newcomer).
'Typically, Brussels politicians attribute failure to the fact that Brussels is a complicated city. But why would anyone engage into politics, if it wasn’t for the joy of changing things for the better? For people open to change, Brussels is the land of opportunities.'
Following the June 2004 elections, Pascal Smet becomes the Minister of Mobility and Public Works in the Brussels government. Those powers shall make the difference: he goes beyond dreams, proving his ideas to be feasible. Public works need long term planning and a broad vision. Within a Brussels area that becomes more car free, the space bicycle becomes more visible. And of course Pascal intends to develop attractive public transport services, moving fast on separate bus lanes and tram tracks, gradually made free of charge to certain target groups.
'I like to walk and pedal in my city. The city skyline is characterised by hoisting cranes. As long as I spot those cranes, there is room for improvement in Brussels. Brussels needs more dreams.'
In 2006, Pascal Smet is elected municipal councillor for the City of Brussels and he becomes the (detained) alderman for public works, participation and equal opportunities. This marks the onset of three years of close cooperation between the City of Brussels and the Brussels Capital Region, resulting in many successes such as a major pedestrian zone around the Grand Place, the Oude Graanmarkt being made car free, a remarkable plaza in front of the Bronks youth theatre and the renovation of several streets, boulevards and public squares.
In the early 1990’s, Pascal Smet leaves East Flanders and moves to Brussels. He chooses to live near his working place: at that time he is a civil servant at the Office of the Commissioner General for Refugees and Stateless Persons. In 2000 he becomes the Commissioner General for Refugees. Soon it is clear that he has to tackle the biggest refugee crisis in the country. He addresses the issue successfully, the number of asylum applications dropping from 42.000 to below 20.000 per year. From now on, asylum applications are being treated correctly and the Belgian asylum policy sets the example for good practice in Europe.
Aged 18, Pascal Smet engages in the political movement. He participates in the anti-missile marches for the first time. He fiercely opposes to the US missiles on European territory, as does the Socialist Party led by its charismatic president Karel van Miert. The step into active politics comes very naturally and Pascal joins the local team of the socialist party, in Haasdonk. Soon Pascal Smet is elected both as a municipal councillor in Beveren and as a provincial councillor for East Flanders. He is only in his twenties at that time. During that period, he is also president of the young socialists.
'As the president of the young socialists I made a strong plea to abolish the military service obligation. I felt it unfair that a son born from rich parents stood a better chance for escaping from military duty. I learned from this experience that sometimes good ideas come too early in life to prosper rightaway.'
Pascal Smet, born July 30th 1967, Haasdonk (a Waasland rural village). The eldest of three sons, he grows up in a working-class family. Secondary school allows for his first steps outside Haasdonk. After studying at the Broederschool in Sint-Niklaas he takes up law studies at the University of Antwerp.
'After primary school in Haasdonk, I was the only pupil in my class to go to the Broederschool in Sint-Niklaas. The transition to secondary school in itself is often problematic, if only because suddenly you face several teachers instead of one permanent teacher. From the warm familiar nest of primary school, I found myself thrown into a completely different world, with no friends. In the beginning I had a hard time.'