Belgium’s Ambassador to the United States: Who Is Johan Verbeke?

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Career diplomat Johan Verbeke took over as Belgium’s ambassador to the United States in January 2014. It’s the third ambassadorial post for Verbeke.


Verbeke was born July 9, 1951, in Ghent, Belgium. He graduated from the University of Ghent with degrees in law and philosophy. Verbeke also earned a degree in those subjects at the Université de Nancy in France and an LL.M. at Yale.


His first career jobs were in the legal field. Verbeke was a law professor at the University of Ghent from 1975 to 1977 and then worked as an associate for a U.S. law firm, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, from 1978 to 1981, when he entered the diplomatic service.


Verbeke’s first overseas posting came in 1983, when he was sent to Beirut. He quickly took on more responsible positions; in 1985 Verbeke was named chargé d’affaires at the Belgian embassy in Amman, Jordan. Later in 1985 he was posted to Burundi and was named chargé d’affaires in Chile in 1988.


He returned to Belgium in 1990 as the spokesman for his country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 1992, he took on the role of “Antici” in Belgium’s mission to the European Union. That job, unique to the EU, involves preparing for the weekly discussions among EU ambassadors.


Verbeke had his first diplomatic posting to the United States in 1994, when he was named deputy chief of mission in Belgium’s Washington embassy. In 1998, he returned home for what turned out to be a relatively long stay in Brussels. He served as deputy director general for Political Affairs. The following year he was named director general for European Affairs. In 2000 Verbeke was named chef de cabinet, or chief of staff, for Belgium’s minister of European Affairs, and in 2002 he took a similar job for the minister of Foreign Affairs.


Verbeke returned to the United States in 2004 as his nation’s ambassador to the United Nations (UN). He served there until 2008, when he took on some assignments for the UN. He was named the secretary general’s special coordinator in Lebanon, but left after a few months because of concerns for his safety. He was then sent to Georgia in a similar role and was head of the UN Observer Mission until 2009.


He returned to Belgium’s foreign service in 2010 as its ambassador to the United Kingdom, serving there until being tapped for the Washington post.


Verbeke and his wife, Catherine Dubois, have three children.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Official Biography

The Honest Broker (Embassy)


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