From West-Flemish countryside to Ghent and Paris
Benjamin grew up in the little town of Damme, near Bruges. Beside living many adventures in the green around the “Damse Vaart” (Canal) and in the meadows of his grandfather “farmer Jan” Dalle, he was also an eager pupil at the local primary school of Damme and later at the Saint Louis Grammar School in Bruges. His growing engagement made him join the Presidium (social division).
As a student of Law in digs in Ghent, Benjamin spent ample time endlessly discussing– of course – political issues at the pub. He spent his last academic year as an Erasmus student in Paris, at the René Descartes University (Paris V). There he was awarded the “Prix Erasmus” for best foreign student at the law faculty of Paris V.
Benjamin graduated in 2005 summa cum laude. He was awarded the prizes of best law student of the University of Ghent by the alumni society Gandaius and of best master’s thesis by the Appeals Court of Ghent.
New York and Geneva
After Ghent and Paris, Benjamin wished to make his American dream come true. Through different scholarships (BAEF, Fulbright, Hugo Grotius scholarship) he was able to study at NYU (New York University) School of Law for a year, one of the most prestigious centres of international law. He focused mainly on (international) public law, human rights and environmental law. In New York he obtained his “LL.M. in International Legal Studies” , topped by the Jerome Lipper Prize for excellence in the LL.M. programme.
After his passage in the US, Benjamin went to Switzerland for another three months, to complete an internship at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva. He worked for the human rights liaison that maintains relations between the UNHCR and the different human rights institutions of the United Nations.
First steps in Brussels – Bar and university
Once back in Belgium, Benjamin swapped the West-Flemish flatland for Brussels, first in Etterbeek, later on in Sint-Jans-Molenbeek. He started as an attorney at an international law firm and became an academic assistant at the Catholic University of Leuven with Judge and Professor André Alen. He was an assistant until 2009 and is still connected to the Institute for Constitutional Law of the KULeuven University as a volunteering researcher. He had been an active member of the Bar, but he retired from legal office in 2011.
Political engagement in federal administrations and the study service
By the end of 2007 Benjamin was employed by Yves Leterme to collaborate on the state reform, marking the start of his (party) political activity. He worked for three consecutive vice-premiers of CD&V and advised them on state reform, legal matters and asylum and migration. His most intense periods were in 2010, as closest assistant to Jean-Luc Dehaene in his missions to find a solution for BHV, and in 2011, when he worked in the back office of Wouter Beke during the formation period. By the end of 2011 he had become the head of staff to the secretary of state for State Reform, Buildingsagency and Sustainable Development, Servais Verherstraeten, where he worked on the implementation of the Sixth State Reform. After the elections of 2014, Benjamin participated in the negotiations on the government formation of the federal coalition. He became deputy chief of staff to the minister of Justice, Koen Geens. Since March 2016 he is the director of Ceder, the study service of CD&V. In January 2019 he was appointed as a senator.
Commitment for Brussels
Also Brussels and Brussels politics are very dear to Benjamin. He is actively involved in Molenbeek and CD&V – Capital Division Brussels, which he presided from 2015 to 2018. Benjamin is also active in the Brussels community life, among others as a member of the board of the Centre for General Welfare (CAW) Brussels, in Flagey and Trias.
On 25 May 2014 he ran for election for the first time. He headed the Brussels list for the elections of the Chamber of Representatives, but as expected no Flemish representative was elected. With the municipal elections of 14 October 2018, he was part of the bilingual list cdH-CD&V+ in Molenbeek. After a close battle, he was not elected. On 26 May he will head the CD&V list of Brussels for the Flemish Parliament.
Benjamin is married to Maïté and has three kids. With his family he lives in the maritime quarter in Molenbeek. He regularly needs a good deal of sports, on his bike through the Brussels countryside or the Flemish Ardennes; or by running the yearly 20 km through Brussels; or on the squash court. He enjoys his city garden and flower pots on the window sills. He will not say no to a cold Duvel with his friends at the pub. And travelling from time to time, closby or far away, is what gives him his oxygen.