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Belgium - Relations

12.08.2015

(last updated: 31.07.2018)


Belgium first recognised the independence of Estonia on 26 January 1921. After the end of the Soviet occupation, Belgium re-recognised the Republic of Estonia on 27 August 1991. Diplomatic relations between Estonia and Belgium were restored on 5 September 1991.

Bilateral relations between Estonia and Belgium are excellent in the spheres of politics, economy, culture as well as education. Estonia regards Belgium as a reliable partner in both European Union and NATO fora. Mutual understanding is enhanced by the fact that both Estonia and Belgium are amongst the small countries of Europe.

Past Estonian Ambassadors to Belgium:

1921 – 1932 Karl Robert Pusta (at first chargé d'affaires a.i. and later ambassador, residing in Paris)

1992 – 1996 Clyde Kull
1996 – 1999 Jüri Luik
1999 – 2003 Sulev Kannike
2003 – 2008 Malle Talvet-Mustonen
2008 – 2009 Karin Jaani
2010 – 2011 Mariin Ratnik
2012 – 2016 Gert Antsu

On 16 May 2017 Ambassador of the Republic of Estonia to the Kingdom of Belgium Lembit Uibo presented his credentials to His Majesty Philippe, King of the Belgians.




Past Belgian Ambassadors to Estonia:

1992 – 2000 Jacques Ivan D’Hondt
2000 – 2002 Louis Mouraux
2003 – 2004 Johan van Dessel
2004 – 2008 Pierre Dubuisson
2008 – 2012 Nicolaas Buyck
2012 - 2015 Marc Thunus
2015 - 2017 Philippe Beke

From 2017 Belgian Ambassador to Estonia is H.E. Carl Peeters who is residing in Helsinki.

Belgian ambassadors to Estonia resided in Helsinki from 1992-2004 and again from March 2015. Belgium opened its own embassy in Estonia on 7 February 2005 and closed it on 28 February 2015. Since 1st March 2015, Estonia is part of the jurisdiction of Belgian Embassy in Helsinki.


Estonia has 2 honorary consuls in Belgium: Antoine (Tony) Vuylsteke in Flanders and Alain van Bellingen in the Walloon region.
 

Visits

To Belgium


June 2018
Minister of Defence Jüri Luik met the Belgian Minister of Defence Steven Vandeput
May 2018
Minister of Foreign Affairs Sven Mikser met the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs Didier Reynders
November 2017
Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid met the Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel and King Philippe
October 2013 President of the Estonian Parliament (Riigikogu) Ene Ergma’s meeting with the President of the Flemish Parliament
October 2012 Minister of Defence Urmas Reinsalu (meeting of NATO Ministers of Defence in Brussels)
June 2009 Prime Minister Andrus Ansip
February 2008 President of the Estonian Parliament (Riigikogu) Ene Ergma
March 2007President Toomas Hendrik Ilves at the anniversary event for the Treaty of Rome
December 2006President Toomas Hendrik Ilves
May 2006Prime Minister Andrus Ansip
January 2005Foreign Minister Kristiina Ojuland's meeting with Belgium's Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht



To Estonia
December 2017
Minister of Defence Steven Vandeput and General Marc Compernol
September 2017
Prime Minister Charles Michel
May 2017
Defence Policy Director Pascal Heyman at the flag-raising ceremony of the K5 (NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence)
May 2016
Minister-President of Flanders Geert Bourgeois
April 2016 Minister of Defence Steven Vandeput
February 2016 Chief of Defense General Gerard Van Caelenberge
February 2015 Deputy Prime Minister Alexander de Croo’s working visit
February 2015 Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Affairs  Didier Reynders at the meeting of the foreign ministers of the Baltic and Benelux countries
June 2013 President of the Flemish Parliament Jan Peumans
September 2011Foreign Minister Steven Vanackere at the meeting of the foreign ministers of the Baltic and Benelux countries
April 2011Prime Minister Yves Leterme
June 2008King Albert II on state visit
July 2007State Secretary for Administrative Simplification Vincent van Quickenborn
October 2005Flemish Minister for Foreign Trade, Foreign and Cultural Affairs, Tourism and e-Government Geert Bourgeois
February 2005State Secretary for European Affairs Didier Donfut


Agreements

  • Agreement on Road Transport between the Republic of Estonia, the Republic of Latvia, the Republic of Lithuania, the Kingdom of Belgium, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and the Kingdom of the Netherlands (entered into force 01.12.94);
  • Co-operation Agreement Between the Government of the Republic of Estonia and the Government of Flanders (came into force 29.01.97);
  • Agreement between the Republic of Estonia and Belgo-Luxembourg Economic Union on the Reciprocal Promotion and Protection of Investments (entered into force 23.09.99);
  • The Agreement on the Avoidance of Double Taxation (came into force 15.04.2003);
  • Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Estonia and the Government of the Kingdom of Belgium on Air Transport (entered into force 01.06.03);
  • Co-operation Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Estonia and the Region of Walloon and Belgium's French-speaking Community (came into force 07.08.03).
  • The Agreement on the Readmission of Persons Staying Illegally in the Country (came into force 01.02.05);
  • Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Estonia and the Government of the Kingdom of Belgium on Police Cooperation (came into force 07.02.2005);
  • Agreement between the Kingdom of Belgium, the Federal Republic of Germany, the Kingdom of Spain, the French Republic, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Republic of Austria on the stepping up of cross-border cooperation, particularly in combating terrorism, cross-border crime and illegal migration (came into force regarding Estonia 22.12.2008);
  • Agreement on Mutual Visa Representation between the Republic of Estonia and the Kingdom of Belgium (came into force 10.04.2012);

Cooperation programs have been initiated for the enforcement of the agreement between the Flemish and the Estonian government; the ongoing program was settled in Brussels in May 2014 and is valid through 2015-2018. 

Analogous programs have also been initiated for the enforcement of the Co-operation Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Estonia and the Region of Walloon and Belgium's French-speaking Community. The 2015-2018 cooperation program was signed in Brussels in June 2015 and in Tallinn in July by the exchange of letters.

Economic Relations

Belgium is continuously among the top 20 trading partners of Estonia. In 2017 trade with Belgium grew by 3% compared to the year before, making it Estonia´s 16th trading partner with a 1,8% share of the foreign trade turnover. Export fell by 1% and import increased by 7%. Belgium was 15th among Estonia´s export partners and 14th among the country´s import partners.

In Brussels, the Estonian Chamber of Agriculture and Commerce has opened its representation (2001, http://www.epk.ee) and since autumn of 2006, the Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has also been represented in Brussels (www.koda.ee).

Trade

Estonian-Belgian trade 2010-2017 (in millions of EUR)

  Export Import
2010 112,3 155,0
2011 144,2 234,7
2012 230,9 279,8
2013 275,0 260,7
2014 278,7 264,0
2015 166,4
245,8
2016 209,2
268,6
2017 206,5
287,6

All economic figures originate from the Statistical Office of Estonia


The main articles of export from Estonia to Belgium were glass and glass products, mineral products and transportation vehicles.

The main articles of import from Belgium were machinery and equipment, metals and metal products and chemical products.

Investments

Belgian direct investments to Estonia have grown in the last few years. As of 31 March 2018, Belgian direct investments in Estonia totaled 118.6 million euros, accounting for 0.6% of all foreign direct investments in Estonia, 11.6 million more than the previous year. These investments have mostly been allocated into professional, research and technical activities, real estate and information and communication. 

Estonian direct investments to Belgium have reached 26.3 million euros, making up 0.4% of all Estonian foreign investments. These have gone to multiple sectors: mining industry, manufacturing industry, electricity supply, wholesale and retail trade, information and communication, real estate and vocational, scientific and technical activities.

Tourism

During the last two years, the number of Belgian tourists visiting Estonia has increased: from 15.5 thousand multi-day visits in 2016 to 22.1 thousand in 2017 (according to the data from the Estonian Bank).

The number of hosted tourists grew as well, from 8 thousand in 2013 to over 15 thousand in 2017. In addition to Tallinn, the regions of Tartumaa, Pärnumaa and Lääne-Virumaa were popular among visitors.

Estonian residents visited Belgium in total more than twice as many times, totaling 50.2 thousand visits in 2016 and 60.2 thousand in 2017.

Defence Co-operation

Belgium was the first NATO country to participate in the Baltic air-policing mission in 2004. Belgium is one of the countries that have participated the most in safeguarding the Baltic airspace, having sent their forces to missions in Ämari (in the first half of 2016 and in the second half of 2017) as well as in Šiuliai in Lithuania. 

On January 1st, 2017 Belgium joined the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (K5) in Tallinn.

The defence co-operation between Estonia and Belgium has been focused on the navy (the BALTRON project) and on mines countermeasures. In addition, the Estonian Navy has for years already trained officers in the Belgian naval mine warfare school EGUERMIN, which is a NATO Centre of Excellence in that field. The regular participation of Belgian naval vessels in Estonia-led mines countermeasures operations (OPEN SPIRIT and MCOPEST) is also worth mentioning.

Belgium has actively participated in Estonian military exercises and competitions. The cooperation in the field of air defence is also developing.

Co-operation in internal affairs

In the framework of the Schengen project Belgian experts helped to train officials of the Estonian Ministry of Internal Affairs. An agreement has also been concluded for police co-operation between Estonia and Belgium (2001), based on which operational co-operation is developed between the Estonian and Belgian police, the exchange of information takes place and joint police operations as well as seminars are arranged. Furthermore, co-operation is conducted in elaborating personal identification documents and in detecting false documents.

Educational and Scientific Co-operation

The educational and scientific co-operation is conducted in the framework of agreements between Estonia-Flanders and Estonia-Wallonia-Francophone community. Estonia as well as Flanders have allocated stipends and exchanged students in the framework of summer courses and Flanders has provided Estonian students with stipends for studies in the College of Europe in Warsaw. The Francophone community has over the course of years sent French language lectors to Estonia and offered stipends for the language studies.

Good co-operation has also formed between the Estonian University of Life Sciences and the Region of Walloon. The last trips for exchange of expertise on hydrology took place in 2013 both to Wallonia and Estonia. Subjects that have been tackled range from environmental education to microhydro power. The main topic of 2013 was restoration of biodiversity in rivers.

In addition, co-operation takes place within the EU-framework.

Cultural Relations

The cultural relations between Estonia and Belgium are numerous, facilitated by the abovementioned co-operation agreements with Flanders and Wallonia as well as the Francophone community. The work of the Estonian cultural attaché in Brussels is invaluable to the Estonian cultural scene in Belgium. There are numerous contacts between the museums, theatres, galleries, concert halls and musicians. In recent years, a series of art exhibitions have taken place; Estonian musicians have performed at concerts; Estonian choirs, ensembles and theatres have toured in Belgium. The cultural programme of the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the European Union during the second half of 2017 was the biggest Estonian cultural festival in Belgium thus far. In total, 25 cultural projects took place in the course of 6 months: 5 exhibitions, 2 installations, 12 concerts, Estonian film screenings, comic strips, poetry, fashion and design. As part of the Estonian Presidency of the EU and the celebration of the Centenary of the Republic of Estonia (EV´100), a festival dedicated to Arvo Pärt and B-Est Jazz Festival took place at Flagey in January 2018.

In the field of music, many noteworthy events have taken place, including 1000 Voices for Peace – a project from 2014 combining international choirs from 18 countries, including Voces Musicales from Estonia. The Estonian conductor Andres Mustonen led the gala concert at the Koekelberg basilica. In 2015, the world premiere of Le poids des vies non vécues by Errki-Sven Tüür, a masterpiece dedicated to the centenary of World War I, was performed by the National Orchestra of Belgium, conducted by Arvo Volmer at the Brussels Cultural Centre Bozar. The Flemish choir Aquarius performed Arvo Pärt´s music at multiple concerts in September 2015 to celebrate his 80th birthday and present their CD “Magnificent Magnificat” dedicated to the Estonian composer´s work. In November 2014, Paavo Järvi conducted a concert by the Paris Orchestra at Bozar, just a day after the tragic terrorist attacks in Paris. In May 2018, Vox Clamantis and the Saint Michael Boy Choir (Püha Miikaeli Poistekoor) performed at the international Gregorian festival in Watou and the Belgian choir Novacento performed the music of Arvo Pärt, Veljo Tormis, Evelin Seppar and Pärt Uusberg in Chent in a concert titled Tintinnabuli – music from a cold land with a warm heart.

Estonian cinema is also actively introduced in Belgium. In 2014, Disco and Atomic War was screened at the Freedom and Europe film festival in Brussels, Cherry Tobacco and In the Crosswind were shown at the Estonian Embassy in Brussels and were followed by meetings with the directors. Lemonade Tales was screened at the 8th International Children's Film Festival in Brussels. The same year, the Millenium International Documentary Film Festival in Brussels was opened with the screening of film Ash & Money by Tiit Ojasoo and Ene-Liis Semper. In June 2015, the Oscar-nominated film Tangerines was shown at the European Parliament together with the Georgian embassy. Estonian theatre has reached the Brussels audience as well. For instance, in May 2015 there was a guest performance of the ballet Casanova by the Estonian Theatre Vanemuine in Brussels and in June 2018 the play The Werefolf by the Estonian theatre R.A.A.A.M. was brought to the stage in the Molière theatre in Brussels (staged by the Yakut director Sergei Potapov).

Many Estonian exhibitions have been held in Belgium. In 2014, the exhibition presenting Let's do it! movement was opened in European Parliament, Mihkel Maripuu's exhibition was opened at a gallery in Antwerp, and Estonian design review exhibition Size doesn’t matter took place in Brussels. In summer 2018, the Bozar Cultural Centre in Brussels showcases an exhibition titled Somewhere in Europe. Contemporary Art Scenes in Europe (20.06.-19.08.2018), where Estonia is represented by artists Kris Lemsalu, Aili Vint, Raul Keller and Kiwa and curator Maria Arusoo. When it comes to literature, it is remarkable that in October 2015 the Estonian writer Katrina Kalda was awarded the Richelieu Literary Prize for her novel The Arithmetic of Gods (Arithmétique des Dieux) by Princess Léa of Belgium.

Belgian culture is brought to Estonia as well. Flemish contemporary dance groups have participated at Estonian festivals of the performing arts (most recently at the SAAL Biennaal 2017) and an exhibition titled Paul Delvaux. A Waking Dreamer was held at KUMU in cooperation with Musée d´Ixelles from November 2016 to March 2017

 

Estonians in Belgium

A great number of Estonians first went to live in Belgium during the Second World War. Similar to other places where many Estonians settled, there was an active Estonian social and cultural life in Belgium. For a long time the activities of the Estonian Society were led by Liis Dillie-Lindre. The new wave of Estonian immigration to Belgium was tied to Estonia’s accession to the European Union. In recent years, many more Estonians have gone to Belgium to work and live than did after World War II. Most of them work in the Brussels area (either in Estonian representations or in European institutions). The number of Estonians living here together with their families is currently estimated to be close to two thousand. The Estonian Society has been re-launched.

Estonians living in Brussels and in its outskirts have their own singing choir Beene, children's singing group, and aerobics, football and tennis trainings. There are Estonian history classes for school-aged children as well as a group for toddlers; there is also a children’s reading room. Midsummer Day and children's Christmas parties are celebrated together.

The Belgian Estonians have their own home page and Facebook. For more direct communication there is also a mailing list, which anyone can join by writing to the address bruest@yahoo.com.

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© Estonian Embassy in Belgium and Luxembourg Rue Guimard 11/13, B-1040, Brussels tel. (32) 2 779 07 55, e-mail: saatkond@estemb.be