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Estonia and Belgium

06.09.2012


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.

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

On 3 September 2012 Ambassador of the Republic of Estonia to the Kingdom of Belgium Gert Antsu presented his credentials to King of the Belgians Albert II.

Belgian Ambassador to Estonia Marc Thunus presented his credentials to the President of the Republic on 30 August 2012.

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

Belgian ambassadors to Estonia resided in Helsinki from 1992-2004. Belgium opened its own embassy in Estonia on 7 February 2005.

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

The relations between Estonia and Belgium are very good in politics, economy, in culture as well as in education.

Visits

To Belgium
June 2009 Prime Minister Andrus Ansip
February 2008 President of the Estonian Parliament (Riigikogu) Ene Ergma
March 2007 President Toomas Hendrik Ilves at the anniversary event for the Treaty of Rome
December 2006 President Toomas Hendrik Ilves
May 2006 Prime Minister Andrus Ansip
January 2005 Foreign Minister Kristiina Ojuland's meeting with Belgium's Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht
May 2004 President Arnold Rüütel
March 2004 Foreign Minister Kristiina Ojuland met with the members of the Belgian PACE delegation

 

To Estonia
September 2011 Foreign Minister Steven Vanackere at the meeting of the foreign ministers of the Baltic and Benelux countries
April 2011 Prime Minister Yves Leterme
June 2008 King Albert II on state visit
July 2007 State Secretary for Administrative Simplification Vincent van Quickenborn
October 2005 Flemish Minister for Foreign Trade, Foreign and Cultural Affairs, Tourism and e-Government Geert Bourgeois
February 2005 State 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 7.08.03).
  • The Agreement on the Readmission of Persons Staying Illegally in the Country (came into force 1.02.05);

Economic Relations

The business ties between the two countries are developing gradually but successfully. The first economic consultations between Estonia and Belgium took place in 2000, almost every year the exchange of business delegations has taken place. Estonia has been visited by delegations from Flanders as well as from Wallonia. In September 2011 a Baltic business seminar took place in Antwerp and a business mission from Flanders visited Tallinn. In March 2012 a large delegation from the business school in Liége visited Tallinn. The students of the business school came as company representatives and were looking for investment opportunities in Estonia. A business seminar also took place during their visit.

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 2001-2011 (in millions of EUR)

  Export Import
2005 80.1 151.6
2006 79.5 189.9
2007 80.5 228.5
2008 102.4 212.5
2009 120.8 152.9
2010 113.3 155.5
2011 142.6 233.9

All economic figures originate from the Statistical Office of Estonia

In 2010 Belgium was Estonia’s 16th trade partner with a total trade turnover of 268.8 million euros and in 2011 it was Estonia’s 17th trade partner with a turnover of 376.5 million euros. In both years the trade turnover between them made up 1.5% of Estonia’s total foreign trade turnover.

The main articles of export in 2011 were products made from stone, cement and glass (25.7%), transportation vehicles (20.7%), and machinery and equipment (20.3%).

From Belgium Estonia mainly imported chemical products (16.9%), machinery and equipment (16.6%), and products of plastic and rubber (12.7%).

Investments

As of 31 December 2011, Belgian direct investments in Estonia totalled 52.5 million EUR. This is 0.27% of all foreign direct investments made in Estonia. The investments have mostly gone to construction (37.3%), real estate rental and business activity (30%), wholesale and retail trade, motor vehicle and motorcycle repair (20.8%), and also some to vocational, research and technical activity (5.6%), the manufacturing industry (2.8%), and the transport and storage sector (2.3%).
Estonian direct investments in Belgium as of the same date totalled 2.86 million EUR.

Defence Co-operation

The defence co-operation between Estonia and Belgium has been focused on the navy (the BALTRON project) and on mines countermeasures. Belgium is a participant in the BALTRON project as well as a member of the BALTRON Naval Working Group (NWG).

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 courses for officers in EGUERMIN at Oostende are conducted with the duration from one week up to six months.

In addition, the regular participation of Belgian naval vessels in Estonia-led mines countermeasures operations (OPEN SPIRIT and MCOPEST) is worth mentioning.

Co-operation in internal affairs

Belgian experts have in the framework of the Schengen project helped to train officials of the Estonian Ministry of Internal Affairs. There has also been concluded an agreement of 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. Also, 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. Flanders has provided Estonian students with stipends for studies in the College of Europe in Warsaw. Estonia as well as Flanders have allocated stipends and exchanged students in the framework of summer courses. The Francophone community has sent to Estonia teachers of French and offered stipends for the language studies. Good co-operation also takes places between the Estonian University of Life Sciences and the Gembloux Research Centre.

Cultural Relations

The cultural relations between Estonia and Belgium are very tight, facilitated by the above mentioned co-operation agreements with Flanders and Wallonia (the co-operation agreement was renewed in April 2011) as well as the Francophone community. A great number of events take place on the basis of reciprocity, e.g. the exhibition of works by Eduard Viiralt at Félicien Rops Museum in Namur and the exhibition of Félicien Rops in the Estonian Art Museum. In addition to the events arranged by the Embassy there are numerous undertakings based on the reciprocal ties between the museums, theatres, galleries, concert halls and musicians. In recent years, a series of art exhibitions have taken place; Estonian musicians have performed with independent concerts as well as in the framework of different events; Estonian choirs, ensembles and theatres have toured in Belgium.

The year 2010 also saw a very busy cultural calendar. Concerts and exhibits took place and various Estonian dance and theatre troupes visited Belgium. The embassy joined in by organising mother tongue and literature evenings. In October and November the films of Priit Pärn were shown in Brugge. Estonia also participated in two events introducing the food cultures of Europe on 25 and 29 September in Brussels. Within the framework of Belgium’s European Union presidency and Tallinn 2011 Capital of Culture, from 8 December 2010 to 21 January 2011 the exhibit “CoBrA ja Co” was on display in the Tallinn Art Hall.

A lot has also taken place thus far in 2011. From 17-21 January Estonian composer Erkki-Sven Tüür was a member of the jury in a competition for young contemporary music composers organised by the forum Tactus. From 17-21 February Estonian-Finnish author Sofi Oksanen participated in the Brussels Book Fair, and on 18 February she met with readers in Fnac. The 93rd anniversary of the Republic of Estonia was celebrated with the traditional open house at the embassy on 20 February and a reception at the Brussels Town Hall on 23 February, where entertainment was provided by the Iris Vesik ensemble made up of Iris Vesik, Johanna Eenmaa, and Ago Teppand. On 17 March a literature evening with Roy Strider entitled “Sentences Lost in the Melting Snow” ("Lumesulavette kadunud laused") took place at the embassy.

On 24 February a month of Estonian culture was kicked off in Liège. Many events took place within the cultural month: seminars on Estonian history and society, a performance by Tartu’s university theatre troupe, a Peter Langovits photo exhibit, and a Priit Pärn film evening. On 23 March the seminar e-Estonie, organised in co-operation by the Walloon Ministry of New Technology and the HEC cluster, took place in Liège. At the seminar, communications manager of the Estonian Informatics Centre Katrin Pärgmäe introduced Estonia’s experiences and the lessons it has learned in developing e-solutions. On 29 March an evening of Priit Pärn’s films (“Life Without Gabriella Ferri”, “I Feel a Lifelong Bullet in the Back of My Head”, and “Divers in the Rain”) as well as a seminar during which Priit and Olga Pärn themselves introduced their works took place at the Le Parc cinema within the framework of the VIDÉOGRAPHIES21 festival in Liège.

In March the reputable Belgian art magazine OKV, which focuses on Dutch art, published a special issue in co-operation with the Kadriorg Art Museum that was dedicated to Estonia. The issue covered Dutch art that is found in Estonia, including Dutch art collections of the 16th and 17th centuries, the wall paintings in Tallinn’s Town Hall, and the gravestones, medieval altars and Hanseatic-era art in Tallinn’s Dome Church. On 8 March the Estonian-French duo Rouge Madame gave a concert in Ghent. On 18 March the group Singer Vinger gave a concert in the Wezembeek-Oppem Cultural House.

In March 2011 the Tallinn Sinfonietta directed by Andres Mustonen performed at the Bozar Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels as part of the contemporary music festival Ars Musica, which was followed by a reception marking the end of the festival. From 31 March to 2 April the public was able to experience Estonia’s food culture at Liège’s most reputable restaurant Heliport, where the head chef of the restaurant Ribe was preparing food. This happened within the framework of a project taking place in various Belgian cities entitled “Estonian Pork and Belgian Beer” (which was carried out successfully in Estonia in 2010). On the evening of 6 April, the Ghent Conservatory Chamber Choir performed music from the series “Forgotten Peoples” (“Unustatud rahvad”) by Veljo Tormis. On 16 April the Estonian film “The Temptation of St. Tony” was shown in Brussels.

In September 2011 the 15th anniversary of the co-operation agreement between Flanders and the Baltic states was formally celebrated in Ghent and the Estonian cultural days called “BEstonia” were held in Antwerp.

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, folk dance group Naabri Mari, 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. In 2009 the brainstorming session “Let’s Do It!” was held in the embassy.

The Belgian Estonians have their own home page at:www.eestimaja.be. 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