(last updated: 06.08.2015)
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:
– 1932 Karl Robert Pusta (at first chargé d'affaires a.i. and later ambassador,
residing in Paris)
– 1996 Clyde Kull
1996 – 1999 Jüri Luik
1999 – 2003 Sulev Kannike
2003 – 2008 Malle Talvet-Mustonen
2008 – 2009 Karin Jaani
2010 – 2011 Mariin Ratnik
– 2016 Gert Antsu
Since 1st March 2015, Estonia is part of the jurisdiction of Belgian Embassy in Helsinki and Belgian ambassador to Finland Ivo Goemans also acts as the ambassador (agréé) to Estonia. Since 27 January 2015, Belgian charge d'affaires a.i. to Estonia is Tim Hermans.
1992 – 2000 Jacques Ivan D’Hondt
Past Belgian Ambassadors to Estonia:
2000 – 2002 Louis Mouraux
2003 – 2004 Johan van Dessel
2004 – 2008 Pierre Dubuisson
2008 – 2012 Nicolaas Buyck
2012 - 2015 Marc Thunus
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 .
Estonia has 2 honorary consuls in Belgium: Antoine (Tony) Vuylsteke in Flanders and Alain van Bellingen in the Walloon region.
||President of the Estonian Parliament (Riigikogu) Ene Ergma’s meeting with the President of the Flemish Parliament
||Minister of Defence Urmas Reinsalu (meeting of NATO Ministers of Defence in Brussels)
||Prime Minister Andrus Ansip
||President of the Estonian Parliament (Riigikogu) Ene Ergma
||President Toomas Hendrik Ilves at the anniversary event for the Treaty of Rome
||President Toomas Hendrik Ilves
||Prime Minister Andrus Ansip
||Foreign Minister Kristiina Ojuland's meeting with Belgium's Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht
||Deputy Prime Minister Alexander de Croo’s working visit
||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
||President of the Flemish Parliament Jan Peumans
||Foreign Minister Steven Vanackere at the meeting of the foreign ministers of the Baltic and Benelux countries
||Prime Minister Yves Leterme
||King Albert II on state visit
||State Secretary for Administrative Simplification Vincent van Quickenborn
||Flemish Minister for Foreign Trade, Foreign and Cultural Affairs, Tourism and e-Government Geert Bourgeois
||State Secretary for European Affairs Didier Donfut
- 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.
The business ties between the two countries are developing gradually but successfully. The first economic consultations between Estonia and Belgium took place in 2000 and since then the exchange of business delegations has taken place almost on a yearly basis. Estonia has been visited by delegations from Flanders as well as from Wallonia.
In January 2012 a Baltic business seminar took place in Brussels, followed by a business mission to Baltics in September in which 20 companies from Belgium and Netherlands took part. 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 April 2013 a business delegation from Antwerp visited Estonia. The Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ECCI) arranged a networking trip to Belgium in September 2014 which included a business seminar at the Chamber of Commerce of Antwerpen-Waasland (VOKA), visit to the port of Antwerp etc.
In March 2012 the state-owned Port of Tallinn and Unieveem Eesti, Estonian operation of the Belgian origin Katoen Natie which is one of the world's largest logistics companies, signed an agreement on the construction of a warehouse complex and distribution center at Estonia's main merchant port of Muuga. In May 2013 the first warehouse complex of 25 000 m² was opened. In 2015 the area has reached 30 000 m² making it one of the largest logistics centers in Estonia. In October 2013 the Estonian economy minister Juhan Parts visited Katoen Natie in Antwerp.
Belgium has on different occasions expressed interest in Estonian IT solutions, mainly related to data protection, electronic voting, electronic banking and ID-cards.
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).
Estonian-Belgian trade 2007-2014 (in millions of EUR)
All economic figures originate from the Statistical Office of Estonia
In 2013 Belgium was Estonia’s 12th trade partner with a total trade turnover of 535,7 million euros and in 2014 it was Estonia’s 13th trade partner with a turnover of 542,7 million euros. In both years the trade turnover between them made up 2% of Estonia’s total foreign trade turnover.
The main articles of export from Estonia to Belgium in 2014 were mineral products (49,6%), products made from stone, cement and glass (10,43%), transportation vehicles (10,22%), and machinery and equipment (6,9%).
The main articles of import from Belgium were machinery and equipment (18,7%), chemical products (14,95%), metals and metal products (12,71%), and products of plastic and rubber (9,81%).
As of 31 December 2014, Belgian direct investments in Estonia totalled 54,3 million EUR. This is 0,34 % of all foreign direct investments made in Estonia. The investments have mostly gone to construction, real estate rental and business activity, the transport and storage sector, and the wholesale and retail trade.
Estonian direct investments in Belgium as of the same date totalled 4,5 million EUR.
For the last two years, the number of Belgian origin tourists in Estonia has somewhat increased. In 2013 Estonia hosted 7855 and in 2014 8247 Belgian tourists. Most of them stayed in Tallinn (6029 in 2013 and 6251 in 2014).
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 regular participation of Belgian naval vessels in Estonia-led mines countermeasures operations (OPEN SPIRIT and MCOPEST) is also worth mentioning.
Belgium was the first NATO country to participate in the Baltic air-policing mission in 2004. Since then, the Belgian Air Force has participated in the mission five times, of which the two latest in the framework of strengthened air policing from the Malbork Air Base in Poland (last rotation started on the 1st of May 2015).
Belgium has actively participated in Estonian military exercises and competitions. The cooperation in the field of air defence is also developing; a Belgian anti-air unit participated in the 2014 Kevadtorm Military Exercise.
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.
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.
Estonia has gained most of its’ public attention within the framework of cultural events, the most notable of which in the 2014 were 1000 Voices for Peace – project combining international choirs from 18 countries of which the gala concert was led by the Estonian conductor Andres Mustonen and in which chamber choir Voces Musicales took part in, the opening of Millenium International Documentary Film Festival in Brussels with the screening of film Ash & Money by the directors and scriptwriters Tiit Ojasoo and Ene-Liis Semper, the screening of the film Tangerines before a selected audience together with the Georgian embassy, and a voluminous Estonian design review exhibition.
The year 2014 saw a very busy concert calendar. In addition to the aforementioned, composer Jaan Rääts's Concerto for chamber orchestra was performed at festival L'Europe en Musique, Arvo Pärt's music was played at Flanders Festival in Kortrijk by Flemish chamber choir Aquarius, The Dynamite Vikings performed at Brussels Jazz Marathon, Laura Remmel and Jaak Sooäär performed together with Belgian jazz musicians in Amsterdam and in Bruges, Curly Strings toured Belgium (Ingelmunster, Dranouter, Belsele, Leuven, Gent), the group Abraham's Café performed in Brussels during its’ tour in Europe, pianist Kristjan Randalu performed with Dhafer Youssef Quartet in Flagery. The year was concluded by the band Talbot at the showcase festival Glimps in Gent.
Estonian cinematography was actively introduced. In addition to the aforesaid, Disco and Atomic War was screened at the Cinema, Freedom and Europe film festival at Bozar in Brussels, Cherry Tobacco directed by Andres Maimik and Katrin Maimik and In the Crosswind were shown at the Estonian Embassy in Brussels and were followed by meetings with the directors. Additionally, Lemonade Tales was screened at the 8th International Children's Film Festival in Brussels Filem'on where an Estonian animation artist, author and director Mait Laas also made a presentation.
Numerous literature and poetry related events took place in Brussels. Estonian writer Eeva Park undertook a residency in the international house of literature Passa Porta in Brussels, literary meeting with Andrus Kivirähk was held and poet Birk Rohelend participated in the Transpoesie poetry festival, organised by EUNIC Brussels.
Furthermore, the exhibition presenting Let's do it! movement was opened in European Parliament, Mihkel Maripuu's exhibition was opened at a gallery in Antwerp, Estonian design review exhibition Size doesn’t matter took place in Brussels at the Design Flanders Gallery and Marge Monko’s and other HISK 2014 laureates’ exhibition was opened in Gent.
Estonian theater and contemporary dance were also introduced. Ilona. Rosetta. Sue was played in Royal Flemish Theatre (KVS) in Brussels in cooperation between the actors of NO99 Theatre and the Münchner Kammerspiele and Risto Kübar took part in dance play Much Dance which was a cooperation project between Münchner Kammerspiele and Kaaitheater in Brussels.
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 email@example.com.