Foreign relations of Belgium

Foreign relations of Belgium

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Initial neutrality

Because of its location at the crossroads of Western Europe, Belgium has historically been the route of invading armies from its larger neighbours. With virtually defenceless borders, Belgium has traditionally sought to avoid domination by the more powerful nations which surround it through a policy of mediation. The Concert of Europe sanctioned the creation of Belgium in 1831 on the condition that the country remain strictly neutral. This policy of neutrality ended after the experience of German occupation during World War I. In the years preceding World War II, Belgium tried to return to a policy of neutrality, but once again, Germany invaded the country. In 1948, Belgium signed the Treaty of Brussels with the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg, and one year later became one of the founding members of the Atlantic Alliance.

European integration

The Belgians have been strong advocates of European integration, and most aspects of their foreign, economic, and trade policies are coordinated through the European Union (EU), which has its main headquarters (the European Commission, the Council of the European Union and sessions of the European Parliament) in Brussels. Belgium's postwar customs union with the Netherlands and Luxembourg paved the way for the formation of the European Community (precursor to the EU), of which Belgium was a founding member. Likewise, the Benelux abolition of internal border controls was a model for the wider Schengen Accord, which today is integrated in the acquis communautaire and aims at common visa policies and free movement of people across common borders. At the same time the Belgians, perceiving their diminutive role on the international scene, are strong advocates of strengthening economic and political integration within the EU. Recently, having federalised their own country, many Belgians view themselves as the ultimate "European federalists". Belgium actively seeks improved relations with the new democracies of central and eastern Europe through such fora as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, EU association agreements, and NATO's Partnership for Peace with the former Warsaw Pact countries and several others.


Belgium remains a strong proponent of NATO. It cooperates closely with the United States within the alliance framework, in addition to supporting European defense efforts through the Western European Union (WEU). Both NATO (since 1966) and the EU have their headquarters in Brussels; SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe) is in the south of the country, near Mons. Since January 1993, the WEU has been headquartered in Brussels.

Subregional integration with the Netherlands and Luxembourg

Belgium has been involved in (sub)regional integration since the first half of the twentieth century, first with the Belgium-Luxembourg Economic Union, founded in 1925, and then, since 1944, with the Netherlands and Luxembourg in the Benelux.

Belgium's federalism and international relations

A peculiar feature of Belgian federalism is the fact that the country's Communities and Regions maintain their own international relations, including the conclusion of treaties. Thus, there are a number of bilateral Dutch-Flemish international institutions, such as the Dutch Language Union or the institutions for the control of the river Scheldt, in which only Flanders takes part. Likewise, only the French Community of Belgium takes part in La Francophonie. Ministers of the Communities and the Regions represent Belgium in the Council of the European Union when their competencies are dealt with.

Former colonies

Belgium retains special (important) but often stormy relationships with its former colonies, Congo, Rwanda and Burundi. The current constitution of Democratic Republic of the Congo was designed with the assistance of Belgian legal scholars.

International disputes

Belgium has resorted several times to international dispute settlement, notably in cases at both the International Court of Justice and the Permanent Court of Arbitration with the Netherlands concerning the diversion of water from the Meuse (1937) the frontier at the enclave of Baarle-Hertog (1959) and the revitalisation of the so called Iron Rhine railroad (2005). There have been other points of contention with the Netherlands, such as the deepening of the river Scheldt or the route for the high speed rail link between Brussels and Amsterdam. This does however not influence the overall amicable character of Belgo-Dutch relationship. Other former cases at international courts between Belgium and other countries are — in chronological order — the Oscar Chinn Case of 1934 (with the United Kingdom, the Borghgrave Case of (1937), the cases of the electricity company of Sofia (with Bulgaria) and of the "société commerciale de Belgique" (with Greece) of 1939, the case concerning the Barcelona Traction Company of 1970 (with Spain), the arrest warrant case of 2002 (with the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and the case concerning legality of use of force of 2004 (with Serbia and Montenegro).

The arrest warrant case of 2002 was caused by the application of Belgium's so called genocide law, providing for universal jurisdiction over the gravest international crimes. The same law stirred relations with, amongst others, Israel and the United States, since complaints were filed against high ranking politicians and officials of both countries. The law was therefore repealed in 2003.

Bilateral relationships

Belgium maintains significant bilateral relations with several countries.

Country Formal Relations Began Notes
 Austria See Foreign relations of Austria
 Azerbaijan 1992-06-17
 Bulgaria 1879
 Canada See Belgium–Canada relations

Both are close allies and members of NATO and Francophonie. Both have a stance of multilateralism and both have similar government systems. Both are actively involved in the current war in Afghanistan under ISAF.

 Colombia 1973
 Czech Republic 1993-01-01
 Estonia 1991-09-05
 Finland 191-07-09

They are both members of the European Union and NATO. Also, the majority of the people in East Belgium speak German. Currently, Belgium has an embassy in Berlin and a consulate-general in Cologne, while Germany has one embassy in Brussels.

 Greece 1874
  • Belgium has an embassy in Dublin.[19]
  • Ireland has an embassy in Brussels and an honorary consulate in Antwerpen.
  • Both countries are full members of the European Union.
  • On November 29, 1947, Belgium voted in favour of UN resolution 181.
  • Belgium recognized Israel on January 15, 1950.
  • Belgium has an embassy in Tel Aviv.[20]
  • Israel has an embassy in Brussels.[21]
  • There are 31,200 Jews living in Belgium.
 Japan 1866 See Belgium–Japan relations
 Kosovo 2008-02-14
  • Belgium recognized Kosovo in 24 February 2008.[31]
  • Belgium has a Liaison Office in Pristina.[32]
  • Kosovo has an embassy in Brussels.
 Malaysia See Belgium–Malaysia relations

Belgium has an embassy in Kuala Lumpur, and Malaysia has an embassy in Brussels.

 Mexico See Belgium–Mexico relations

Belgium has an embassy in Mexico City and six honorary consulates around Mexico (Cancún, Guadalajara, Monterrey, Puebla, Chihuahua and Veracruz). Mexico has an embassy in Brussels. In 1836, Belgium—itself newly independent—recognized the independence of Mexico.[33] In 1919, the Belgian chamber of commerce of Mexico was established.[33] Belgium opened its embassy in Mexico on June 5, 1954.[34]

 Netherlands See Belgium–Netherlands relations

Both nations are great allies. Both nations have cultural similarities, both governments cooperate, and Belgium has an embassy in The Hague. While Netherlands has an Embassy in Brussels. Both nations are members of the European Union and NATO.


Belgium is the sixth largest European importer of Pakistani goods, and the bilateral trade between the two is approaching to US $600 million.[41]

Former Pakistani president, Pervez Musharraf, has also previously extended a visit to Belgium during his tour of Europe in early 2008, which also included visits to the United Kingdom, France and Sweden. During his stay in Brussels, he met the then-Prime Minister of Belgium, Guy Verhofstadt, and the two leaders held significant talks on trade and defence co-operation.[citation needed]

 Romania 1880
 Russia See Belgium–Russia relations

Russia has an embassy in Brussels and a consulate-general in Antwerp, whilst Belgium has an embassy in Moscow and an honorary consulate in Saint Petersburg.

 Serbia 1886-03-15
 Slovenia 1991
 Turkey See Belgium–Turkey relations
 Ukraine 1992 See Belgium–Ukraine relations

Belgium has an embassy in Kiev; Ukraine has an embassy in Brussels and two honorary consulates (in Antwerp and Mons). Although politically the two nations are not closely connected, they have a long history of economic integration and trade, with Belgian investment playing a role in the contemporary Ukrainian economy. As of 2008, trade revenue generated between the two nations accounted for approximately USD1 billion.[51]

 United Kingdom See Belgium – United Kingdom relations

Historically, the two countries have trading links going back to the 10th century, especially wool trade from England to the County of Flanders. In the early years of the Hundred Years' War, Edward III allied with the nobles of the Low Countries and the burghers of Flanders against France.

 United States See Belgium – United States relations

The United States and Belgium are good friends and allies, despite occasional disagreements on a limited number of foreign policy issues. Good will and affection for Americans continues as a result of the U.S. role during and after the two World Wars, which was exhibited in 2004 during the 60th anniversary commemorations of the Battle of the Bulge and the liberation of Belgium. Continuing to celebrate cooperative U.S. and Belgian relations, 2007 marks the 175th anniversary of the nations' relationship.

See also


  1. ^ Belgian embassy Baku
  2. ^ Embassy of Azerbaijan in Belgium
  3. ^ Belgian embassy Sofia
  4. ^ Bulgarian embassy in Brussels (in Bulgarian and French only)
  5. ^ Belgian embassy in Bogota (in Spanish)
  6. ^ Colombian embassy in Brussels
  7. ^ Belgian embassy in Prague
  8. ^ Czech embassy in Brussels
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ Belgian embassy in Tallinn
  12. ^ Estonian embassy in Brussels
  13. ^ Embassy of Belgium in Helsinki
  14. ^ Embassy of Finland in Brussels
  15. ^ Belgian embassy in Athens
  16. ^ Greek embassy in Brussels
  17. ^ Belgian embassy in Budapest
  18. ^ Hungarian representation to the European Union in Brussels
  19. ^ Belgian embassy in Dublin
  20. ^ Belgian embassy in Tel Aviv
  21. ^ Israeli embassy in Brussels
  22. ^ Belgian embassy in Rome (in Dutch, French and Italian only)
  23. ^ Italian embassy in Brussels
  24. ^ Italian general consulate in Charleroi
  25. ^ Italian general consulate in Liège (in French and Italian only)
  26. ^ Italian consulate in Genk (in Dutch and Italian only)
  27. ^ Italian consulate in Mons (in French and Italian only)
  28. ^ Belgian embassy in Tokyo
  29. ^ Japanese embassy in Brussels
  30. ^ Website Japanese Embassy in Brussels - Japan-Belgium Relations. Retrieved 2010-03-23.
  31. ^ "België erkent Kosovo" (in Dutch). Algemeen Dagblad. 2008-02-25. 
  32. ^ "MFA Belgium". 2008-03-05. 
  33. ^ a b "Geschiedenis van Belgie en de Belgen in Mexico" (in Flemish). Belgium. Retrieved 2009-06-10. "Sommigen zijn matrozen, andere huursoldaten, nog anderen oefenen uiteenlopende beroepen uit: misionarissen, artisanen, handelaars…zonder rekening te houden met drie grote Vlaamse brouwers die in 1537 naar Mexico kwamen op aanvraag van de Vice-Koning, en die beschouwd worden als de pioniers van het brouwen van het Mexicaanse bier." 
  34. ^ "Herdenking van de 50e verjaardag van de Belgisch-Mexicaanse diplomatieke relaties op niveau van Ambassadeur" (in Flemish). Belgium. Retrieved 2009-06-09. 
  35. ^ Embassy of the Republic of Moldova in Belgium
  36. ^ Belgian Embassy in Bucharest (French)
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^
  41. ^
  42. ^ Belgian embassy in Bucharest
  43. ^ Romanian embassy in Brussels (in French and Romanian only)
  44. ^ Belgian embassy in Belgrade
  45. ^ Belgian embassy in Ljubljana
  46. ^ Embassy of Belgium in Turkey
  47. ^ Diplomatic missions of Belgium in Turkey
  48. ^ Diplomatic missions of Turkey in Belgium
  49. ^ Embassy of Turkey in Brussels
  50. ^ Consulate–General of Turkey in Antwerp
  51. ^ "The first session of Ukrainian-Belgian Intergovernmental Joint Commission on trade, economic and financial cooperation had taken place". Ministry of the Economy of Ukraine. October 31, 2009. 

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