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Belgium and Romania's diplomatic relationship goes back to 1838
In the history of diplomatic relations that Bucharest has, the year 1838 is the one when connections were made with Belgium, the country that set up its first consulate in this country in the city of Galati, in the east. Four years later it ws moved to Bucharest, and in 1870 it was turned into a diplomatic agency. In 1880, after Romania's independence was recognized, the first diplomatic representative, at the legation level, is set up in Brussels. In 1963, it was elevated to embassy level. Diplomatic relations had been suspended between 1941 and 1946. Much later, in 1994, a joint political declaration by Romania and the Kingdom of Belgium was signed, after that, a cooperation accord was signed between the government of Romania and Flanders, which was aimed mostly at renewable energy, farming, transportation and public works, social protection and assistance, innovation, labor force, and social integration. A similar accord was signed for cooperation between Romania and Wallonia, as well as the government of the French community in Belgium. Romanian – Belgian relations are very good at the political and diplomatic level, with a close economic and trade cooperation, as well as collaboration at the European and international level. Statistics show that, over the last decade, there was a constant increase in trade, as well as in the number of Belgian companies investing in Romania.
Some of these aspects were discussed in an interview given to RRI by Elio di Rupo, former Belgian PM, who is now president-minister in the Wallonian government, who visited in late February Romania, which is a member country in the World Organization of Francophony:
“I am in the capital of Romania for several reasons. First of all, the relations we have with Romanians in Belgium. According to the Embassy of Romania, almost 200,000 Romanians are in Belgium, of whom more than half are in Brussels. Another reason is Romania's strategic position in terms of Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova, in this abominable war started by Russia. Economically, Romania has a growth of 5%, is almost energy independent, which attracts companies. We already have 330 Belgian companies that work in Romania, and 700 more companies in Wallonia are interested in what happens in Romania.”
The approximately 200,000 Romanians in Belgium are the second most important minority in the country, and its economic impact is major. Generally, we are talking about workers in almost all sectors of the economy, such as construction, but also nurses and physicians. The Belgian official says that it is a very well integrated population, recalling the number of Belgian companies in Romania. However, Elio el Rupo believes that relations could be enhanced. As he put it, the two need to create economic value through trade, and an exchange of production. He also spoke about the fact that Romania became part of the EU in 2007, but it is not yet a part of the Schengen space:
“That is because we need to have unanimity. So far, The Netherlands has been reticent. I recall that, 10 years ago, when I was in the European Council, The Netherlands blamed Romania for being too permissive with foreigners. But the president of Romania explained that Rotterdam was an import hub for drugs going all over Europe. The Netherlands has to be convinced that we have to move forward. However, Austria is still not of the same opinion. It seems that the big problem that the EU has is that, when it opened up towards Eastern European countries, this unanimity mechanism stayed. The effects can still be seen now, in terms of Romania's acceptance into the Schengen space. It is enough for one country to be opposed for the process to be blocked. But the truth is that we have to move forward.”
And because Russia's war in Ukraine affects all of Europe, Elio di Rupo also took up the topic, which, for more than a year, has been gripping headlines all over. He recalled that Belgium had a similar reaction as the other countries, hoping for a diplomatic solution to be found early in the conflict. Unfortunately, one year later, there is no other solution except defense against Russia, says the official:
“Because if Russia prevailed in Ukraine, democracies and freedom would be in grave danger, because we don't know where Putin would stop. Therefore, the evolution of the situation in Ukraine will be long and difficult. We won't be finding a solution too soon. China intervened, but, as it stands today, the advance of Russian troops in Ukraine cannot give us hope for an immediate cease fire and negotiations. So we have no other solution than the present one: we must arm Ukraine. This is what NATO members and European countries are doing, without them Ukraine could not hold on. What will be the conclusion of this conflict? No one knows.”
Elio di Rupo added that Ukraine must be helped with everything we have, because the battle is not only on Ukrainian soil, which is where the physical battle is, it is all over Western Europe in terms of human, political, social, and economic difficulties.
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