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.
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.
Estonian Ambassadors to Belgium:
1921 – 1932 Karl Robert Pusta (at first chargé d'affaires a.i., 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 – 2017 Gert Antsu
On May 16, 2017 present Estonian Ambassador to Belgium Lembit Uibo presented his credentials to King Albert II. Estonia has two honorary consuls in Belgium: Antoine (Tony) Vuylsteke in Flanders and Alain van Bellingen in the Walloon region.
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
Present Belgian Ambassador to Estonia Philippe Beke presented his credentials to President Toomas Hendrik Ilves on November 17, 2015. He resides in Helsinki as Belgium closed its Embassy in Tallinn in the beginning of 2015. Belgian Embassy in Tallinn was open during 7.05 2005 - 28.02.2015.
|October 2013||President of Riigikogu Ene Ergma met 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 2007||President Toomas Hendrik Ilves at the anniversary event for the Treaty of Rome|
|December 2006||President Toomas Hendrik Ilves|
|May 2016||Minister-President of Flanders Geert Bourgeois|
|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 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|
- 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);
- 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 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.
Belgium has on different occasions expressed its 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 2007-2016 (in millions of EUR)
All economic figures originate from the Statistical Office of Estonia
When in 2013 trade with Belgium grew by 19% compared to the year before and in 2014 the turnover stayed the same as in 2013, then in 2015 trade turnover decreased by 24% - from 542.7 million euros in 2014 to 414 million euros in 2015. It occurred due to a major decline of exports (40.5%), which was mainly influenced by the decline of mineral exports (104.9 million euros). Overall, Belgium made up 1.7% of Estonian foreign trade turnover in 2015, which made Belgium Estonia's 16th trading partner.
In 2015 the main articles of export from Estonia to Belgium were mineral products (20.1%), transportation vehicles (18%), glass and glass products (17.5%), machinery and equipment (13.1%), other industrial products (6.4%), wood and products made from wood (5.7%).
In 2015 the main articles of import from Belgium were machinery and equipment (21.6%), metals and metal products (13.8%), chemical products (12.4%), plastics and products of plastic (10%), and vehicles and other transport equipment (9.7%).
As of 31 December 2015 Belgian direct investments in Estonia totalled 83.4 million euros, which makes up 0.5% of all foreign direct investments made in Estonia. These investments have mostly been allocated into real estate (28%), professional, research, and technical activities (26%), wholesale and retail trade (23%), and transport and storage sector (22%).
Estonian direct investments in Belgium totalled 2.5 million euros in the end 2015.
As of April 2016 there have been registered areound 90 companies that are partily or entirely based on Belgian capital. In March 2012 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.
22 320 Belgian origin tourists visited Estonia in 2015, which was ca 400 tourists less compared to the numbers of 2014. However, the amount of hosted Belgian tourists increased - Estonia hosted 8247 Belgian toruists in 2014, but in 2015 the number increased by 153.
Belgium was visited by 63 500 Estonians in 2015, which was around 8000 Estonians more compared to the statistics for 2014 (55 537).
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.
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 grants and exchanged students in the framework of summer courses and Flanders has provided Estonian students with grants for studies in the College of Europe in Warsaw. The Francophone community has over the course of the years sent French language lectors to Estonia and offered grants for the language studies. Close co-operation has been established between the Estonian University of Life Sciences and the Walloon region.
The cultural relations between Estonia and Belgium are numerous, 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. 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 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, the opening of Millenium International Documentary Film Festival in Brussels with the screening of film Ash & Money b Tiit Ojasoo and Ene-Liis Semper, the screening of the film Tangerines together with the Georgian embassy, and a voluminous Estonian design review exhibition.
In 2014, 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, pianist Kristjan Randalu performed with Dhafer Youssef Quartet in Flagery.
Estonian cinematography is 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.
Furthermore, 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.
Estonians in Belgium
A great number of Estonians fled to 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 Estonians moving to Belgium started with Estonia’s accession to the European Union. In recent years, a number of Estonians have moved to Belgium to work and live. 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 schoolchildren and toddlers, and a children’s reading room. The Belgian Estonians have their own home page at:www.eestimaja.be. There is also a mailing list, which anyone can join by writing to the address firstname.lastname@example.org
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