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Belgium

(last updated: July 25th, 2018)
 

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 – 2010 Karin Jaani
2010 – 2011 Mariin Ratnik
2012 – 2017 Gert Antsu
2017 – Lembit Uibo

On May 16, 2017 the current Estonian Ambassador to Belgium Lembit Uibo presented his credentials to King Philippe.

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 (residing in Helsinki)
2000 – 2002 Louis Mouraux
2003 – 2004 Johan van Dessel
2004 – 2008 Pierre Dubuisson (residing in Tallinn)
2008 – 2012 Nicolaas Buyck
2012 - 2015 Marc Thunus
2015 - 2017 Philippe Beke (residing in Helsinki)

2017 - Carl Peeters

The current Belgian Ambassador to Estonia Carl Peeters presented his credentials to President Kersti Kaljulaid on December 12, 2017. He resides in Helsinki. The Belgian Embassy in Estonia was open for 10 years: from February 7th, 2005 to February 2nd, 2015. 

Belgium has an honorary consul, Erik Sakkov, in Estonia since 2017.

Visits

To Belgium
June 2018 Minister of Defence Jüri Luik met the Belgian Minister of Defence Steven Vandeput
May 2018 Minister of Foreign Affairs Sven Mikser met the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs Didier Reynders
November 2017 Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid met the Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel and King Philippe
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 2006 Prime Minister Andrus Ansip
January 2005 Minister of Foreign Affairs Kristiina Ojuland met the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs Karel De Gucht
To Estonia
December 2017 Minister of Defence Steven Vandeput and General Marc Compernol
September 2017 Prime Minister Charles Michel 
May 2017 Defence Policy Director Pascal Heyman at the flag-raising ceremony of the K5 (NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence)
May 2016 Minister-President of Flanders Geert Bourgeois
April 2016 Minister of Defence Steven Vandeput
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
July 2007 Secretary of State for Administrative simplification Vincent van Quickenborn
October 2005 Flemish minister for foreign trade, foreign and cultural relations, tourism and e-government Geert Bourgeois
February 2005 Secretary of State 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 01.12.1994);
  • Co-operation Agreement Between the Government of the Republic of Estonia and the Government of Flanders (came into force 29.01.1997);
  • Agreement between the Republic of Estonia and Belgo-Luxembourg Economic Union on the Reciprocal Promotion and Protection of Investments (came into force 23.09.1999);
  • 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 (came into force 01.06.2003);
  • 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 07.08.2003);
  • 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, the renewed cooperation agreement will be valid for the 2019-2022 period. 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.

Defence Co-operation


Belgium was the first NATO country to participate in the Baltic air-policing mission in 2004. Belgium is one of the countries that have participated the most in safeguarding the Baltic airspace, having sent their forces to missions in Ämari (in the first half of 2016 and in the second half of 2017) as well as in Šiuliai in Lithuania. 

On January 1st, 2017 Belgium joined the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (K5) in Tallinn.

The defence co-operation between Estonia and Belgium has been focused on the navy (the BALTRON project) and on mines countermeasures. 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 has actively participated in Estonian military exercises and competitions. The cooperation in the field of air defence is also developing.

Economic Relations

 

Trade

Belgium is continuously among the top 20 trading partners of Estonia. In 2017 trade with Belgium grew by 3% compared to the year before, making it Estonia´s 16th trading partner with a 1,8% share of the foreign trade turnover. Export fell by 1% and import increased by 7%. Belgium was 15th among Estonia´s export partners and 14th among the country´s import partners.

Estonian-Belgian trade 2012-2017 (in millions of EUR)

Year Export Share of total exports Import Share of total imports
2012 230.9 1.8% 279.8 2.0%
2013 275.2 2.2% 263.2 1.9%
2014 280.1 2.3% 262.9 1.9%
2015 166.4 1.4% 245.8 1.9%
2016 209.2 1.8% 268.6 2.0%
2017 206.5 1.6% 287.6 2.0%

All economic figures originate from the Statistical Office of Estonia.

The main articles of export from Estonia to Belgium were glass and glass products, mineral products and transportation vehicles.

The main articles of import from Belgium were machinery and equipment, metals and metal products and chemical products.

Investments

Belgian direct investments to Estonia have grown in the last few years. As of 31 March 2018, Belgian direct investments in Estonia totaled 118.6 million euros, accounting for 0.6% of all foreign direct investments in Estonia, 11.6 million more than the previous year. These investments have mostly been allocated into professional, research and technical activities, real estate and information and communication. 

Estonian direct investments to Belgium have reached 26.3 million euros, making up 0.4% of all Estonian foreign investments. These have gone to multiple sectors: mining industry, manufacturing industry, electricity supply, wholesale and retail trade, information and communication, real estate and vocational, scientific and technical activities.  

Tourism

During the last two years, the number of Belgian tourists visiting Estonia has increased: from 15.5 thousand multi-day visits in 2016 to 22.1 thousand in 2017 (according to the data from the Estonian Bank).

The number of hosted tourists grew as well, from 8 thousand in 2013 to over 15 thousand in 2017. In addition to Tallinn, the regions of Tartumaa, Pärnumaa and Lääne-Virumaa were popular among visitors.

Estonian residents visited Belgium in total more than twice as many times, totaling 50.2 thousand visits in 2016 and 60.2 thousand in 2017.

Co-operation in the field of Research and Technology

 

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. 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. Water objects in Wallonia were last visited in 2013, followed by a visit from the Wallon specialists to Estonia in the fall of the same year. Common areas of interests have included environmental education, fish access routes, small scale hydropower, and in 2013 above all the restoration of river biodiversity. Following the cooperation agreement, the Ministry of Education and Research supports the drafting of an Estonian-french dictionary and Wallonia-Brussels grants Estonia scholarships meant for French language courses. Cooperation takes place outside of bilateral programs as well, including in many EU supported frameworks.

Cultural Relations

 

The cultural relations between Estonia and Belgium are numerous, facilitated by the abovementioned co-operation agreements with Flanders and Wallonia as well as the Francophone community. The work of the Estonian cultural attaché in Brussels is invaluable to the Estonian cultural scene in Belgium. 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 at concerts; Estonian choirs, ensembles and theatres have toured in Belgium. The cultural programme of the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the European Union during the second half of 2017 was the biggest Estonian cultural festival in Belgium thus far. In total, 25 cultural projects took place in the course of 6 months: 5 exhibitions, 2 installations, 12 concerts, Estonian film screenings, comic strips, poetry, fashion and design. As part of the Estonian Presidency of the EU and the celebration of the Centenary of the Republic of Estonia (EV´100), a festival dedicated to Arvo Pärt and B-Est Jazz Festival took place at Flagey in January 2018.

In the field of music, many noteworthy events have taken place, including 1000 Voices for Peace – a project from 2014 combining international choirs from 18 countries, including Voces Musicales from Estonia. The Estonian conductor Andres Mustonen led the gala concert at the Koekelberg basilica. In 2015, the world premiere of Le poids des vies non vécues by Errki-Sven Tüür, a masterpiece dedicated to the centenary of World War I, was performed by the National Orchestra of Belgium, conducted by Arvo Volmer at the Brussels Cultural Centre Bozar. The Flemish choir Aquarius performed Arvo Pärt´s music at multiple concerts in September 2015 to celebrate his 80th birthday and present their CD “Magnificent Magnificat” dedicated to the Estonian composer´s work. In November 2014, Paavo Järvi conducted a concert by the Paris Orchestra at Bozar, just a day after the tragic terrorist attacks in Paris. In May 2018, Vox Clamantis and the Saint Michael Boy Choir (Püha Miikaeli Poistekoor) performed at the international Gregorian festival in Watou and the Belgian choir Novacento performed the music of Arvo Pärt, Veljo Tormis, Evelin Seppar and Pärt Uusberg in Chent in a concert titled Tintinnabuli – music from a cold land with a warm heart.

Estonian cinema is also 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. The same year, the Millenium International Documentary Film Festival in Brussels was opened with the screening of film Ash & Money by Tiit Ojasoo and Ene-Liis Semper. In June 2015, the Oscar-nominated film Tangerines was shown at the European Parliament together with the Georgian embassy. Estonian theatre has reached the Brussels audience as well. For instance, in May 2015 there was a guest performance of the ballet Casanova by the Estonian Theatre Vanemuine in Brussels and in June 2018 the play The Werefolf by the Estonian theatre R.A.A.A.M. was brought to the stage in the Molière theatre in Brussels (staged by the Yakut director Sergei Potapov).

Many Estonian exhibitions have been held in Belgium. 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. In summer 2018, the Bozar Cultural Centre in Brussels showcases an exhibition titled Somewhere in Europe. Contemporary Art Scenes in Europe (20.06.-19.08.2018), where Estonia is represented by artists Kris Lemsalu, Aili Vint, Raul Keller and Kiwa and curator Maria Arusoo. When it comes to literature, it is remarkable that in October 2015 the Estonian writer Katrina Kalda was awarded the Richelieu Literary Prize for her novel The Arithmetic of Gods (Arithmétique des Dieux) by Princess Léa of Belgium.

Belgian culture is brought to Estonia as well. Flemish contemporary dance groups have participated at Estonian festivals of the performing arts (most recently at the SAAL Biennaal 2017) and an exhibition titled Paul Delvaux. A Waking Dreamer was held at KUMU in cooperation with Musée d´Ixelles from November 2016 to March 2017.

 

Estonians in Belgium

 

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