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Belgium

(last updated: April 3rd, 2019)
 

Belgium first recognised the independence of Estonia on 26 January 1921, and 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, defence as well as economy. Estonia considers Belgium a reliable partner in the European Union and NATO. Estonia and Belgium are also enjoying excellent cooperation in international organisations.
 

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 2018 Lembit Uibo
2018-           Toomas Tirs

On 11 September 2018 the current Estonian Ambassador to Belgium Toomas Tirs 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
Novmber 2018 Minister for Defence Jüri Luik met the Belgian Minister for Defence Sander Loones in the margins of the meeting of NATO Ministers for Defence 
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
April 2019 King Philippe on working visit
February 2019 Prime Minister Charles Michel
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);
  • Cooperation 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 Republic of Estonia and the Benelux countries on the readmission of persons staying in the country illegally (came into force 01/02/2005)
  • 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);

The cooperation programme for the implementation of the agreement between the Flemish and the Estonian governments was signed in November 2018 and is valid through 2019-2022. For the implementation of the Cooperation Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Estonia and the Region of Walloon and Belgium's French-speaking Community, a cooperation programme was signed in 2015 for the period 2015-2018.

Defence Co-operation


Defence cooperation between Estonia and Belgium has significantly increased in recent years.

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 to the Šiuliai air force base in Lithuania.

On 1 January 2017 Belgium joined the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence in Tallinn.
Belgium is participating in the NATO Enhanced Forward Presence (EFP). In January 2019, a Belgian contingent arrived in Estonia to join the EFP battle group of the United Kingdom, based in Tapa, for four months.

The defence cooperation 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 trained officers in the Belgian naval mine warfare school EGUERMIN, which is a NATO Centre of Excellence in that field. Belgian naval vessels participate in Estonia-led mines countermeasures operations (OPEN SPIRIT) on a regular basis.
Belgium has actively participated in Estonian military exercises and competitions. Cooperation in the field of air defence is also developing.

Economic Relations

 

Trade

Belgium continues to rank 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 30 September 2018, Belgian direct investments in Estonia totalled €109 million, accounting for 0.5% of all foreign direct investments in Estonia (annual change +17%). These investments have mostly been allocated into wholesale and retail trade, vocational, scientific and technology-related activities, real estate, and the transport and storage sectors.

Estonian direct investments to Belgium have fallen to €3.3 million. These have gone to various sectors: mining industry, wholesale and retail trade, information and communication, financial and insurance activities, real estate, and vocational, scientific and technical activities. 
 

Tourism

In recent years, the number of Belgian tourists visiting Estonia has increased. According to data from the Bank of Estonia, 15 500 multi-day visits were made in 2016 and 24 000 in 2017.

The number of hosted tourists grew as well, from 8 000 Belgian tourists in 2013 to over 15 000 in 2017. In addition to Tallinn, the counties of Tartumaa, Pärnumaa and Lääne-Virumaa were popular among visitors.

Overall, Estonian residents visited Belgium more than twice as many times, totalling 50 200 visits in 2016 and 60 200 in 2017.

 

Cultural Relations

 

Cultural relations between Estonia and Belgium are extremely close, encouraged by cooperation agreements and programmes with Flanders and the French-speaking Walloon community of Belgium. Organising Estonian events in Belgium has also been greatly benefited from the posting of a Counsellor for Cultural Affairs at the Estonian Representation in Brussels. At the same time, many events are held as a result of direct contacts between cultural institutions (museums, theatres, galleries, concert halls, musicians etc.). Recent years have seen the organising of several art exhibitions, Estonian musicians have repeatedly performed in Belgium either at stand-alone concerts or as part of various events, and Estonian choirs, groups and theatres have toured Belgium. The Estonian Society in Belgium is also organising events that promote Estonian culture. Estonia is an active member of the Brussels cluster of EUNIC (European Union National Institutes for Culture), and participates in numerous cooperation projects in various fields, such as literature, cinema, design, comic books etc.

The cultural programme of the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the European Union in the second half of 2017 and the celebration of the centenary of the Republic of Estonia in 2018 constituted the greatest Estonian cultural festival in Belgium. More than 30 Estonian cultural projects in total were brought to Belgian audiences. Main cooperation partners were the BOZAR and Flagey cultural centres, and during the Arvo Pärt festival in January 2018 a cooperation agreement between Flagey and the Arvo Pärt Centre was signed. Additionally, ongoing cooperation in the field of music also includes cooperation with the Belgian choir Aquarius that continues to perform works by Estonian composers, notably Pärt, but also Veljo Tormis. Other important partners include the Watou Festival, Walloon festivals, the Flanders Symphony Orchestra, The Music Village jazz club and others. We also cooperate in the field of folk music, for example, the Estonian group Trad.Attack! gave a concert in Belsele in 2018. This venue in Flanders has often hosted concerts of Estonian folk music. There is also a long-standing exchange programme between the Estonian ETNO and the Flanders Ethno camps.

Estonian films have been showcased in Belgium on several occasions. Cooperation and screenings of Estonian films at various festivals in Brussels (the Anima festival, the Millenium documentary film festival) continue as well as at Filem’On, the international film festival for young audiences.

Cooperation in the field of art residencies has also increased. In 2018, Estonian artists participated for the first time in the residency of the WIELS Contemporary Art Centre in Brussels, one of the most renowned residencies in the art world. In 2018, Paul Kuimet and Jaanus Samma were residents in the centre, and in 2019, Anna Škodenko and Tõnis Saadoja take part in the programme. Cooperation also continues with the HISK (Higher Institute of Fine Arts Ghent) residency programme in Ghent that has previously hosted Marge Monko and the Latvian-born Estonian artist Diana Tamane. From 2018 to 2019, visual artist and filmmaker Ingel Vaikla is a HISK resident. In 2016, Estonian photographer Paul Kuimet also took part in the residency of the Contretype gallery in Brussels.

Highlights in literature include October 2015, when the 4th Richelieu Francophonie Literary Prize was awarded to Katrina Kalda’s novel The Arithmetic of Gods. There is also a successful long-standing exchange of writers and translators in the Passa Porta residency in Brussels and the Käsmu creative retreat respectively. 

Belgian cultural events are also held in Estonia. Noteworthy examples include the inclusion of contemporary dance of Flanders in Estonian festivals of performance arts (most recently at the SAAL Biennale in 2017), and several large-scale exhibitions (recent examples include an exhibition of surrealist photographs in the Kumu Art Museum in cooperation with the Charleroi Photo Museum in July-November 2016, and the exhibition Paul Delvaux. A Waking Dreamer in cooperation with Musée d'Ixelles (25/11/16-12/03/17)). The production Spring Awakening by the French-born Belgian theatre producer Armel Roussel was shown as part of the curatorial programme of the Vaba Lava venue in Tallinn and at the Belgian National Theatre in Brussels.
 

Estonians in Belgium

 

The website of the Embassy of Estonia in Brussels covers Estonians in Belgium

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