article image
Flemish International Policy

Flemish International Policy

Filed under:

The Government of Flanders resolutely opts for a stronger Flanders, as an international partner as well. Flanders is not afraid to grow as a federated state and chooses its own, strong international policy. At the European as well as international levels, Flanders wants to play its part to the full. In order to realise this ambition, the Flemish international policy focuses on the following nine strategic objectives.


Global answers to global issues

In the international policy of the Government of Flanders, international law occupies a central position. The timely transposition of and compliance with relevant international treaties and the correct implementation of international restrictive measures in force is closely monitored for instance. The Government of Flanders often channels its international policy via the international institutions. The cooperation with multilateral organisations such as UNESCO, UNAIDS, the OECD, the Council of Europe, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the World Health Organization was refined and strengthened in the past year. In 2011, Flanders supported the recently opened UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) for the creation of the Antwerp International Training Centre on Corporate Opportunities. Respect for human right still occupies a central position in the Flemish foreign policy as well. That is why Flanders was closely involved in the preparation of the first universal periodic review (UPR) of Belgium in the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Flanders cooperates in a constructive manner with the levels of government involved for the optimal implementation of the commitments strengthening the human rights instruments, made within the framework of the UPR. The commemoration of ‘The Great War Centenary (2014-18)’ provides a particular opportunity to promote Flanders as a peaceful, open, tolerant and internationally-oriented federated state.

The European Union as global actor

For the Government of Flanders, a strong European Union, increasingly talking with one voice and including the interests of Europe and the Europeans in the dialogue with the world's major superpowers and trade blocs, remains the best answer to the many challenges that are presented to us by the global world. The Government of Flanders takes the EU 2020 objectives as a standard in determining its European position. Flanders has played an active and constructive part during the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

Subsidiarity and cultural diversity

The Government of Flanders advocates a European Union which is built from the bottom up and believes that the federated states can fulfil an important bridging function between the EU and its citizens. With other federated states, the Government of Flanders wants to keep fighting for greater recognition of federated states by the EU and for more direct involvement of them in European decision-making. Within the framework of the Cross-Border Cooperation, the Government of Flanders continues building on the cooperation with the Dutch, Luxembourg and French authorities, and the Benelux as well constitutes a platform for structural cooperation with regard to common challenges. The Government of Flanders will also keep bringing up the point of respect for cultural diversity. In this context, it makes the policy with regard to cultural diplomacy concrete and supports a multitude of projects promoting the visibility of Flanders abroad. With the Netherlands and via the Dutch Language Union, the Government of Flanders keeps supporting the use and position of the Dutch language in the world.

A sound licensing policy with regard to the trade in strategic goods.

With the new Act regarding the import, export and transit of defence-related products, other material specifically designed for military use, law enforcement material, civil firearms, parts and ammunition ('Arms Trade Act'), the Government of Flanders provides its own Flemish regulation with regard to the trade in arms and military material. In the light of the Arab Spring, it has put on hold the export of arms to certain countries in the Middle East where there are problems.

A stronger internationalisation of the Flemish economy

The international recovery of the financial crisis of 2008 and the impact on government debt can still be felt. Even in this difficult economic context, the Government of Flanders keeps devoting itself to increasing the Flemish share in the export market and attracting international investments. In 2010, the Flemish foreign trade rose by 17.2 % and the Flemish import rose by 16.9, a trend that continued in 2011. Special focus will be placed on the fast(est) growing economies, and on a number of future-oriented and innovative spearhead sectors, such as the internationalisation in the services sector. These policy objectives constitute the guiding principle for a large part of the foreign missions of the Flemish Minister responsible for Foreign Policy. In order to optimally defend the Flemish interests, we join forces with our partners in a number of areas.

A freer and fairer world trade

In order to increase the opportunities for Flemish enterprises on the international market, a number of remaining international trade barriers must be eliminated. The negotiations carried on by the EU within the framework of its Common Trade Policy are closely monitored, and in the current free trade negotiations, the Government of Flanders defends the Flemish interests. The European trade agreements are steered through the Flemish assent procedure as rapidly and efficiently as possible, so that they can come into effect promptly. With an eye to a fairer international competition, the Government of Flanders also strives for a broader application of fundamental labour and environment standards, among other things in the cooperation with the International Labour Organization.

A greater international accessibility of Flanders

If Flanders wants to keep playing its central location and logistics as economic trump cards, it must maintain its international approachability and accessibility. Increasing maritime access and the accessibility of economic centres by rail and road are of vital importance in this respect. That is why the Flemish Minister responsible for Foreign Policy pays special attention to accessibility and mobility in contacts with foreign governments. Evidently, the Dutch government also constitutes a crucial interlocutor in this context. The strong interconnection between the Netherlands and Flanders codetermines the economic success of the region. The creation of a good accessibility within the region is therefore essential for the competitive position of both countries and is an important strategy for economic growth. The port component also occupies an important position during ministerial missions.

Poverty reduction and social development

The cooperation with our partner countries becomes tangible by means of the strategy papers Malawi (2009-2013), Mozambique (2011-2015) and South Africa (2012-2016). Our cooperation with these countries is concentrated around the sectors of employment, health care and agriculture and food security. To make our international cooperation as efficient as possible remains a constant goal, among other things by reducing the administrative burden, improving the monitoring and evaluation and improving the internal coordination. Another priority for the Government of Flanders remains the contribution to the realisation of the Millennium Development Goals.

Combating climate change effects

According to the World Bank and the UNDP, global warming will undo al previous efforts that were made to reduce poverty if the policy remains unchanged. That is why the Government of Flanders is working to embed the adaptation to climate change in the development programmes that are financed within the framework of the cooperation with partner countries in the South. Flanders helps developing countries to deal with the effects of climate change in an appropriate manner and to realise emission reductions. To that end, additional resources are made available.