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June 25, 2021
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“Belgian public and private sectors, ready to lend support to the strengthening of macro and micro economics in Romania”

Interview with H.E. Mr. Philippe BEKE, Ambassador of Belgium to Bucharest.

Ambassador Philippe Beke was accredited to Romania in March 2011. Having served as Consul General in Milano and later on 5 years as Ambassador in Bulgaria, he was also Chief of Cabinet and Belgian negotiator for the 5th EU Enlargement. Ambassador Philippe Beke has visited up till now, almost all Romanian provinces. He recently was in Iasi where he attended the opening of an exhibition dedicated to Emil Racovita, a Romanian scientist who in 1897-1898, participated in the first Antarctic expedition headed by Belgian scientist Adrien de Gerlache.

What’s up in Belgium at the moment?

Soon after its creation in 1830, the young Belgian nation gave priority to the creation of a modern and strong nation with priority to economic anchorage. Step by step, with its liberal constitution, Belgium achieved remarkable results in its economic expansion, even to such an extent that in the period before the First World War, Belgium was for quite some time the 4th economic power in the world. Today, with its 21st position as world’s largest economy, Belgium is close to the world’s top 20. Like many other countries in Europe, Belgium is obliged to struggle for maintaining its economic position. Competitiveness issues are therefore a priority in the political debate these days, seeking at the same time to safeguard in the best possible ways the quality of life for the citizens. There is currently still a concern and debate related to the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008. Belgium was one of the countries that suffered the most from the insolvency of Lehman Brothers. The government provided large amounts of loans and guarantees to the private banking sector. In order to avoid a new financing disaster, be it in private banking or in public financing, we should work on a common European policy. With the creation of a banking union at the last European Council we already made a step in that direction. At the level of state policies, further steps should be taken in order to establish a more coherent economic, fiscal and social policy.
What are the common interests Belgium and Romania share?
Belgium and Romania share common interest as members of the European Union and NATO. Through these international institutions, we share the same values and convictions. At the same time there are common interests in bilateral matters. In these three common points of interests, financing is playing an important role since all member states have less spending margins. For an equitable redistribution of wealth, solidarity must be put in place,  in pair with responsibility. Other principles in the forefront are non discrimination and transparency. In order to guarantee the maximum available quality of life, implementing these principles are today even more relevant than before. A common interest is therefore to prepare for the future. The EU 2020 strategy is one of the goals which we should have in mind in this respect. In bilateral matters, Belgian public sector as well as Belgian private sector stand ready to lend support to the strengthening of macro and micro economics in Romania. Belgian companies have already shown their know-how in intermodal transport and logistics, warehousing and industrial parks. The Belgian companies WDP and Alinso are an example of how mobility can be intelligently combined. The professional assistance of Eurosense company in areal photography is a good example of private support to public administrative capacity. In the public sector, Belgium is keen to set up public-public partnership in order to strengthen the administrative capacity. Particularly in public health, postal services, transport infrastructure and rural tourism common opportunities can be developed. Moreover, Belgian managers are candidates for managing positions in Romanian public sector and public enterprises with the ambition to increase competitiveness and strengthen public service.
How do you intend to work with Romania in the next six months, are there any particular areas of interest?
What is important for an organization, a country or an Embassy is continuity in action. Since Romania’s accession to the European Union in 2007, EU matters have topped the agenda of many EU Ambassadors, including mine. This concerns matters of general interest related to the agenda of the EU Council, but equally matters of regional importance such as the Danube strategy. Belgium as a non regional player understands the importance of developing the regional dimension in South-eastern Europe and therefore within a business environment aims to organise cross border seminars together with companies active in Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia. I strongly believe in the necessity of a regional commercial approach. In general I can say that Belgian companies in the Balkan region tend to strengthen their position as investors. Several of the already existing Belgian activities in Romania are expanding while new industrial and service activities are announced to confirm their establishment. In order to gain better cohesion, we have started last year a procedure to enrol the Belgium Romania Business Association (BEROBA). Although to my appreciation the time line for receiving the different authorisations and the ordinance 26/2000, regulating associations and foundations is much too long, we finally received the authorisation. BEROBA (www.beroba.com) is planning for 2013 a programme which should strengthen as well Belgian economic activities in Romania as Romanian economic activities in Belgium. This ambition fits into the expectations for further growth of bilateral trade relations after record figures in 2011. In our planning we aim to organise supporting events including a Belgian week in a Bucharest hotel, a Belgian food week in a supermarket and several missions in different parts of the country. The Belgian regional authorities will organise within their competences economic missions to Romania, attracting this way more business relations between both countries. We will also put in place several events at the occasion of 175 years of official relations between the Romanian lands and Belgium, highlighting the opening of the first Belgian Consulate in 1838 in Galati. I should also mention the scheduled activities of the 250 Belgian municipalities and ngo’s  that since 1988 have grown strong in local Romanian communities evolving throughout the years from charity to solidarity. In order to achieve better coherent results at local level, a decentralised forum with local actors, national authorities and private sector is to be organised in Belgium in 2013, in follow-up of the Arad decentralised forum of 2010. The Belgian motto “l’Union fait la Force” – “Eendracht maakt macht” in mind, we strive for further deepening and widening of the relations between Belgium and Romania.

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