Belgium is a European country enjoying with Romania a special and longstanding relationship that goes beyond the institutional framework of diplomatic relations.
The relationship between the two countries is founded on numerous historic links dating back several centuries. Beginning with the 12th century, the first Flemish and Walloons settled in Transylvania, bringing a special contribution, notably in the economic field, to the development and modernization of the region. From a cultural point of view, this period connected us to the Western cultural environment – we all admire today the works of art of Flemish artists that we can find in the National Museum of Art and the Bruckenthal Museum in Sibiu. Early proofs of the connection between the two countries exist also in the academic field. In the 18th century, the prince and writer Dimitrie Cantemir dedicated one of his works to the Brussels-born Flemish scientist, Jean-Baptiste Van Helmont.
The creation of modern Romania bears the mark of another moment of reference of the profound ties linking our country to Belgium: on 26 June 1866, the Parliament of Romania adopted the first Constitution, elaborated after the model of the Belgian Constitution of 1831, one of the most progressive constitutive documents of that time. Although not finalized at the time, the fact that, in the context of laying the foundation of the modern Romanian state, the first attempt of finding a foreign monarch for the newly-created Romanian monarchy involved the Belgian Royal House is also worth mentioning. Towards the end of the 19th century, King Carol of Romania will employ a Belgian military architect, the general Henri Alexis Brialmont, for designing the fortifications surrounding Bucharest, the construction of which began in 1884.
In the diplomatic and political realm, our very recent history marked by Romania’s NATO and EU integration reconfirmed the stability of our relations with the Kingdom of Belgium, a constant supporter of Romania’s transatlantic and European objectives and currently a privileged partner at EU level. We are now sharing the same political values and joining efforts, in a deepened consultation and cooperation process, aimed at the strengthening of the European project and the identification of solutions to the challenges of the modern European society – re-launching the economy, adapting Europe to the global context, international security, fighting terrorism. These values and common interests are able to bring added value and offer consistency to our bilateral relations.
Over the last years, we constantly reiterated the intense character of our bilateral relations through numerous high-level visits: the economic mission of 2006 led by Prince Philippe, currently the King of Belgium, the state visit of King Albert II and Queen Paola in Romania in 2009, the visit to Bucharest in 2011 of Prime-minister Yves Leterme, the meeting of September 2012 between Prime-ministers Victor Ponta and Elio Di Rupo. The most recent high-level contact was the one with the Belgian minister of Foreign Affairs, Didier Reynders, in Brussels this year in May. In the chronology of bilateral relations between Romania and Belgium, the year 2013 will occupy a special place, marking 175 years from the establishment, in 1838, in Galati, of the first Belgian consulate, moved in 1842 to Bucharest and transformed in 1870 in diplomatic mission.
Another special feature of our bilateral relations, symbol of the solidarity between the citizens of our two countries, is the that support several non-governmental organizations of Belgium (Opération Villages Roumains/ Actie Dorpen Roemenië/ Partenariat Village Roumains) offered to Romanians before the regime change of 1989. Over the last 25 years, the solidarity actions materialized through numerous local projects, laying the ground for a decentralized cooperation partnership focused on the achievement of several European development objectives. The Forum of decentralized cooperation between Romania and Belgium that took place in Leuven in October 2013, demonstrated the advantages of this type of cooperation for the development of the Romanian society and highlighted the need of extending this process to larger administrative entities of both countries for a stronger impact of the projects developed in this framework.
The ‘vibe’ of a bilateral relation is directly connected to the level of economic exchanges. In 2011 and 2012, the figures were close to 2 billion euro, and the trend of 2013 is upward, a good indicator of the fact that this trait of the bilateral relation is a very dynamic one. In the last years, ever more Belgian investors have been interested of investing in Romania, especially in the logistics field, renewable energy and agriculture. If the political and diplomatic dialogue has already reached its full maturity guaranteeing a strong partnership between Romania and Belgium, the economic relation represents yet another potential that needs being explored in the future. Belgium represents for Romania a very useful source of inspiration regarding a modern and innovative model of economic development by means of the growth pillars that integrate wisely and efficiently economic actors, research centers and local authorities.
The bilateral relationship between Romania and the Kingdom of Belgium is a continuous source of inspiration: in the past, it has contributed to the emancipation and modernization of the Romanian society; at present, it represents a European model of reinventing the economic and technological competitiveness.