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The Interbellum period marked by cordial Belgian Romanian political bilateral relations

Belgians have not forgotten that King Carol I of Romania has sent end of July 1914 a message to King Albert I of Belgium to warn him on the upcoming invasion of German troops. This message allowed the Belgian army to prepare defense which ultimately, with the support of English, French and American troops held strong in Flanders Fields till the 11th of November 1918. When, following the death of King Carol I, King Ferdinand took over the crown on the 10th of  October 1914, Belgium and Romania followed from August 1916 onwards the course of the Great War as allies. In the early days after the war plans were designed to closer enhance bilateral relations. That is how in the spring of 1924, King Ferdinand and Queen Mary went for an official visit to Brussels where they were warmly welcomed by King Albert I and Queen Elisabeth. Belgian newspapers attached high importance to this visit with plenty of articles and pictures in the national press. The royal families of both countries kept close ties with a participation of Karel, count of  Flanders and brother of King Leopold III, in the celebrations in Sinaia on the occasion of Prince Mihai’s anniversary, on the 25th of October 1937. In 1938 Carol II included Belgium in the program of his diplomatic tour, but this visit was more of private matter. Nonetheless, the Romanian King enjoyed a warm reception in the capital of Belgium. This time the King’s purpose was to bring his country to a certain level of economic independence, which brought along political independence.
The times were difficult from the point of view of the international politics but also in economics with the aftermath of the economic crisis of 1929 leading to a downsizing of global trade relations. Extensive negotiations between Belgium and Romania to find a workable solution in the compensation issues on trade, were first crowned with success in September 1933. It lasted however till August 1937 before a sound bilateral agreement, amended in September 1938 and March 1939, was signed and ratified. Because of this agreement bilateral trade picked again and Belgian investment in Romanian, quite important in that period with activities in oil business, sugar refinery, cement, electricity, tramways, chemical products and metal works, were allowed again to manage their cash flows. The largest Belgian company at that time was Petrofina, in Romania operating as Concordia, active in oil, electricity, mining and metal works, employing some 11.000 staff in Romania. In Cluj the cooperation between the Cluj Municipality and the Belgian company Traction et électricité and the production and distribution of electricity was an example of investments with mutual benefits. Till the II World War this cooperation format as well as the other Belgian investments in Romania were very much anchored in the Romanian economy. The II World War after that the nationalization policy proclaimed in June 1948 obliged Belgian companies to leave the Romanian soil and only to come back after the changes in December 1989.
In the field of international politics, Belgium firmly defended its neutrality position, proclaiming the need to find solutions other than a new war. The visit of Romanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Grigore Gafencu on 21st and 22nd of April 1939 to Brussels, including a meeting with King Leopold III, must be seen in the same context. The faith of history broke apart these cordial relations with diplomatic ties turning to lower grounds. But in Brussels, Romanians remained heroes during the Second World War with numerous of its citizens, most of them Jewish, joining the armed resistance uprising against the occupier. After the war an adoption facility was provided to them leaving them the opportunity to start a new life in a new country which became their second home. The second volume on the bilateral relations which was published in the autumn of 2014 describes the intensity of the bilateral relations with next to political and economic historical references, also original research by experts in the field of science, education and culture.

For further information please mail to Charlotte.VanDenAbeele@diplobel.fed.be

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