2015 marks 135 years since Romania established official diplomatic relations with the Kingdom of Belgium, formalized by the two countries in 1880. This moment was a starting point, but it was built upon decades of already-existing official contacts which started in 1838, the year when, due to the intense naval trade between Antwerp and the Romanian Principalities, the first Belgian Consulate was opened in the port of Galati.
For four decades, the Romanian and Belgian states have gradually increased their interaction through trade, cultural exchanges or individual travellers. It is significant that the first Romanian Constitution, adopted in 1866, took as its model the Belgium Constitution of 1831, considered to be one of the most modern and enlightened fundamental laws in Europe in the 19th century. The creation of several Romanian modern public services through state institutions, such as the National Post or the National Bank, was inspired by the respective Belgian models, to the point that Romania has been complimented as Belgium of the East.
Since their formalization in 1880, our bilateral relations have unfolded continuously for almost a century and a half, as political, economic and cultural ties have multiplied and deepened in numerous ways.
Economic relations became particularly flourishing, with a wide range of Belgian investments in Romania in important areas like the oil business or sugar production. In the field of scientific exchanges, one should remember the extraordinary participation of Emil Racovita, a young Romanian scientist, in the Belgica expedition in the Antarctic region (1897-1899), led by the Belgian officer Adrien de Gerlache, an expedition that has marked research in the field ever since. Several decades later, Romanian scientist Radu Balescu makes a lifetime contribution to Belgian research in physics, along with an academic career at the Free University in Brussels, beginning with the 1950’s.
After the political changes in 1989, Belgium was a steadfast partner of Romania and a supporter of our European and transatlantic integration. The relationship between Romania and Belgium entered a new era, fostered by the incredible solidarity of Belgium citizens towards local communities in Romania, in early ‘90s (Operation Villages Roumains/Actie Dorpen Roemenie) and Romania’s own commitment to become a democratic, modern and developed society.
The past years have been marked by an unprecedented intensification of bilateral relations, particularly in the context of Romania’s accession to the European Union. The visit of His Majesty King Albert II of Belgians in Romania, in 2009, the meeting between the two prime ministers in 2012, the meetings of foreign affairs ministers in 2013 and 2014 are only a few key moments of the more recent high-level exchanges. The European agenda has actually become a significant part of our political dialogue, underpinned by the shared, fundamental commitment of both our countries to the success of the EU project.
Economic cooperation remains a cornerstone of Romania – Belgium relations, as highlighted by the successive increases of the bilateral trade exchanges, reaching over 2 billion euros in 2013 and 2014, despite a difficult economic context in Europe. Other key figures of the bilateral trade relation confirm this positive trend, Belgium being the 9th foreign investor in Romania. The entrepreneurship and excellent business models of Belgian investors, combined with the great economic potential of Romania, draw a very encouraging prospect for the future.
After Romania’s accession to the EU, the relation between Romania and Belgium grew ever stronger by the increasing presence of Romanians in Belgium. Today, over 70.000 Romanians took the decision to fulfil their life and their career in Belgium, a country that offers them many opportunities, a highly professional environment and a welcoming society. Therefore, along with hundreds of Romanian civil servants working for the EU institutions, numerous medical doctors, teachers, architects, lawyers, engineers, workers and students have equally decided to establish themselves in Belgium. Their contribution to building Belgium’s future is as valuable as the contribution of Belgian investors to Romania’s economic development. This reality lies at the heart of the European project, a project that is fundamental for both Romania and Belgium and is envisaged, most of the times, in convergent ways in Bucharest and in Brussels.