Relations between Latvia and Belgium

15.12.2014. 13:01

The Republic of Latvia and the Kingdom of Belgium enjoy good relations. The interest to develop bilateral co-operation is fostered by a common future and opportunities for co-operation within the EU and NATO, Belgium being a founding member of both organisations.

         

History of diplomatic relations

Belgium recognised the State of Latvia on 26 January 1921. In the interwar period, commencing in 1924, Latvia was represented in Brussels by a Consul General. In 1927, under the guidance of Ambassador Mr Janis Lazdins, the Consulate General was reorganized into the Embassy of Latvia. From 1937 to 1940, Dr Mikelis Valters was the Ambassador of Latvia to Belgium. Belgium was among the countries that did not recognise the legality of the incorporation of Latvia into the Soviet Union. Diplomatic relations between the two countries were restored on 5 September 1991. The Latvian Embassy in Belgium was opened in 1994. Since 5 April 2006, the Latvian Ambassador to Belgium is Raimonds Jansons. Latvia is also represented in Belgium by three Honorary Consuls: Niels Dahlmann, Walter van Mechelen and Daniel Vanhoff.

Until October 2004, the Ambassador of Belgium accredited to Latvia resided in Vilnius. On 5 October 2004, Christian Verdonck was accredited as the first Ambassador of Belgium, residing in Latvia. The premises of the Embassy of Belgium in Riga are also home of the Walloon Economic Representation (AVEX), headed by André Villers.

Accreditations:

Ambassadors of the Republic of Latvia:

  • Raimonds Jansons (residing in Brussels, Belgium) since 5 April 2006;
  • Aivars Groza (residing in Brussels, Belgium), 28 September 2000 – 13 October 2005;
  • Imants Liegis (residing in Brussels, Belgium) 22 April 1997–2 January 2000;
  • Juris Kanels (residing in Brussels, Belgium) 24 August 1993 – 22 April 1997.

Ambassadors of the Kingdom of Belgium:

  • Leopold Merckx (residing in Riga, Latvia). Accredited on 14 October 2008;
  • Christian Verdonck (residing in Riga, Latvia). Accredited on 5 October 2004;
  • Marie-Louise Vanherk (residing in Vilnius, Lithuania). Accredited on 21 January 2003;
  • Louis Engelen (residing in Vilnius, Lithuania). Accredited on 4 April 2000;
  • Baron Alain Guillaume (residing in Brussels, Belgium). Accredited on 3 March 1998
  • Francis Ronse (residing in Brussels, Belgium). Accredited on 11 October 1994;
  • A. Kamiel Criel (residing in Stockholm, Sweden). Accredited on 28 September 1992.

    

Economic co-operation

Decrease in exports compared to 2008 was around 20% and decline of import compared to 2008 was around 50%. Import decline due to the crisis was more pronounced, and it led to the improvement of trade balance with Belgium. However, it still remained negative.

Export from Latvia to Belgium comprised 1,38% of a total export from Latvia, but import to Latvia from Belgium comprised 1,46% of total import to Latvia in 2009.

Latvian exports to Belgium consist mostly of wood and wood products. Main import commodities from Belgium are plastics and their products, products of chemical and allied industries, especially medicines, as well as machinery, mechanical appliances and electrical equipment.

Main export commodities to Belgium in 2009 by type of commodity (M EUR)

Type of commodity

M EUR

% of total export

Total

66,13

100%

Wood and its products

20,09

30,38%

Base metals and articles of base metals

14,02

21,20%

Vegetable produce

7,92

11,98%

Vehicles

5,49

8,30%

Machinery and mechanical appliances, electrical equipment

5,45

8,24%

Mineral products

3,96

5.99%

Main import commodities from Belgium in 2009 by type of commodity (M EUR)

Type of commodity

M EUR

% of total import

Total

86,70

100%

Plastics and their products, rubber and rubber products

17,37

20,03%

Products of chemical and allied industries

13,94

16,08%

Machinery and mechanical appliances, electrical equipment

12,38

14,28%

Vegetable produce

6,19

7,14%

Foodstuffs

5,90

6,80%

Textile materials and textile articles

4,89

5,64%

Dynamics of trade between Latvia and Belgium from 2005 to 2009 (M EUR)

Year

Export

Import

2005

26,86

105,73

2006

60,8

144,85

2007

55,85

189,8

2008

55,32

173,61

2009

66,13

86,7

Belgian investments in Latvia

As of 25 May 2010, there were 28,2 million Latvian lats of Belgian direct investments registered in Latvia (source: Bank of Latvia). 110 Belgian – Latvian joint ventures have been listed with the Register of Enterprises of the Republic of Latvia. Belgian investments in the equity capital of Latvian companies amounted to 3,75 million Latvian lats (source: Lursoft) and were directed mainly towards the freight loading and warehousing sectors.

The largest Belgian investor is Nord Natie N.v. which has invested in the construction of the container terminal at the Ventspils port and operates in areas of cargo loading, storage and warehouse management.

      

Co-operation in defence sector

Co-operation between Latvia and Belgium in the defence area continues to develop. Belgium was the first country to provide patrolling of the Baltic air space by four F-16 fighter aircraft once the Baltic states were included in NATO.

A successful long-term co-operation has developed between the Naval Forces of Latvia and Belgium. Representatives of the Belgian Naval Force participate regularly in various training exercises in the Baltic region. Co-operation has also started between divers' schools of the two countries.

     

Co-operation in transport sector

Co-operation in international shipments by road transport between Latvia and Belgium is ongoing under the agreement on international shipments by road transport signed in Athens on 11 June 1992 by the Republic of Estonia, the Republic of Lithuania, the Kingdom of Belgium, the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Under this agreement a hexalateral meeting is held annually in one of the partner countries to discuss current issues in the area of international shipments by road transport.

The Latvian National Railway technical inspectorate has developed close co-operation with related institutions in Belgium, discussing issues of the railway sector within ILGGRI (International Group of Government Railway Inspectorates).

  

Co-operation in education and science

Co- operation with Belgium in professional education is carried out primarily within frames of the Leonardo da Vinci program. For example, Ērgļu vocational high school cooperates with Belgium in the frame of a project ”Creation of European training methodologies for ecological construction”. The goals of this project are to develop subsector of ecological building in the construction field, to improve skills of the building specialists and to create an information network amongst relevant education and research centres in Europe.

Active cooperation in higher education field among Latvian Higher education institutions and Belgian Universities takes place through bilateral agreements, as well as various educational programs and projects.

      

Co-operation in regional development and local government affairs

Active co-operation with Belgium is ongoing under the Baltic Sea region INTERREG IIIC programme. The programme includes a number of projects fostering harmonised and balanced development of the territory, taking into account regional, economic and social interaction.

      

Co-operation with regions

Latvia is forging close relations not only with the federal structures of Belgium, but also with individual regions.

Co-operation between Latvia and Flanders, which has developed since the middle of nineties and is currently being implemented under the Latvia – Flanders co-operation programme for 2009 – 2011 signed between Latvia and Flanders on 28 May 2008, has been particularly successful. The co-operation covers various areas - economy, transport, environmental protection, culture, education, local governments and many others. Experts of Latvian ports regularly enjoy scholarships offered by the Government of Flanders for seminars organised by the Antwerp/Flanders Port Training Centre.

In 2008 a regional representative for Baltic states with residence in Warsaw has been appointed by the government of Flanders.

Active co-operation has also been commenced with Wallonia. On 5 november 2007, a co-operation programme was signed for the year 2008 - 2010 between the Belgian Francophone community, the Wallonia region and the government of Latvia. The main focus areas are culture, environmental protection, science and co-operation among universities, and, in particular, French language studies. Wallonia region has provided financial assistance for publishing a book „1940-1991: Occupation Museum of Latvia” in French in 2007.

        

Most significant visits:

Visits by Latvian officials to Belgium:

12-14 October 2009 Visit of Chairman of the Parliament of Latvia Mr Gundars Daudze to Belgium: participation at the conference of the European Parliament ”Europe 70 years after the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact” and meeting with the Chairman of the Chamber of Representatives of Belgium Patrick Dewael

28-29 November 2007

Working visit to Belgium by the Minister of Transport of Latvia, Ainārs Šlesers

23–24 March 2007

President of Latvia, Vaira Vike-Freiberga, attends celebrations dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome in Brussels, Belgium

2 October 2006

Working visit to Belgium by the President of Latvia, Vaira Vike-Freiberga

23–24 May 2005

Visit to Belgium by the Latvian Minister of Defence, Einars Repse

14-15 December 2001

Prime Minister of the Republic of Latvia, Andris Berzins, and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Indulis Berzins, attend the closing meeting of the Belgian Presidency of the EU in Laaken

16 October 2001

Working visit to Belgium by the Minister of the Interior of Latvia, Mareks Seglins

13 June 2001

Working visit to Belgium by the Minister of Environment and Regional Development of Latvia, Vladimirs Makarovs

20-22 May 2001

Working visit to Belgium by the Minister of Defence of Latvia, Girts Valdis Kristovskis

14 May 2001

Working visit to Belgium by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Latvia, Indulis Berzins

27 March 2000

Working visit to Belgium by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Latvia, Indulis Berzins

20–22 April 1999

Working visit to Belgium by the Prime Minister of Latvia, Vilis Kristopans

19–21 October 1998

Working visit to Belgium by the President of Latvia, Guntis Ulmanis

27–28 October 1997

Official visit to Belgium by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Latvia, Valdis Birkavs

23 September 1997

Meeting between the Prime Minister of Latvia, Guntars Krasts, and the Prime Minister of Belgium, Jean-Luc Dehaene, in Brussels

12 May 1997

Meeting between the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Latvia, Valdis Birkavs, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belgium, Eric Derycke, in Brussels

25–28 March 1996

Official visit to Belgium by the President of Latvia, Guntis Ulmanis

3 February 1996

Meeting between the Prime Minister of Latvia, Andris Skele, and the Prime Minister of Belgium, Jean-Luc Dehaene, in Davos (Switzerland)

March 1993

Visit to Belgium by the Prime Minister of Latvia, Ivars Godmanis

12 February and July 1991

Visit to Belgium by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Latvia, Janis Jurkans

Visits by officials of the Kingdom of Belgium to Latvia:

2 – 3 October 2007

3+3 (Baltic states and Benelux countries) meeting at the level of foreign ministers in Latvia

23–25 April 2007

State visit to Latvia by the King of Belgium Albert II

23–25 April 2007

Visit to Latvia by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Belgium, Karel De Gucht, as part of the State visit of the King of Belgium Albert II

18 – 20 June 2006

Visit to Latvia by the Minister of Defence of the Kingdom of Belgium, Andre Flahaut

6 June 2006

Working visit to Latvia by the Prime Minister of Belgium, Guy Verhofstadt

26 October 2005

Working visit to Latvia by the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Karel De Gucht

8 February 2005

Working visit to Latvia by the Belgian Minister of European Affairs, Didier Donfut

6 November 2003

Visit to Latvia by the Belgian Foreign Ministry State Secretary for European Affairs, Jacques Simonet

11–14 July 2002

Official visit to Latvia by the President of the French Community of Belgium, Herve Hasquin, and Minister-President of the Region of Wallonia, Jean Claude Van Cauwenberghe

21–22 May 2002

Official visit to Latvia by the Belgian Minister of Defence, Andre Flahaut

27–28 November 2001

Working visit to Latvia by the Head of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Lower House of the Parliament of Belgium, Pierre Chevalier

15 October 2001

Working visit to Latvia by the State Minister within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belgium, Annemie Neyts

15 February 2001

Working visit to Latvia by the Prime Minister of Belgium, Guy Verhofstadt

10–11 August 1998

Official visit to Latvia by the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Eric Derycke

10-12 December 1994

Official visit to Latvia by the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Frank Vandenbroucke

Main agreements:

Database of bilateral agreements: Kingdom of Belgium

External links on the Kingdom of Belgium:

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Belgium – http://www.diplomatie.be/