Minister Goffin sends out a questionnaire to all staff of Belgian Foreign Affairs to learn lessons from the coronavirus crisis in his department

The COVID-19 crisis has shaken up all habits and forced everyone to review certain operating modes. This was also the case for the FPS Foreign Affairs, where teleworking was the rule, even though it had to carry out one of its fundamental tasks: assisting Belgians abroad. Not simple when the crisis was worldwide: “It is as if you had 200 earthquakes and many aftershocks at the same time, including in Belgium”, says Minister Goffin.

Minister Philippe Goffin continues: “In order to provide effective aid to the tens of thousands of compatriots who found themselves in difficulty all over the world from one day to the next, my teams have - in an emergency and in a very nice way - thoroughly reviewed their working methods! I congratulate them for their resilience and flexibility. Self-help platforms have been set up on social networks, our crisis centre has been split online, and traditional administrative processes have been entirely digitised in a few weeks.”

Internally, new videoconferencing tools have also made it possible to keep intra-Belgian consultations afloat, enabling Belgium to speak out in European and UN forums.

As this unprecedented episode in the history of Foreign Affairs (more than 12,000 compatriots repatriated, at least 50 flights chartered by Belgium) comes to an end, it is time to continue this momentum by questioning all our employees both in Brussels and abroad on the lessons to be learned from the way we have managed this crisis but also on how our employees, particularly those posted abroad, felt supported by the central administration in Brussels. “Crises such as the one we have just experienced also bring opportunities, now it is a matter of continuing our momentum and pursuing our modernization.”

At the same time, the Minister is ensuring that his Foreign Affairs and Defence administrations are ready to deal with any new developments in the current crisis, especially at the time of holidays and departures to various Schengen and non-Schengen countries. “Even if the troops are tired, and I fully understand this, this is not the time to let our guard down. On the basis of the experience gained in recent months, my administrations are already in a position to update their action protocols.”