External relations

Brief summary

As a result of the Lisbon Treaty, which entered into force on 1 December 2009, and as a result of the appointment of a High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy (who is also Vice-President of the European Commission) and of the creation of a European External Action Service (EEAS), the European Union's external relations were fundamentally redesigned, thereby enabling the European Union to become more responsive. The actions undertaken by the EU are guided by the principles that inspired its creation and which the organisation seeks to promote throughout the world: peace, democracy, the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The Global Strategy was adopted in 2016 (and updated in 2019), which therefore made it possible to set European priorities within an increasingly complex international framework, to act more quickly and effectively and to develop a structured approach taking into account the clear link that exists between the internal policies and external actions of the EU. The Union has identified five priority areas for action: security, the resilience of state and societies in the Eastern and Southern neighbouring third countries, an integrated approach towards conflicts, regional partnerships and multilateralism in the 21st century.

In the security and defence field, the Global Strategy identified three priorities: responding to external conflicts, building capacity in partner countries and protecting the Union and its citizens.

A decisive Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) requires adequate autonomous capacity to assess the strategic context and to conduct external operations. From this point of view, retaining and preserving the EU's own defence industry is also a necessity.

Trade, humanitarian aid and development cooperation are also key areas for the international actions undertaken by the EU.

The EU maintains partnerships with major world players, including emerging countries and regional organisations. It also ensures that these relations are based on mutual interests and benefits. The EU is committed to being a geopolitical actor and to defending the multilateral approach towards dealing with the consequences of the crisis, while continuing to strengthen its own resilience and strategic autonomy.

Belgium's objectives

As one of the founding members of the European Union, Belgium believes that the EU is also a political project and that the EU can and must play an important role in external relations. The European Union has a key role to play in protecting its citizens and in defending and promoting its interests in the world.

Belgium's foreign policy is strongly intertwined with European policy. Faced with increasingly complex global challenges, Belgium believes that the European approach is indispensable when it comes to defending our values and interests and shaping our future. A natural and daily interaction therefore takes place between Belgian and European foreign policy.

From a Belgian perspective, the principle underlying the EU's foreign policy is to be found in the fundamental values that the EU stands for, including human rights, democracy, good governance and the rule of law. The EU is required to promote these values in its foreign policy, to defend them in its bilateral and multilateral dialogues and to include them as a key element in the legal and institutional links it develops with other countries, regions or sub-regions.

As far as Belgium is concerned, the European Union's geographical focus should first and foremost be directed towards its immediate neighbours, both to the east and to the south. However, the global interdependence which characterises international relations in the 21st century means that the European Union's attention cannot solely be confined to that particular geographical area. The European Union must also keep abreast of what is happening in the rest of the world and fulfil an active role there.

Belgium also attaches great importance to the European Union's commitment to effective multilateralism based on the United Nations, a forum that is indispensable as a means of tackling the global challenges that exist within the overall framework of the Horizon 2030 programme and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The EU Global Strategy sets out to strengthen multilateral processes in areas where they already exist (trade, maritime security or maritime resources, for example) and new international agreements in areas such as disarmament, arms control or international criminal justice. Moreover, the EU aims to play a leading role in the development of multilateral governance, in particular in areas such as cybersecurity, health, space or the digital economy.

The developments taking place in the world demonstrate the links that exist between internal and external developments all too clearly. Belgium therefore advocates that the EU pursue a comprehensive approach in its foreign policy. Major global challenges, such as climate change, the fight against terrorism, our energy supply, migration, are just some examples of areas in which the EU needs to act in a coordinated and coherent way.

Within today's geopolitical balance of power, only concerted external action is strong enough to make a difference in the world – and to defend the interests of European citizens and businesses in the world. Belgium will call for the European Union to develop a genuine scientific, industrial and military capacity that will enable it to act as a meaningful diplomatic world player.

As a founding member, Belgium wants to be a reliable partner of the EU and actively contribute to a strong European foreign policy, among other things by adapting the decision-making procedures in order that the qualified majority can also be used more often within the CFSP.

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