Belgium supports Albania’s wish to join the European Union and welcomes in this regard the adoption of the Action Plan for European integration, aimed at providing the best possible framework for the reforms to meet the 12 key priorities, determined by the Council, necessary for the granting of candidate country status.
Bilateral relations between Albania and Belgium are friendly but still remain too underdeveloped as regards trade and commerce, despite the economic potential that exists, particularly in the fields of urban planning, transport, agriculture and tourism, which are sectors deemed to be a priority by the Albanian authorities. There are regular political and technical meetings between the Albanian and Belgian authorities.
The “name issue” dominates Skopje’s relations with the international community, particularly in terms of the process of the country’s Euro-Atlantic integration. Indeed, Greece objects to the constitutional name of “Republic of Macedonia” claimed by Skopje. The “name issue” also hangs over the opening of the accession negotiations with the EU. Belgium, which has recognised the country under the provisional name of Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, supports the ongoing negotiations between the two countries, mediated by Mathew Nimetz, Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, with a view to a commonly agreed solution to this issue. Belgium considers that a bilateral dispute that is unrelated to the EU enlargement process, must not affect the latter. It nevertheless calls on Athens and Skopje to reach a commonly agreed solution on this issue. Belgium is also in favour of North Macedonia joining NATO provided that the issue has first been resolved.
The bilateral relations with North Macedonia are good though limited and characterised by a regular dialogue and meetings. In recent years, there has been a significant focus on the resolution of the asylum seeker issue. Belgium is respected for its contribution, within the framework of the international community, to the country’s independence, and to the restoration of order and peace.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Belgium supports the prospect of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Euro-Atlantic integration, as well as a strengthening of the European Union’s presence in the country. It therefore hopes that the new Bosnian government will focus its efforts on the European agenda and on the implementation of the necessary reforms.
Belgium’s relations with Bosnia and Herzegovina are good though limited and characterised by a regular dialogue and meetings. The Belgian institutional model is generating a great deal of interest among the Bosnian authorities. Our economic and commercial relations are underdeveloped.
Belgium has made a significant commitment to Kosovo since the 1999 conflict and was among the first states to recognise Kosovo’s independence. As a member of the International Steering Group, our country supports the finalisation of Kosovo’s supervised independence by 2013, if the various specified criteria are met.
Relations between Belgium and Kosovo are very good and can rely on the large Kosovar community living in Belgium. The bilateral legal framework is undergoing consolidation and various initiatives are planned to strengthen cooperation between the various parts of the public service.
Belgium supports the European Council’s conclusions relating to Kosovo’s European prospects and therefore welcomes the launch of the feasibility study on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Kosovo and a structured dialogue on the rule of law. Our country understands the emphasis placed by the Kosovar authorities on visa liberalisation between the EU and Kosovo as soon as possible but insists among other things on taking into consideration the lessons learned from the two previous waves of liberalisation with the Western Balkans. This is all the more important because Kosovo has for several years ranked in the top 10 countries of origin of asylum seekers in Belgium.
Belgium recognised Montenegro on 23 June 2006, which was 20 days after its declaration of independence, and it supports the prospect of Montenegro’s Euro-Atlantic integration. The accession negotiations with Montenegro, an EU candidate country and a good example in terms of regional cooperation, could open in June 2012, once the Council has considered the progress made by Montenegro in the implementation of reforms, particularly as regards the rule of law and fundamental rights (in particular in the fight against corruption and organised crime).
Belgium’s bilateral relations with Montenegro are friendly though limited and remain characterised by a dialogue and regular meetings.
Since they began in 1878 (with the Kingdom of Serbia), Belgium has maintained excellent diplomatic relations with the Republic of Serbia, as demonstrated among other things by the regular high-level bilateral meetings.
Belgium supports Serbia’s accession to the European Union and welcomes the considerable progress made, in particular in Serbia’s cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and in the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, conducted under the auspices of the EU. This progress and the current reforms in Serbia have enabled the 27 members of the EU to decide to grant Serbia the status of EU candidate country, which is a decision that Belgium fully supports. Following the Serbian elections of 6 May 2012, it is important that Serbia maintains its European impetus, by complying with the criteria specified by the EU, in particular in the areas of regional cooperation and good neighbourly relations.
The Federal Public Service Foreign Affairs is funding various programmes in the context of the consolidation of peace/prevention of conflicts so as to strengthen the media or to support greater professionalism on its part in the Sandzak regions (Bosniak majority) and of south-eastern Serbia (large proportion of ethnic Albanian inhabitants).
In economic terms, 2011 was marked by the acquisition by the Delhaize group of a key large-scale regional distribution organisation, confirming the existing economic interest in the strengthening of our economic ties and trade, despite the difficult economic context.
Relations between Belgium and Turkey are very good. A significant Turkish community (180,000 to 200,000 people) lives in Belgium and is well integrated. The presence of several elected representatives of Turkish origin in our various legislative assemblies and the political responsibilities that they carry out are evidence of this.
Belgium supports Turkey’s accession to the European Union which involves exceptional challenges, by virtue of the geography and history of that country: a nation with a Muslim tradition of over 70 million people in a land that bridges Europe and the East. Belgium, like the other Member States of the European Union, is closely following the reforms carried out by Ankara. In this respect, Belgium welcomes the process to revise the Constitution that is currently underway, which should be the basis for a more democratic system, by strengthening civil control over the armed forces and by rebalancing the relations between the state and religion as well as between the state and the citizens. This reform should enable Turkey to make new progress in meeting the criteria for accession to the European Union.
In this context, Belgium pays particular attention to respect for fundamental freedoms, respect for the rights of all minorities and the strengthening of a democratic culture in Turkey. Progress is also expected as regards the full and non-discriminatory implementation of the Additional Protocol to the Ankara Agreement (July 1995) to extend the benefits of the European Union-Turkey Customs Union to the ten new Member States, including the Republic of Cyprus.