Flemish diplomacy: The impact of Flanders as a region within the EU is unique
In the coming years, the Government of Flanders will expand its representation , by investing more in diplomats and diplomatic posts. Within the European Union, Flanders already has one of its representatives. On 1 May of this year, Matthias De Moor took office as General Representative of Flanders to the European Union. His main task is to place Flanders’s interests and priorities on the agenda of the European institutions, in the first place the Council of the European Union, and through intra-Belgian coordination.
Since 1 May 2022, Matthias De Moor officially heads the Delegation of Flanders to the European Union, which represents the interests of the Government of Flanders to the EU. Each member state of the European Union has so-called 'Permanent Representations', located in Brussels, defending the interests of their member state. The Delegation of Flanders to the European Union is part of the Permanent Representation of Belgium. As General Representative of Flanders, De Moor is assisted by some twenty policy officials of the Government of Flanders, to ensure that Flanders' input is maximised.
"My main task is to bring the Government's position on various issues to the attention of the European institutions as much as possible,’ De Moor says. “The Council of the European Union is the most important body for our work, though of course the European Commission and the European Parliament, and their outputs, require our attention as well. Member states put forward their views in negotiations there.”
De Moor takes on the task to help safeguard Flanders’s interests in the position of Belgium in this forum and to increase the region’s visibility in the EU landscape.
“This is done through formal roles where ministers and experts from Flanders represent Belgium on the European stage, as well as through facilitating direct dialogue between Flemish and European officials. The Belgian presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2024 will also have a strong Flemish component."
"Negotiations and initiatives on the European level often concern Flemish competences and therefore also have implications for Flanders,” De Moor stresses. “I mainly act as a bridge builder between the government of Flanders and the European institutions. I am also in contact with other stakeholders, such as the Flemish Parliament."
The Delegation of Flanders to the European Union is a strong network of policymakers who are in daily contact with the European institutions, the Flemish ministers and their cabinets and the administration of the government. In addition, there is also cooperation with the Flemish-European Liaison Agency Vleva, which is primarily focused on involving the Flemish private sector, civil society and local administrations in European affairs.
The fact that Flanders has its representatives to the EU is not in itself unique. In the European bubble, there are several regions that delegate their representatives. However, not every region has an equal say.
"Flanders is unique in that sense, because it is part of the Belgian representation. We fulfil an integral role in Belgian decision-making and representation on the international level, allowing us direct participation in European negotiations. In that respect, it is difficult for regions from other member states to participate in discussions that take place at the European level in the same was as Flanders does," De Moor noticed.
On the occasion of the Government of Flanders' annual diplomatic days, which this year take place from 20 to 24 June, Belga puts Flemish diplomacy in the spotlight. It does so by publishing various articles under the heading 'Flemish diplomacy'.
© BELGA PHOTO HERWIG VERGULT