War in Ukraine: Belgian Prime Minister leaves for Eastern Europe
On Monday morning, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo left from Melsbroek Airport for a three-day trip to Slovakia, Poland, Romania and Moldova to discuss the political, military and humanitarian consequences of Russia's war in Ukraine.
A number of official meetings are planned over the course of the trip, and De Croo will also take part in several field visits, particularly in the humanitarian field. De Croo aims to show Belgium's solidarity with the European countries that are most affected by the massive influx of refugees.
The Belgian delegation will visit the refugee reception centre in Serock near the Polish capital city of Warsaw and meet the convoy of six trucks chartered by B-Fast (the Belgian Humanitarian Rapid Response Unit) in Rzeszow near the Ukrainian border.
Then, De Croo will visit the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and UNICEF office at the Medyka border crossing. Poland is at the forefront of refugee reception. Since the beginning of the war, some 4,4 million Ukrainians have fled their country, of which 2,5 million have passed through Poland.
On the military front, Belgium is present in the Baltic region with four F-16s based in Estonia and carrying out an air policing mission recently extended to Poland. In the days following the start of the conflict, 300 soldiers were also deployed to Romania under French command in Constanta on the Black Sea as part of the Nato Rapid Reaction Force (VJTF).
The troops will be visited by De Croo, following an earlier visit by Defence Minister Ludivine Dedonder in mid-March.
In the Romanian capital of Bucharest, De Croo is also scheduled to visit the premises of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, which has resumed its activities in Romania and Bulgaria in 2019 on the internet.
One of the missions they have set themselves is the fight against Russian disinformation – an important topic for the Belgian government, as fighting disinformation (understood as organised manipulation) was included in the national security plan approved in early 2022.
De Croo's mission starts in Slovakia and ends in Moldova, the only non-EU Member State. However, as the small state between Ukraine and Romania is facing a huge influx of refugees with few resources, the EU is providing financial assistance and has also deployed staff from Frontex, the European border guard agency. In De Croo's talks with the Moldovan authorities, the focus will be on the European partnership.
Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and Slovakia prime minister Eduard Heger pictured during a diplomatic meeting to discuss the Russian invasion of Ukraine with Slovak officials, Monday 11 April 2022 in Bratislava, Slovakia. © BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS MAETERLINCK