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Flanders is an open society focused on the world. In a globalised world it is essential that we comprehensively pursue our interests and resolutely employ our assets at the international level.

According to the “in foro interno, in foro externo” principle, Flanders develops a foreign policy in all its internal powers, such as education, the environment, infrastructure, culture and social affairs.
Flanders implements an autonomous, mature and professional foreign policy that (1) works to profile Flanders abroad in an individual and targeted manner, (2) focuses on international enterprise and targeted economic and public diplomacy, (3) has an effective and more direct voice in the EU, (4) adopts an active and focused policy with regard to its neighbouring countries and a multilateral approach and (5) strives for development cooperation.

International Policy of Flanders

Since the signing of the Special Act of 5 May 1993, the so-called St. Michael's Agreement, every level of government in Belgium - including Flanders - can pursue its own policy abroad with regard to its domestic competences, including the conclusion of treaties (ius tractandi). This principle is described as "in foro interno, in foro externo".

In this context Flanders maintains bilateral relations with various countries in various fields. Because the great challenges of the 21st century transcend national or regional boundaries and increasingly require global answer, we also invest in multilateral cooperation, through multilateral institutions, such as UNESCO, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

For all of its devolved competences, the Government of Flanders co-decides the Belgian positions taken within the European Union. The Government of Flanders does so together, and on an equal footing, with the governments of the other Communities and Regions as well as the federal government.

The General Representatives of Flanders abroad serve as instruments of the foreign policy of Flanders. They are the first point of contact in European cities, such as Paris, The Hague, Berlin and London, and in a number of other capital cities around the world, such as Pretoria. They work in close cooperation with the respective Belgian Embassies. Their field of activity covers all areas in which Flanders has extensive decision-making powers. The Government of Flanders also has foreign representatives focusing specifically on trade and investment, and on tourism.

Flanders Department of Foreign Affairs

The Flanders Department of Foreign Affairs helps shape the international policy of the Government of Flanders and mobilises all relevant partners to that end. In doing so, the Department helps to build an open, dynamic and solidary Flanders, which dedicates itself to a democratic, safe and prospering global society.

The Flanders Department of Foreign Affairs contributes to this by investing in: the protection of the international interests of Flanders; the internationalisation of the Flemish economy; the sustainable growth of tourism in and to Flanders and the reduction of structural poverty in the world.

The Department is responsible for:

  • the preparation and evaluation of the Government of Flanders policy in the field of foreign affairs, tourism, development cooperation and international enterprise;
  • the international representation of the Government of Flanders;
  • the communication with regard to the Government of Flanders international policy;
  • the coordination of the Flemish position determination and interests protection in EU and international dossiers;
  • the financing and supporting of projects, programmes and organisations in implementation of the Government of Flanders policy insofar that it has not been entrusted to the agencies of the Flemish foreign affairs policy area;
  • the monitoring of the international trade in strategic and military goods;
  • the transposition of and monitoring of the compliance with international commitments and agreements;
  • the authorization and control of travel agencies, tourist rental and tourist accommodation in Flanders;
  • the monitoring of the internal coherence of the Flemish public actions at the international level.
  • For more information on the Flanders Department of Foreign Affairs, see:
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