Year 2016 is a jubilee year for Lithuanian-Flemish relations.
By H. E. Gediminas Varvuolis, Ambassador of Lithuania to Belgium & Luxembourg. Photography by Kristina Jasaityte.
Flanders and Lithuania will celebrate next year their 20 years of long lasting friendship and cooperation. Within the context of the commemoration of this exceptional anniversary, the Minister-President of Flanders Geert Bourgeois intends to visit to the three Baltic States in May.
Celebrations in Vilnius will be marked by a number of economic events and completed with cultural festivities. It is worthwhile noting that Lithuania over the last decades and since the restauration of its independence in 1990, has developed particularly strong relations with the federated entities of the Kingdom of Belgium and the regions of Flanders and Wallonia in the first place, by adopting and developing appropriate tools and mechanisms of cooperation.
Flanders was the first Belgian entity to start building its ties with the Baltic States and Lithuania in particular. Just after the Baltic States regained their independence in 1990, the Government of Flanders opted for Lithuania to become a priority partner within Flemish foreign policy.
At the beginning Flemish cooperation focused on assistance towards the building of new and democratic country in Europe, which over the years developed in to a genuine and mutually beneficial bilateral partnership.
Lithuanian – Flemish cooperation was formalized by the signing the Cooperation Treaty between the Government of the Republic of Lithuania and the Government of Flanders in Vilnius on March 7th 1996 by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania Povilas Gylys and the Flemish Minister-President Luc Van den Brande.
This formal agreement was immediately followed with practical arrangements, aimed at fostering the bilateral ties. In 1997 the first work program (for the period 1997-1999) was signed as an implementation of the above-mentioned Treaty. The cooperation program focused on a large number of competences of the Government of Flanders, ranging from welfare and culture over mobility and public works to foreign trade, entrepreneurship and education, which were of great interest to Lithuania.
New cooperation programs are signed every three years in order to define and update concrete cooperation fields and projects between the two partners. The newest work program for the year 2016-2018, a seventh in a row, which has been signed on November 24th 2015 in Brussels between the representatives of the two governments, sets up further cooperation in the fields of economics, welfare and culture. A clear desire was formulated, for the upcoming 3 years, to work more closely in the fields of science, research and innovation.
A whole new boost for Lithuanian-Flemish relations will be the reopening of Flanders Investment & Trade agency (FIT) office in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius, due in May 2016. This step is an extraordinary gesture of the economically most advanced Belgian region and it is an obvious proof of economic attractiveness and recognition of regional significance of Vilnius.
The Region of Flanders uses a worldwide FIT network for global foreign trade activities, therefore opening of a regional FIT representation office in Vilnius will undoubtedly contribute to the strengthening of trade and economic ties not only between Lithuania and Flanders but also between Flanders and the whole Baltic region. Our bilateral economic cooperation enjoys already an impressive dynamism and could be supported by examples, such as very vibrant relations between our port city of Klaipėda on one hand and the Belgian ports of Antwerp, Ghent or Zeebrugge on the other hand.
Therefore one could only note with great satisfaction that relations between Lithuania and Flanders remain an important part of our respective foreign policies and will continue to optimize benefits for both partners. We hope that the positive experiences from the past will pave the way for even stronger mutually beneficial cooperation in the future.
For Information: http://be.mfa.lt