Comment by the Information and Press Department on Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming visit to Belgium


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On July 12, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will visit the Kingdom of Belgium. He will hold talks with Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Didier Reynders and Prime Minister Charles Michel.

Diplomatic relations between Russia and Belgium date back 165 years. Political contact between the two countries has never stopped. In December 2014 and April 2015, Didier Reynders visited Moscow in his capacity as Chair of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. Political consultations are regularly held between Russia and Belgium at the deputy foreign minister level. The latest round of these consultations was held in Brussels on February 27, 2017.

The parliaments of Russia and Belgium maintain contact as well. In 2016, President of the Belgian Senate Christine Defraigne made two official visits to Russia. A recent inter-parliamentary event was held in early June 2017, when a Russian State Duma delegation led by Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee for Foreign Affairs Anatoly Karpov visited Belgium on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of Peter the Great’s diplomatic visit to Belgium. The Russian MPs met with President of the Belgian House of Representatives Siegfried Bracke and representatives of the Belgian parliament’s two houses who are members of the Belgian-Russian parliamentary friendship group.

Although bilateral trade is currently well below the pre-crisis level (it has plunged by nearly 40 per cent over the past two years and was only $8.01 billion in 2016), an upward trend has been reported since the beginning of this year, which is evidence of the revival of cooperation. In January through April 2017, Russian-Belgian trade increased 24.6 per cent year on year to $3.29 billion.

The Joint Commission for Economic Cooperation between Russia and the Belgium-Luxembourg Economic Union (JCEC Russia-BLEU), which was established in 1993, is playing an important role in the revival of economic ties. The 10th meeting of this commission, which focused on innovations and investment in modern conditions, was held in Moscow on February 18, 2016.

The exchange of delegations between Russian regions and Belgian provinces helps maintain bilateral economic ties. A case in point is cooperation between West Flanders and the Leningrad Region, which was boosted by a visit to Antwerp by a delegation of members of the Leningrad Region government and business community led by Governor Alexander Drozdenko in March 2016. We appreciate the results of the September 2016 visit by West Flanders Governor Carl Decaluwe to St Petersburg and the Leningrad Region, where he held talks with St Petersburg Governor Georgy Poltavchenko and also met with representatives of Russian companies.

Russia and Belgium maintain cooperation in the gas sector. Russia's Novatek subsidiary Yamal Trade and Belgium's Zeebrugge LNG terminal operator Fluxys have signed an agreement on the transportation of up to 8 million tonnes of Yamal liquefied natural gas annually via the port of Zeebrugge. Under the project, Russian LNG will be shipped from the Yamal Peninsula to the Asian-Pacific market via Belgium, where Fluxys is building a large terminal in Zeebrugge for this purpose.