Belgium Report


Policies Developed

The Strategy Note discussed above is binding for the federal government and contains general guidelines for implementation. In contrast, governments at the regional and community levels are not obliged to step in, though they may do so if they wish. A comprehensive approach can be applied in any region, country or sub-national area. However, the most probable regions where Belgium can be involved are the African Great Lakes region (Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Rwanda), sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East. Its scope of implementation is system-wide, covering military interventions, situations where defence and diplomacy are the key elements, situations in which humanitarian issues are the key elements, and situations in which the full range of actors is needed to help fragile states to recover: defence, diplomacy, development cooperation, law and order, economic and trade incentives. Although the Comprehensive Approach concept can be implemented in any possible field of action, it mainly favours the 3D (diplomacy-development-defence) dimension.
The European Union Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy has been one of the major sources of inspiration to help Belgium formulate its Comprehensive Approach. Other WGA-oriented instruments that enjoyed Belgium support and helped to inspire Belgium’s Comprehensive Approach were the EU’s (amended) Instrument Contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP), the European Commission’s Joint Communication on Security Reform, and the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa. Belgium had urged the European Union to adopt a comprehensive approach when it comes to its external actions. Indeed, as one of the founding members of the European Union, Belgium has always been committed to being a reliable partner and to strengthening the EU’s external-action capabilities. It sees the European Union Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy as being hugely important in the context of the internal-external nexus. Belgian diplomats and military officials, acting in the various arenas of the European Union (e.g. the Political and Security Committee, the European Union Military Committee and the Political-Military Group) have been very active in supporting the development of the European Union’s Global Strategy. However, it should be noted that, in the last decade, Belgium did not launch any special comprehensive approach initiative within the EU framework.
Belgium is also a solid member of the United Nations (UN), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Coordination and cooperation with these international institutions take place through the Belgian permanent representations to them. Belgium is also a solid member of the Peacebuilding Commission of the United Nations, and it believes that the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development represents a comprehensive framework within which any national comprehensive approach should evolve and develop. Furthermore, Belgium sees the United Nations’ focus on preventive diplomacy, crisis management and the defence of human rights as extremely important based on the belief that these matters are better addressed in a coordinated and comprehensive manner.
As one of the founding members of NATO, Belgium also plays an important role in supporting crisis-management bodies. Belgium considers it correct for NATO to deploy its military forces at the conflict stage, and that this takes place within a larger strategic and diplomatic framework in which civil comprehensive-approach actors play a major role in a post-military phase. It should also be noted that Belgian efforts have led to a significant evolution of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (OECD-DAC). ODA criteria were clarified and extended, such as ones related to passing on the costs of certain military expenditures, deploying military personnel or military equipment in certain international-development contexts, and providing humanitarian aid.
As regards Belgium’s Comprehensive Approach, it is crucial for a task force to assess the opportunities offered by the OECD guidelines in this area. With regard to the support that Belgian foreign policy has provided to international WGA policies, remarkable work has been done by Belgian diplomats, who have been constantly involved in developing and influencing the WGA policies of the UN, NATO, the OECD-DAC and the OSCE. At present, as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (2018–2020), Belgium will continue to “make an effort to reinforce the central role of the United Nations to promote peace and security in the world” (Kingdom of Belgium n.d.).
At the federal government level, the Strategy Note stipulates that each department (as the ministries are called) always take foreign policy as an explicit starting point and articulate its own role and contribution to it. Under the auspices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, weekly meetings are held with the prime minister and representatives from all relevant ministries (defence, development cooperation, etc). In foreign locations in which Belgium has specific interests, the ambassador meets regularly with his or her attaches (political, economic and commercial, defence, development) and consular section. The Interdepartmental Commission on Policy Coherence for Development (ICPCD) seeks to focus on security, migration, climate and trade. At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, intra-departmental coordination meetings involving the relevant directorates are held to achieve maximum coherence of policies related to external conflicts and crises as well as to trade and development cooperation. Within the Ministry of Defence, formal coordination take place on a daily basis under the lead of the chief of defence. Within other departments, informal coordination mechanisms do exist, but only on a case-by-case basis.
At the federal parliamentary level, when needed, the Senate Commission for External Affairs and the Chamber of Representatives Commission for Defence can work together as a joint commission. A special commission dealing with the follow-up of foreign missions meets regularly. As regards coordination between the executive and parliament, it is important to highlight the fact that the minister of foreign affairs is obliged to meet with the Senate Commission for External Affairs on a regular basis, and that the minister of defence is obliged to meet with the Chamber of Representatives Commission for Defence on the same basis.
Belgium’s Ministry of Development Cooperation meets its objectives through various partnerships. Civil society actors (e.g. NGOs and universities) are privileged partners in these efforts. In Belgium’s view, the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) must serve to foster internal cohesion within the European Union and as an influential multiplier on the international stage. In the areas of peace and security, the ministry’s objectives are realised through concrete actions related to conflict prevention, crisis management, peacebuilding and peace-enforcing. According to the Strategy Note, Belgian’s eventual Comprehensive Approach will need to “connect with” the European Union External Action Service’s Prevention of Conflict, Rule of Law/Security-Sector Reform, Integrated Approach, Stabilisation and Mediation (EEAS-PRISM) directorate, a new part of the EU’s diplomatic structure (Kingdom of Belgium 2017: 11; see pp. 23–24, which discuss how PRISM was integrated into the new Directorate ISP in March 2019). What’s more, the Comprehensive Approach should “be inspired by/absorbed into EU positions and strategies, with a view to policy coherence” (ibid.).
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