The Belgium-Luxembourg Economic Union (BLEU), created by a treaty signed on 25 July 1921, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.
On the occasion of these centenary celebrations, the Prime Ministers of Luxembourg, Xavier Bettel, and Belgium, Alexander De Croo, along with Belgian Minister-Presidents Elio Di Rupo (Wallonia), Rudi Vervoort (Brussels-Capital Region), Jan Jambon (Flanders), Pierre-Yves Jeholet (Wallonia-Brussels Federation) and Oliver Paasch (German-speaking Community), met at the Château of Val Duchesse in Brussels on Wednesday 17 November 2021. Foreign ministers Sophie Wilmès (Belgium) and Jean Asselborn (Luxembourg), as well as Finance Ministers Vincent Van Peteghem (Belgium) and Pierre Gramegna (Luxembourg) also took part in the exchange.
The participants welcomed the bonds of friendship and trust that have linked the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and the Kingdom of Belgium for more than a century. When it was founded in 1921, the BLEU was the most advanced form of economic and monetary integration between sovereign countries in Europe and was a forerunner of the Benelux, the European Union (EU) and the euro. Luxembourg's Ministry of State, the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs and the Ministry of Finance noted in a press release that the creation of this union made it possible to generate beneficial effects for the prosperity of both economies and the well-being of their peoples. The BLEU has often played a pioneering role in the unification and the construction of Europe, by helping to strengthen the links between the two populations and to promote their values. The respective ministries added that the union aims to continue this pioneering role in the future.
Moreover, the BLEU has constantly adapted its functioning to constitutional developments within it. Following the 11th joint meeting of the Luxembourg and Belgian governments "Gäichel XI" in the Grand Duchy on 31 August 2021, the organisation of a summit with the participation of the Belgian federated entities on the occasion of these centenary celebrations testified to the many links and collaborations that exist between the two countries, according to the press release. In this regard and in the exercise of their powers, the Flemish, French and German-speaking Communities expressed their satisfaction at having been associated with this meeting and said they looked forward to being able to contribute to the future work of the economic union.
The discussions during this summit made it possible to take stock of the privileged partnership that unites Luxembourg and Belgium and served to discuss new avenues for future cooperation.
Discussions focused, among other things, on the management of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly on the lessons to be drawn from this crisis. The participants decided to strengthen cooperation in the fight against pandemics and to identify new avenues of cooperation to better prevent and manage future health crises. The EU Digital COVID Certificate was also discussed, as were the specific needs and interdependence of cross-border living areas, which were strained during the pandemic, and the importance of maintaining free movement within the BLEU in times of crisis. The participants reaffirmed their desire to take better account, at the level of the EU and its Member States, of the specificities of cross-border communities, their contribution to the European project and their economic and cultural potential, notably on the basis of the joint proposals presented on 22 June 2021 by the Member States of the Benelux and the Baltic countries. The participants welcomed the leading role played by the Benelux countries at the EU level.
Another topic on the agenda was economic integration within the BLEU. On the one hand, discussions focused on the ways in which cooperation within the union could be developed. On the other hand, they looked at how the BLEU will be able to assert and strengthen its position in the world, in particular through the modernisation of common investment protection agreements, joint economic commissions with third-party partners, Belgian-Luxembourg Chambers of Commerce or their network of economic and commercial attachés.
To mark this centenary, Belgium and Luxembourg are issuing a commemorative collector's coin bearing the effigy of the two sovereigns, His Majesty the King of the Belgians and His Royal Highness the Grand Duke of Luxembourg.
The cooperation agreement between the Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce and the export agencies of the three Belgian regions, namely the Walloon Agency for Export and Foreign Investments (AWEX), the Brussels Agency for the Support of the Enterprise (hub.brussels) and Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT), has been renewed in order to continue cooperation.
The participants also signed an agreement between Belgium and Luxembourg on the exercise of for-profit activities by certain family members of the staff of diplomatic missions. Similarly, Belgium's Deputy Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès and Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn signed a letter of intent on enhanced cooperation between their foreign and European affairs administrations through secondments and joint training.
Luxembourg and Belgium's Finance Ministers welcomed the results of the discussions during the “Gaichel XI” in August, particularly with regard to the adaptation of the “tolerance threshold” of the number of days in terms of cross-border teleworking as well as of adaptation of the BLEU common revenue regime.
Moreover, the respective Prime Ministers and Minister-Presidents confirmed their commitment to continue to cooperate closely on all matters of common interest falling within their respective fields of competence. They reaffirmed the importance of the provisions of the BLEU convention and of the solemn declaration of 18 December 2002 which extended cooperation within the BLEU beyond the sole economic field. They also decided to plan exchanges in this format in the future.