L-R: Philippe Goffin, Belgium's Minister of Foreign Affairs and of Defence; Jean Asselborn, Luxembourg's Minister of Foreign and European Affairs; Credit: MAEE

Luxembourg's Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Jean Asselborn received today his Belgian counterpart, Philippe Goffin, for a bilateral meeting, followed by a working lunch.

In addition to bilateral relations, the latest European and international current affairs were on the agenda for the talks between Jean Asselborn and Philippe Goffin, Belgium's Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister of Defence. Particular emphasis was placed on coordinating deconfinement measures to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

More specifically, the two ministers exchanged views on the importance of coordinating the various deconfinement measures in the face of the pandemic, in particular with regard to the reinstatement of freedom of movement. Indeed, Minister Asselborn thanked his Belgian counterpart for the close consultation in recent weeks and welcomed the fact that Luxembourg and Belgium were able to quickly set up a modus vivendi to allow the free passage of the 50,000 or so Belgian cross-border workers. The ministers also expressed satisfaction with the close cooperation between the two countries in the field of consular assistance, including in the area of ​​repatriation.

Regarding the border checks introduced by Belgium, Jean Asselborn welcomed the decision taken last Friday by the Belgian federal government to once again authorise family visits between Luxembourg and Belgium, as well as cross-border shopping (food and non-food alike). Minister Asselborn commented: “This openness responds to part of the complaints that were addressed to us by our citizens. I am happy that our citizens can regain some normalcy in their daily lives thanks to this openness. Today we continued our dialogue with a view to gradually lifting the restrictive measures which still remain in place. The ultimate objective of course remains the removal of all obstacles to free movement". The two parties have set up an ad hoc committee with the task of identifying as early as possible the questions that arise in the context of the gradual reopening of the Luxembourg-Belgium border.

While being aware that the epidemiological situation differs from one country to another, the two ministers expressed their support for a coordinated approach to deconfinement at the European level. In this context, Minister Asselborn stressed the importance of "coordinating on the opening of the external borders of the Schengen zone, currently still closed until 15 June", adding that "absolute priority must be given to opening internal borders".

The two ministers also took stock of bilateral relations. Minister Asselborn underlined the particular importance that Luxembourg places on relations with its Belgian neighbour, citing key factors such as geographic proximity and the common experience gained through the establishment of the Belgium–Luxembourg Economic Union (BLEU), whose 100th anniversary will be celebrated next year. With regard to the Brussels-Luxembourg rail axis, Minister Asselborn recalled the importance that Luxembourg attaches to this line and to the restoration of efficient InterCity train connections between the two capitals.

Discussions also focused on the most pressing issues on the international agenda, including the situation in the Sahel. In this context, Minister Asselborn welcomed the excellent enhanced cooperation that Luxembourg and Belgium have bilaterally on Sahelian issues. Indeed, Luxembourg has strengthened its presence within the EU training mission in Mali (EUTM) and within the United Nations (UN) mission in Mali (MINUSMA), and the Luxembourg military on the ground are integrated into the Belgian military contingents. Luxembourg's Foreign Minister explained: "This collaboration symbolises the excellent links between our two countries, as does the recent decision to support the Belgian development agency ENABEL in Burkina Faso and Niger through delegated cooperation in the health field".

Ministers Jean Asselborn and Philippe Goffin also had an exchange of views on relations with China following the discussions of the Foreign Affairs Council of the European Union on 29 May.

In conclusion, the two ministers noted with satisfaction the good cooperation between Luxembourg and Belgium in multilateral forums, in particular at the level of the UN.