Belgium and Romania look back to almost 180 years of diplomatic, political and economic relations, continuously focusing on the perspectives for future cooperation in various fields. Thomas Baekelandt, the Ambassador of Belgium to Romania, discusses the countries’ economic bilateral relations and the successful Belgian investments in Romania.
European Times: What are the priorities of your mandate?
Thomas Baekelandt: My mission in Romania focuses on three priorities. Considering that Romania is partner of Belgium in NATO and EU, the first priority of my mandate is the maintenance and enhancement of our partnership inside NATO and the European Union. The embassy is also active in the people-to-people diplomacy between the two countries, providing support in the linkage between Romanian and Belgium villages, through youth interexchange, donations in kind, such as fire trucks, and setting up of medical centres.
Our major priority is the development of the economic relations between Romania and Belgium. The countries share significant volume of investments and trade, with trade value from of €1500 million Belgian exports, and €900 million of imports from Romania annually, amounts that show a tendency to increase.
European Times: What are the specific areas of interest for Belgian investors in Romania?
Thomas Baekelandt: Belgian investors are present mainly in manufacturing, avionics and electronics. There are, for instance, more than 3000 employees in Belgian companies only in the region of Iasi. Considering the high speed of internet, the developed information environment and the support of the local and national authorities, IT is another important sector for Belgian investors. Investments are also made in the logistics sector, providing transportation, warehousing and cold storage, all with links to ports and factories in Belgium. There are a few textile investments in Giurgui Suceava and Iasi.
European Times: What are some of the challenges Romania is facing?
Thomas Baekelandt: I believe that one of the major challenges is that over three million Romanians live and work in other European countries, not only because of better salaries, but also because of better living and business conditions. This points to the need of changes for the creation of a business friendly environment and a larger scope of public services in Romania. The focus should also be put on the branding and the perception abroad of Romania, providing tourism development.
I have a very positive feedback from the Belgian business community in Romania, not only because of the excellent living and working conditions. The Belgian investors are happy with the collaboration with their Romanian partners and their employees, and the Belgian – Romanian Business Association (BeRoBa) is an example of our great cooperation.