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The Warsaw Voice » Other » November 5, 2008
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Sharing a Common Vision
November 5, 2008   
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The Ambassador of Belgium to Poland, Jan Luykx, talks to Hilary Heuler.

How are bilateral diplomatic relations between Belgium and Poland?
Diplomatic relations between Poland and Belgium were established at the beginning of 1919, soon after Poland became independent again, so next year in March we will celebrate 90 years of diplomatic relations. obviously, over those 90 years things have happened that were outside the control of both countries-mainly World War II, and of course the communist regime-but I think that in present times, relations are very good, and I would say that they are growing ever closer. The EU is an important factor because it makes the borders disappear, so in some ways we become citizens of each other's countries... Before 2004, EU enlargements had only brought in countries that had been free since World War II, with which we already had fairly close contact. But the countries that entered the EU in 2004 had been isolated from us, "the West," for over 40 years, and it is clear that even 20 years after the disappearance of the Iron Curtain, we-Belgium and Poland-still have to work more on getting to know each other better.

Would you say that Poland and Belgium share a common vision of the future of the European Union?
I think so. After all, when you join the European Union you basically subscribe to all the goals that are in the treaties, starting with the Treaty of Rome. In these treaties the vision of Europe is described as an ever-closer union of European people, so I think in that sense we share the same view. In the EU we are all partners, so we talk to each other and try to understand each other. Obviously, we are different; we are in different geographic locations-Belgium is in the middle of Western Europe, while Poland is on the border of the Union-so there might be different approaches to specific subjects. That's why we talk to each other continuously, basically on a daily basis. We at the embassy try to get an idea of what Polish thinking is, explain our own positions, and try to create a broader understanding.

A lot of people in Poland are interested in working in Belgium. Has that created any social issues there?
I think there is no problem with Polish people working in Belgium. My impression is that in general they are very much appreciated as hard-working and serious people. Belgium is actually a country where we've had quite a lot of immigration from several parts of the world, including North Africa, Turkey, and Central and Eastern Europe. This is part of an evolution in Western Europe, and you see it in all the countries surrounding Belgium as well. But there's still a lot of work to do to increase our knowledge of each other, and I'm pretty sure that Poles know more about Belgium than Belgians know about Poland. There have been a lot of Poles living in Belgium since the 19th century.

This is the 10th anniversary of the Belgian Days. Is anything special begin planned?
The Belgian Days are traditionally organized by the Belgian Business Chamber, of which I am the honorary president, and this is the 10th anniversary of the chamber in Poland. There will be a gala, which is a very important event. The BBC normally organizes a couple of seminars related to economic issues, as well as a mussels and frites dinner. This year we're also going to do a silent auction.

You've been in Poland for two years. What are your general impressions of the country?
I have the impression that this is a country that is evolving very fast. The economy is growing strongly, and you feel that there is a lot of dynamism. Things are changing and there's a real will to be part of modern Europe. It's fascinating to see how much ambition there is to get the country on the same footing as the old EU member countries. I'm very impressed by the energy you can feel here. I've been traveling around the whole country-I've visited all the provinces now; I've met the local officials, and I find the same spirit in all of these places. But it's a country I had to discover. I had my education long before the Berlin Wall fell, and we were not taught very much about anything to the east of the Iron Curtain. Nor did we have much interaction with the people. So in a way, coming here was a real discovery for me. I'm also learning the language, which is part of getting to know the culture. Even though it's quite a challenge, it's a very interesting challenge and I enjoy it very much.

Useful addresses

Contacts for French Community and Walloon Region

ul. Skorupki 5, 00-546 Warszawa

- Zenon KOWAL, Delegate of the French Community of Belgium, the Walloon Region and the French Commission of the Brussels Capital Region
Tel: +48 22 583 70 01, e-mail: walbru@varsovie.pl , www.wbri.be

- Maxime WOITRIN, Economic and Commercial Attaché for the Walloon Region (AWEX)
Tel: +48 22 583 70 11, e-mail: awex@varsovie.pl

Contacts for Flemish Community

Dom Dochodowy, Al. Ujazdowskie 51, 00-536 Warszawa

- Koen HAVERBEKE, Representative for the Flemish Community and Region
Tel: +48 22 584 73 44, e-mail: Warsaw@flanders.pl, www.flanders.be/warsaw

- Economic and Commercial Attaché for the Flemish Region (Flanders Investment & Trade: FIT),
Tel: +48 22 828 08.78, e-mail: warsaw@fitagency.com

Contacts for Brussels Capital Region

Belgian Embassy,
ul. Senatorska 34, 00-095 Warszawa

- Nicolas NEVE de MEVERGNIES, Economic and Commercial Attaché for Brussels Exports
Tel: +48 22 850 00 85, e-mail: bruksela-polska@wer.pl, www.bruksela-polska.pl
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