Flanders and the EU policy

The ‘foro interno, foro externo’ principle, stipulating that the Belgian federated states are also responsible for the international aspects of their competences, is in fact also pursued within the Flemish authorities. Every functional administration and every functional Minister are for instance responsible for the monitoring of their policy field at the European level. Regarding dossiers or themes that involve the competences of different functional administrations however, the Flemish Department of Foreign Affairs will act as pacesetter. Through consultation, efforts are made to reach joint Flemish positions. This can pertain to dossiers that are rather limited in time, but also to themes that are usually permanently under discussion.

Multi-annual Financial Framework

On 29 June 2011, the European Commission presented a new Multi-annual Financial Framework (MFF) for the 2014-2020 period. The MFF annually determines the upper limit for the EU budgets and also distributes the EU budget resources over the different policy sectors. Traditionally, a large part of the EU budget goes to the agriculture and cohesion policy.
The European Commission also wants to adjust the accents and the approach of the EU expenditure. The objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy occupy a central position in all expenditure for instance and special attention will be paid to innovation, environmental protection and the fight against climate change.

The MFF is important to Flanders. A considerable flow of resources runs indeed from the EU budget to a wide range of Flemish beneficiaries: agricultural companies, research institutions, students and teaching staff, cities and municipalities, entities within the Flemish authorities, civil society organisations, cultural organisations, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), Flemish interest organisations, and so on. Consequently, the Government of Flanders keeps close track of this dossier and it is closely involved in the Belgian position taking.

Cohesion Policy

By means of the cohesion policy, Europe wants to reduce the differences in prosperity between Regions and Member States and promote the development of the entire EU in the long term via investments from the so-called structural funds. The structural funds are mainly aimed at support for enterprises and innovation (especially research), transport infrastructure (roads and railways, but also ports, ...), human capital (employment, training, ...) and the environment (water treatment). The large majority of these resources (more than 80%) go to the less prospering Regions and Member States of the EU.
In Belgium, many socio-economic affairs belong to the exclusive competence of the federated states. Thus, it is the Flemish authorities who make sure that the European money for Flemish programmes is granted in a correct manner.
Flanders receives about 788 million euros, of which 469 million euros for the programmes within the European Social Fund (ESF) and 319 million euros for the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). In the 319 million euros for the ERDF, a share of 118 million euros is provided for ‘territorial cooperation’. In Flanders, the Enterprise Flanders Agency is responsible for the implementation of the ERDF and the ESF-Agency Flanders for the implementation of the ESF. The Flemish Department of Foreign Affairs (DiV) takes care of the coordination of the Flemish positions for the negotiations within the EU and the flow of information from the EU regarding the cohesion policy.

EU Trade Policy

The EU has exclusive competence regarding the Common Trade Policy (CTP). In implementation of this policy, it participates in the multilateral trade liberalisation within the World Trade Organization, and it negotiates bilateral free trade agreements with important markets outside the EU.
The Flemish Region has competence regarding the trading and export policy and consequently also regarding the support of its enterprises in their international activities. Multilateral and bilateral free trade agreements ensure a structural and sustainable liberalisation of trade, and thus increase the opportunities for our enterprises in the world. That is why the Flemish authorities strongly invest in a close monitoring of the CTP, in which the specific interests of the Flemish economy are invariably defended. The strategy of the Government of Flanders with regard to the CTP has been laid down in the Memorandum to the Government of Flanders of 19 July 2007.

The Flemish position that is taken during the intra-federal consultation is coordinated beforehand via the Flemish EU Trade Working Group, in which all the administrations and Ministers' Offices of the Flemish authorities are represented.

In cooperation with the EU Member States and the business world, concrete trade barriers are tackled via the Market Access Partnership. Via the Reporting Point for Trade Barriers - a specifically Flemish instrument - on the Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT) website, enterprises can also report trade barriers outside Europe. In cooperation with the European Commission, FIT and the DiV attempt to eliminate the trade barrier, for instance by raising the problem during the Market Access Advisory Committee, which meets on a monthly basis and where the European Commission, the EU Member States and the business world are present.

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