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Archive for Belgium

Newsline: Belgian ambassador throws King Charles II treaty into EU fishing debate

When the issue of the future access of European fishing fleets was being discussed by EU ambassadors in Brussels on Wednesday the Belgian government’s representative, Willem van de Voorde, made a notable intervention. To the confusion of some, and the delight of others, the ambassador cited a treaty signed some 350 years ago by King Charles II which had granted 50 Flemish fishermen from Bruges “eternal rights” to English fishing waters. It was an important historical footnote illustrating the long relationship between Belgian fishermen and British waters, Van de Voorde suggested. When the Privilegie der Visscherie was given in 1666, Bruges was part of the Southern Netherlands, controlled by Spain. The offer had been Charles’s way of showing gratitude for the hospitality he received when he stayed there during the interregnum that followed the decapitation of his father, King Charles I, and his own restoration to the throne. “I wasn’t quite sure what he was on about but I think he was joking,” said one confused diplomat who had listened to Van de Voorde’s intervention. “But, then, you never know.” (https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/oct/08/belgian-ambassador-throws-king-charles-ii-treaty-into-eu-fishing-debate) While the validity of the Belgian claim is somewhat unlikely, the tensions in Brussels over fishing access for European fleets from 1 January are very real. The UK has demanded a radical increase in fishing catches in its exclusive economic zone as it leaves the EU’s common fisheries policy. Some in Brussels recognise the need to satisfy this demand – it was one of the key arguments made for Brexit during the 2016 referendum – certain coastal countries, including France in particular, are insisting on the status quo. During the same meeting of ambassadors, the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, pointed out that EU revenues from fishing in UK waters was around €650m, compared with €150m for British fishing in UK waters.

Newsline: South Korean at embassy in Brussels tests positive for coronavirus

A South Korean employee at the country’s embassy to Belgium and the European Union, in Brussels, tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the diplomatic mission said Friday. (https://en.yna.co.kr/view/AEN20200410009200325) It is the first confirmed case of COVID-19 of a South Korean at the country’s embassies and consulates. The employee appears to have contracted the virus after close contact with his housemate, who works at a nursing hospital as a nurse, and has tested positive, the embassy said in a release. “The worker has been in self-quarantine since March 23, and has not met any people excluding the housemate,” it said, adding that no other embassy member has shown symptoms of infection. The embassy also noted that thorough disinfection of all embassy facilities has taken place.

Newsline: Uyghur Family Under House Arrest After Abduction From Belgium’s Embassy in Beijing

The wife and children of a Uyghur man living in Belgium are under house arrest in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), months after they were abducted from the Belgian Embassy in Beijing by Chinese authorities, according to the man. Huriyet Abdulla, 43, had travelled to Beijing from the XUAR with her four children in late May seeking visas from the Belgian Embassy that would allow them to join her 51-year-old husband Ablimit Tursun in Brussels, where he was granted refugee status in late 2017 after his brother was sent to an internment camp, Tursun told RFA’s Uyghur Service. When staffers at the embassy informed her that the documents would take longer than expected to issue, she replied that she was too afraid to return to her hotel room in the city after police had visited them twice already to determine the purpose of their visit, and refused to leave the building, Tursun said. (https://www.rfa.org/english/news/uyghur/arrest-10102019142104.html) Shortly after midnight, Chinese authorities entered the grounds of the embassy, forcibly removed Abdulla and her children to their hotel, where they spent the following night, and on May 31 confiscated their phones and drove them nearly 30 hours home to the XUAR capital Urumqi.

Newsline: Man found dead in Chinese embassy in Brussels

The body of a man (38) was found in the car park of the Chinese embassy in Brussels, Belgian media has reported. “It is a suicide,” said a spokesperson of the Brussels’ prosecutor’s office to Bruzz. “The lab has been on-site, as has the medical examiner. There is camera footage. The investigation has been closed. The case has been dropped,” they added. How the man ended up on the site of the Chinese embassy is not clear. (https://www.brusselstimes.com/belgium/70180/man-found-dead-in-chinese-embassy-in-brussels/) A spokesperson from the Mission of China to the EU told The Brussels Times that “We express grief and regret at this unfortunate incident. After the incident happened, the Belgian police promptly arrived at the scene, investigated the incident and concluded that the man illegally entered the premises of a diplomatic mission and committed suicide. We have asked the Belgian side to step up security protection for Chinese diplomatic missions in Belgium in accordance with the relevant international treaties and prevent the recurrence of similar incidents.”

Newsline: Belgium puts embassy in the US up for sale

The building housing the Belgian Embassy in the United States has been put on the market, after the outgoing head of foreign affairs said the property was too large and was not being fully used. The decision to move diplomatic operations from the property was taken in 2016 by Didier Reynders, who is set to step down from his current position as Minister of Foreign Affairs. At the time, Reynders explained his decision by the fact that the current building, located near other international embassies like that of Finland and China, was too big and not being fully used, , according to HLN. The transaction would see Belgium’s diplomatic delegation in the U.S. move to two apartment blocks in as-of-yet undisclosed locations in Washington D.C.. According to the outlet, the asking price is for the building is currently of 25 million dollars, or around 22.3 million euros. (https://www.brusselstimes.com/belgium/63639/belgium-puts-embassy-in-the-us-up-for-sale/) The decision reportedly ruffled some feathers at the foreign ministry, with some raising concerns that selling off the building would harm Belgium’s image abroad, and others saying that maintenance costs for the apartments were actually higher.

Newsline: Belgium arrests suspect over US embassy attack plot

Belgian authorities arrested a man who is suspected of planning an attack on the United States Embassy in Brussels, prosecutors announced on June 24. The Belgian man, who has only been identified by his initials “M.G.”, was taken into custody following a string of threats. He has been charged with an attempted terror attack and with “preparing a terrorist offense.” The man denies any involvement in the alleged plot. According to Belgian state broadcaster RTBF, the man had been under police surveillance and was recently seen acting suspiciously near the embassy. Further details about the case were not immediately released.

Newsline: Muslim family dragged out of Belgian embassy in Beijing by Chinese police

A Muslim family was dragged out of the Belgian embassy in Beijing by Chinese police after Belgian officials allowed them to enter the building, it has emerged. A Belgian diplomat was expected to travel to China’s restive Xinjiang region on June 18 to try and confirm the whereabouts of the woman and her four children, who are members of the Uighur minority. (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/06/18/muslim-family-dragged-belgian-embassy-beijing-chinese-police/) The woman’s husband, Adbulhamid Tursan, is a political refugee in Belgium. His wife, Horiyat Abula, and her four children travelled to Beijing at the end of May to complete missing paperwork for their family reunification visas. Mr Tursan said he had not heard from his family since May 31, a few days after they were extracted from the embassy after refusing to leave when they were told it would take at least three months for their visas to be approved. The embassy offered to escort the family back to their hotel, but they “refused to leave the embassy in a kind of sit-in”, a Belgian ministry spokesman said. In the end, Chinese police “escorted them away,”the spokesman said. Didier Reynders, Belgium’s foreign minister, said an embassy is not intended to “lodge people” applying for visas but added, “My only concern here is that we can reunite the family.”

Newsline: Foreign ministry calls on Belgians in Sri Lanka to make themselves known

The Belgian ministry for foreign affairs has sent out a message to the Belgian citizens currently in Sri Lanka to get in touch to determine whether any was involved in the wave of explosions which took place on Sunday, cause more than 150 deaths and many more injuries. Posting on Twitter, the ministry wrote (in English): “Several blasts have been reported in Sri Lanka. If you are a Belgian citizen residing or travelling in Sri Lanka please inform the Embassy of Belgium in New Delhi that you are safe on 0091 98 10117931 or newdelhi@diplobel.fed.be.” (http://brusselstimes.com/world/15106/foreign-ministry-calls-on-belgians-in-sri-lanka-to-make-themselves-known) The six attacks targetted three hotels and three churches. The situation at the time of writing is still unclear, but local sources put the number of deaths at 156, including at least 35 foreigners, with at least 400 people injured. Those numbers could of course change as time goes by and more information becomes clear. Three hotels were hit in the capital, Colombo, including the Cinnamon Grand Hotel, situated close to the prime minister’s residence. The other explosions took place at the Shangri La and the Kingsbury. Foreign affairs minister Didier Reynders posted two messages on his own Twitter account. “The foreign ministry is contacting Belgians living or travelling in Sri Lanka to see if they are safe or require assistance. We are also in touch the local authorities to obtain information on any foreign casualties.” In another message he said he was “very saddened and shocked”.

Newsline: Turkish foreign ministry summons Belgium ambassador in Ankara

Turkey’s foreign ministry summoned Belgium’s ambassador in Ankara on Monday over a Belgian judicial decision it said had blocked prosecution of people with alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a foreign ministry official said. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-turkey-security-belgium/turkish-foreign-ministry-summons-belgium-ambassador-in-ankara-idUSKBN1QS1JL) The ministry last week described the decision by the Belgian Chamber of Indictment unacceptable and said Belgium was expected “to act in line with (its) counter-terrorism responsibilities”.

Newsline: Belgian Consulate in Barcelona vandalised

Slogans against Catalan independence have been spray-painted onto the Belgium Consulate in Barcelona, Spain, to denounce the presence in Belgium of the region’s former president, Carles Puigdemont. The Belgian Foreign Ministry confirmed the incident without giving further details. The consulate remained open and the graffiti was being erased. The front of the building and the ground in front of it were sprayed with slogans in red and black paint, such as: “Puigdemont in prison”, “Belgium, refuge of delinquents” and “Belgium, complicit with separatism”. Many pro-independence organisations have complained that their headquarters have been similarly vandalized by the extreme right, the Spanish daily Vanguardia reported. The daily wrote, however, that it was the first time the Belgian consulate in the Catalan capital was targeted. The Spanish justice authorities want to try Puigdemont for organizing a banned referendum on Catalonia’s independence in October 2017. The secessionist leader fled to Belgium and currently lives in Waterloo.