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Flemish government halves royal trade missions
Flanders’ new minister-president, Geert Bourgeois, has defended his government’s decision to cut funding for overseas trade missions led by a royal family members. The recent decision to cut royal trips from four to two a year was criticised by the employer organisations Unizo and the Federation of Belgian Enterprises (VBO/FEB) because they think it could harm Flemish exports.
“The presence of royals can open doors that would otherwise be closed,” said a Unizo spokesperson. The trade missions used to be led by Prince (now King) Philippe, but are now led by his sister, Princess Astrid.
VBO/FEB director Pieter Timmermans noted: “I have often been present on those trips, and my contacts with other participants tell me they are very positive and enthusiastic about the success of the formula. It brings them important economic contracts.”
Bourgeois rejected the idea that the presence of royalty helped to generate business in foreign countries. “Our companies get their strength from the quality of their products,” he said. “And in any case, we are still participating in two trade missions a year.”
He added that the money saved would be invested in other areas of Flemish foreign policy. The government of Flanders already invests heavily in the department Flanders Investment & Trade, which operates 70 offices across the globe, from the United States to China.
photo: Princess Astrid during an economic mission to Saudi Arabia in March