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Hub.brussels opens first Belgian representation in Palestinian city of Ramallah
The Brussels Agency for Business Support, Hub.brussels, opened an office in the Palestinian city of Ramallah in the central West Bank on Wednesday, RTBF reports. This office will also serve Flemish and Walloon companies, in accordance with the existing cooperation agreement between the regions.
Pascal Smet, the Brussels secretary of state for international relations and foreign trade, is currently on mission in Palestine and Israel. He is accompanied by the president of the Brussels Parliament Rachid Madrane.
Smet stressed that by opening this new representative office, Brussels aims to improve and intensify direct trade relations with the Occupied Palestinian Territory and strengthen opportunities for development cooperation. Up until now, the territory has never hosted a Belgian representative office.
The Brussels representation, which took up residence in the same building as the Belgian development agency, was positively received by the local chambers of commerce and authorities. Ramallah is an economic and financial centre and the Ramallah and Al-Bireh region is seen as a potential area for Brussels development cooperation. The three Regions now have premises to meet with businesses in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. An additional local partners will be recruited.
In 2020, Belgium occupied 8th place among European countries in terms of exports of goods to the territory. The information and communication technologies sector has strengthened significantly in recent years, particularly in the field of software development. This is a very important sector for the Brussels Region and its service economy.
The Brussels representative office in Tel Aviv is continuing its activities. Israel is internationally recognised as the Start-Up Nation: it has the highest rate of start-ups and patents in the world as a proportion of its population. According to Pascal Smet, no support for companies operating in the settlements is planned.
Human rights and development cooperation will be at the heart of Brussels' mission in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel. Strengthening economic ties goes hand in hand with these aspects.
Several political meetings are planned as well as activities on cooperation with NGOs and development cooperation. "As Europe's capital and the second most cosmopolitan city in the world, we have an active international policy to build constructive relations with as many regions as possible,” said Smet. “It is in this context that we are opening today this Brussels representative office in Ramallah."
"The opening of a Brussels representation in Ramallah is symbolic in more ways than one, but my presence as president of the Brussels Parliament is above all the translation of a democratic will of the people of Brussels to support the Palestinian population," added Rachid Madrane.