Flanders signs memo of understanding with Basque government

Summary

Flanders has signed an agreement of co-operation with the Basque government of Spain, with political autonomy high on both regions’ agendas

“Flanders sets an example”

Flanders’ minister-president Geert Bourgeois has signed a memorandum of understanding with his counterpart from the Basque region of Spain, Iñigo Urkullu, who described the agreement as a model of its type.

The co-operation covers areas like professional training, the workforce and the environment. It also opens the way for political collaboration in areas such as co-existence and human rights, as well as a commitment to argue the case of autonomous regions in Europe.

VRT reported a massive presence of the Spanish and Basque press at the signing. Basque politicians regard the agreement with Flanders as a sign of recognition of the status of the autonomous region by a prominent European counterpart.

“Flanders sets an example for us,” Urkullu said. “You can sign treaties, for instance, which we cannot.” The agreement, he said, “increases the view of Flanders and the Basque region as world players with their own voice and their own presence on the world stage”.

The Basque region also maintains strong ties with Scotland, and Urkullu is considering a referendum on independence. Unlike Scotland, however, the question in the Basque region is overshadowed by the history of terrorist violence by the separatist group ETA.

“I am quite convinced that this declaration of intent between the Flemish and Basque governments will be an important step in our co-operation.” Bourgeois said. “Themes such as research and development, environment and training are top priorities for Flanders. I am certain that the bundling of our strengths will deliver a win-win situation for both Flanders and the Basque country.”

Photo by Vincent West/Reuters/Corbis

Government of Flanders

Belgium is a federal state with several regional governments. The northern, Dutch-speaking region of Flanders is governed by the Flemish government, which was created when the Flemish Region and the Flemish Community joined forces in 1980. A minister-president presides over the government of Flanders, and Brussels is the capital city.
Competences - The government of Flanders is responsible for the economy, foreign trade, health care, energy, housing, agriculture, environmental concerns, public works and transport, employment policy, culture, education and science and innovation. Flanders also has the power to sign international treaties in these competencies.
Sole legislator - The powers of the Flemish government and of the federal government do not overlap. Therefore, only one government serves as legislator for each policy area. Flemish laws are called decrees. Decrees apply in co-ordination with federal laws.
Official holiday - 11 July is the official holiday of the Flemish Community, in commemoration of the Battle of the Golden Spurs in Kortrijk on 11 July 1302, when Flemings defeated the army of the French king. Flanders’ official anthem is “De Vlaamse Leeuw” (The Flemish Lion).
6

million people live in the Flemish Region.

5

provinces constitute the Flemish Region: West Flanders, East Flanders, Flemish Brabant, Antwerp and Limburg.

5

number of years for which the Flemish Parliament is elected. Its elections coincide with those of the European Parliament.