International relations

This main section contains 3 sections:

Relations between the Netherlands and Belgium

The Netherlands and Belgium maintain close political, military, economic and cultural relations. The two countries also work together extensively at international level, within the Benelux region, EU and NATO. The Netherlands is the biggest exporter to Belgium and is a key market for Belgian goods and services.

Political relations

  • The Netherlands and Belgium maintain close relations. As well as meeting at EU and UN conferences, the countries’ prime ministers and foreign ministers also see each other regularly outside these summits. The first visit abroad by the current Prime Minister of Belgium was made to the Netherlands, on 27 October 2014.
  • Because Belgium is a federal state, relations are conducted not only through the federal authorities but also separately with the regions of Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels. The Dutch prime minister is often represented at regional meetings. On 8 November 2013 King Philip and Queen Mathilde paid an introductory visit to the Netherlands. The third bilateral Thalassa political summit between the Netherlands and Belgium took place on 4 March 2015.
  • In 1944, during the Second World War, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg set up the Benelux Union, which shaped relations between the three countries in the decades that followed. Since the 1970s, progress made by the Benelux countries in international integration has gradually been duplicated by the European Community and later by the European Union. On 17 June 2008, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg revised the Benelux Treaty. The new treaty, which came into effect on 1 January 2012, enables closer collaboration in such areas as the economy, security and sustainability.

Economic relations

  • The Netherlands is a major trading partner for Belgium and the biggest market for Belgian goods and services after Germany. The Netherlands is also the biggest exporter to Belgium, followed closely by Germany.

Educational and cultural relations

  • Thanks to their shared history and the Dutch language, the Netherlands and Belgium have strong cultural ties. In 1980 the two countries set up the Dutch Language Union (Nederlandse Taalunie) to encourage greater cooperation in the field of Dutch language and literature. The Union offers services including language tools like dictionaries and a language advice service, education in and about Dutch, literature and reading skills, and activities promoting the Dutch language in Europe and the rest of the world. The Union also works to showcase the two countries’ shared cultural heritage.
  • In 1997 the Netherlands and Flanders signed an agreement on cultural, educational, scientific and social exchanges.
  • 2004 saw the foundation of the Flemish-Dutch House de Buren in Brussels, which offers a forum for debate about culture and cultural diversity, society and politics in the Netherlands, Flanders and Europe. A similar Flemish-Dutch cultural centre, De Brakke Grond, can be found in Amsterdam.
  • Each year, the Dutch embassy in Brussels and the consulate-general in Antwerp organise trade events, often on a cultural theme.
  • For up-to-date information on international cultural activities, see the website of the Dutch Centre for International Cultural Activities (SICA).

Bilateral treaties

Up-to-date information on bilateral treaties can be found in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Treaty Database.