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<strong>71</strong><br />

INTERLINKING POLITICS, DIPLOMACY, BUSINESS & FINANCE<br />

ECONOMIC DIPLOMACY, CULTURAL DIPLOMACY & HEALTH<br />

HER<br />

MAJESTY<br />

QUEEN<br />

MATHILDE<br />

QUEEN OF BELGIUM<br />

H.E.<br />

EMOMALI<br />

RAHMON<br />

PRESIDENT<br />

OF TAJIKISTAN<br />

HIS MAJESTY<br />

KING<br />

WILLEM -<br />

ALEXANDER<br />

KING OF<br />

THE NETHERLANDS<br />

ANTÓNIO<br />

GUTERRES<br />

SECRETARY -<br />

GENERAL<br />

OF THE UNITED<br />

NATIONS<br />

H.E.<br />

STEVO<br />

PENDAROVSKI<br />

PRESIDENT<br />

OF<br />

NORTH MACEDONIA<br />

H.E.<br />

ZULFIYA<br />

SULEIMENOVA<br />

MINISTER<br />

OF ECOLOGY<br />

AND NATURAL<br />

RESOURCES<br />

OF KAZAKHSTAN<br />

H.E.<br />

ADRIANA<br />

MIRA<br />

VICE-MINISTER<br />

OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS<br />

OF EL SALVADOR<br />

H.E.<br />

ANNA<br />

AGHADJANIAN<br />

AMBASSADOR<br />

OF ARMENIA<br />

H.E.<br />

SHAHRIAR<br />

ALAM<br />

STATE MINISTER<br />

FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS<br />

OF BANGLADESH<br />

H.E.<br />

JOÃO MENDES<br />

PEREIRA<br />

AMBASSADOR<br />

OF BRAZIL<br />

Summer 2023 www.diplomatic-world.com Quarterly edition<br />

P409937 - v.u. Barbara Dietrich, Beiaardlaan 25b, 1850 Grimbergen<br />

€9 ,50


DIR_0170-2303_diplomatic_world_hd.pdf 1 7/03/16 17:43<br />

INTERLINKING POLITICS, DIPLOMACY, BUSINESS & FINANCE<br />

ECONOMIC DIPLOMACY, CULTURAL DIPLOMACY & HEALTH<br />

since 1991.<br />

DIPLOMATIC WORLD IS A QUARTERLY EDITION<br />

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Barbara Dietrich<br />

barbara.dietrich@diplomatic-world.com<br />

CEO AND PRESIDENT<br />

Barbara Dietrich<br />

CONTRIBUTORS<br />

H.E. Stevo Pendarovski | H.E. Emomali Rahmon |<br />

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| H.E. Sirojiddin Muhriddin | H.E. Alibek Kuantyrov | H.E. Daler<br />

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Brockmeyer | Koen Vanmechelen | Gulnoza Ismailova |<br />

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tone of all authors, the author’s initial choice of spelling has been maintained as<br />

much as possible. The editorial staff has done its utmost to identify and mention<br />

sources and beneficiaries of the text and images used.<br />

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material, illustrations and photographs. We apologize for any inadvert errors or<br />

omissions. Parties who nevertheless believe they can claim specific legal rights<br />

are invited to contact the publisher.<br />

Opinions in this magazine belong to the writers and are not necessarily endorsed<br />

by <strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong>.<br />

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the artist and publisher. ©2023 <strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong> <strong>Magazine</strong>.<br />

Dear Excellencies,<br />

Dear partners,<br />

Energy uncertainty, food shortages, accelerating inflation, the<br />

climate crisis and military conflicts. Many worries plague the<br />

world population. Overwhelmed by immediate issues, leaders<br />

are less devoted to long-term sustainable solutions, and often<br />

unable to see beyond the next electoral cycle.<br />

The contours of the global economy are changing. Are we<br />

approaching a new Bretton Woods moment? Do the international<br />

economic institutions need to undergo sweeping reforms to<br />

promote a more sustainable world economic order, fit for the<br />

21st century? More and more countries are replacing the US<br />

Dollar with the Yuan for their economic transactions. Will the<br />

Yuan become the global currency anytime soon?<br />

No software has ever grown as fast as ChatGPT, OpenAI’s<br />

intelligent chatbot, which has the potential to be one of the<br />

biggest disruptive technologies. As AI continues to develop, jobs<br />

will be threatened by automation. Many jobs of the future do<br />

not yet exist, related to the technologies being developed today.<br />

Therefore, technology is a double-edged sword: it has disruptive<br />

elements but it can be at the same time a growth engine for<br />

businesses and provide new answers for better healthcare and a<br />

smoother energy transition. Some of our contributors attempt to<br />

tackle these big questions.<br />

Apart from our traditional focus on Central Asia, in this edition we<br />

also give the voice to Latin America ahead of the all-important<br />

EU-CELAC Summit which will take place in Brussels in mid-July;<br />

as well as to the Western Balkans and their collective desire for a<br />

clear and credible European perspective, after far too many years<br />

in the waiting room.<br />

What we need now is political will and visionary leadership. We<br />

live in a wonderful planet, humanity should be united through<br />

mutual respect, attention to the needs of people at all levels and<br />

the will to make the impossible, possible.<br />

I wish you an inspiring reading,<br />

Barbara Dietrich, CEO,<br />

<strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong><br />

3


8 14 16 78<br />

86<br />

92<br />

HER MAJESTY MATHILDE QUEEN OF THE<br />

BELGIANS VISITS VIET NAM AS HONORARY<br />

PRESIDENT OF UNICEF BELGIUM<br />

THE 2023 UN WATER CONFERENCE:<br />

A WATERSHED MOMENT<br />

HIS MAJESTY KING WILLEM-ALEXANDER<br />

OF THE NETHERLANDS AT THE 2023 UN WATER<br />

CONFERENCE<br />

H.E. AGRON BAJRAMI<br />

AMBASSADOR OF KOSOVO<br />

H.E. JOÃO MENDES PEREIRA AMBASSADOR<br />

OF THE FEDERATIVE REPUBLIC OF BRAZIL<br />

TO THE KINGDOM OF BELGIUM<br />

18 26 30 98<br />

104<br />

108<br />

H.E. YAIRA JIMÉNEZ ROIG AMBASSADOR<br />

OF CUBA TO BELGIUM AND THE EUROPEAN<br />

UNION<br />

PRESIDENT OF TAJIKISTAN<br />

H.E. EMOMALI RAHMON AT THE 2023 UN<br />

WATER CONFERENCE<br />

H.E. SIROJIDDIN MUHRIDDIN MINISTER OF<br />

FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF TAJIKISTAN<br />

H.E. DALER JUMA MINISTER OF ENERGY AND<br />

WATER RESOURCES OF TAJIKISTAN<br />

H.E. JAIME VICTOR B. LEDDA<br />

AMBASSADOR OF THE PHILIPPINES<br />

H.E. ALIBEK KUANTYROV MINISTER OF<br />

NATIONAL ECONOMY OF THE REPUBLIC<br />

OF KAZAKHSTAN<br />

34 38 44 112<br />

116<br />

118<br />

II TASHKENT INTERNATIONAL<br />

INVESTMENT FORUM<br />

H.E. ZULFIYA SULEIMENOVA MINISTER OF<br />

ECOLOGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES OF THE<br />

REPUBLIC OF KAZAKHSTAN<br />

H.E. STEVO PENDAROVSKI PRESIDENT OF THE<br />

REPUBLIC OF NORTH MACEDONIA<br />

H.E. BUJAR OSMANI MINISTER OF FOREIGN<br />

AFFAIRS OF THE REPUBLIC OF NORTH<br />

MACEDONIA<br />

A NEW CONSTITUTION FOR<br />

A NEW UZBEKISTAN<br />

46 50 54<br />

122<br />

126<br />

GULNOZA ISMAILOVA VICE-RECTOR FOR<br />

SCIENCE AND INNOVATION, UNIVERSITY OF<br />

WORLD ECONOMY AND DIPLOMACY (UWED)<br />

ELDOR TULYAKOV EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR,<br />

DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY CENTRE<br />

OF UZBEKISTAN<br />

H.E. METODIJA BELEVSKI AMBASSADOR OF<br />

THE REPUBLIC OF NORTH MACEDONIA TO THE<br />

KINGDOM OF BELGIUM<br />

H.E. MD. SHAHRIAR ALAM, MP<br />

HONOURABLE STATE MINISTER<br />

FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF BANGLADESH<br />

H.E. ADRIANA MIRA<br />

VICE-MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS<br />

OF EL SALVADOR<br />

THE NEW CONSTITUTION OF UZBEKISTAN:<br />

STRENGTHENING THE RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS<br />

OF SOCIETY<br />

SUNA PARK ADVISER TO THE MINISTER<br />

OF NATURAL RESOURCES OF THE REPUBLIC<br />

OF UZBEKISTAN<br />

62 70 74 134<br />

136<br />

146<br />

130<br />

AKMALKHUJA MAVLONOV CHAIRMAN OF THE<br />

CUSTOMS COMMITTEE UNDER THE MINISTRY<br />

OF ECONOMY AND FINANCE OF THE REPUBLIC<br />

H.E. ANNA AGHADJANIAN<br />

AMBASSADOR OF ARMENIA<br />

H.E. RAFAŁ SIEMIANOWSKI<br />

AMBASSADOR OF POLAND TO BELGIUM<br />

POLISH HERITAGE DAY IN BRUSSELS<br />

III INTERNATIONAL BAKHSHI ART FESTIVAL<br />

HELD IN GULISTAN, UZBEKISTAN<br />

MAISON LEEA FURNITURE THAT TRANSCENDS<br />

TRENDS AND STANDS THE TEST OF TIME<br />

TER HAM CASTLE LAUNCH OF DIPLOMATIC<br />

WORLD EDITION 70<br />

4 5


152 160 162 210<br />

222<br />

226<br />

DE HEERENHUIZEN: ESCAPE THE ORDINARY<br />

CINQUANTENAIRE PARK 2030<br />

UNIV. PROF. DR. DR. H.C. JAN DE MAERE<br />

SHAGGA KOEN VANMECHELEN<br />

THE PHOEBUS FOUNDATION WILL INCLUDE<br />

TRINITY IN ITS ‘BOERENTOREN’<br />

ETEL ADNAN SHIFTING THE SILENCE<br />

168<br />

170<br />

165 228<br />

230<br />

234<br />

THE POWER OF BRAINWAVES AND<br />

TELEKINESIS<br />

DR. ROBERT SUZIC IS ELON MUSK’S<br />

AI MORATORIUM A SUBTERFUGE TO AID<br />

OTHERS IN CATCHING UP WITH CHATGPT?<br />

LIVING TOMORROW’S NEW INNOVATION<br />

CAMPUS: BUILDING A SUSTAINABLE<br />

FUTURE TOGETHER<br />

ERNST WILHELM NAY PAINTINGS ADD A<br />

GRAIN OF LOVE TO THE UNIVERSE<br />

OPENING OF COBRA DEPOT<br />

174 177 178 236<br />

238<br />

242<br />

NUKUS MUSEUM OF ART THE LOUVRE<br />

OF THE STEPPE<br />

BAYBARS ALTUNTAS SMART ENTREPRENEURS<br />

WILL ALWAYS SUCCEED<br />

AND THE LAUREATE IS...<br />

AYUMI MOORE AOKI<br />

NICOLA BARBATELLI<br />

LOUISA BURNETT-HALL<br />

MOMENTUM<br />

GABY FEY DIVE INTO THE WORLD OF<br />

UNDERWATER ART<br />

180 188<br />

244<br />

184<br />

PATRICK P. L. TSANG HONG KONG’S<br />

POSITION IN CHINA WILL BE VERY STRATEGIC<br />

AND IMPORTANT<br />

SASHA LUND CONTROL IS GOOD<br />

BUT TRUST IS BETTER<br />

HALL F RENAMED AFTER<br />

CHEF FREDDY VANDECASSERIE<br />

TURKMEN ALABAI DOGS A SYMBOL OF<br />

LOYALTY AND STRENGTH<br />

198<br />

194<br />

206<br />

DROPTERRA<br />

EXPEDITION EGYPT ART & HISTORY MUSEUM<br />

JEWELLERY IN ANCIENT EGYPT: TECHNIQUE<br />

AND SYMBOLISM<br />

6 7


HER MAJESTY MATHILDE QUEEN<br />

OF THE BELGIANS<br />

VISITS VIET NAM<br />

AS HONORARY PRESIDENT<br />

OF UNICEF BELGIUM<br />

HM Queen Mathilde of Belgium is received by the Minister of Education and Training (MOET), Mr Nguyen Kim Son, at the Ministry of Education<br />

and Training<br />

Photo: UNICEF<br />

HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN OF THE BELGIANS,<br />

WHO IS HONORARY PRESIDENT OF UNICEF<br />

BELGIUM, WRAPPED UP A THREE-DAY VISIT<br />

TO VIET NAM – FROM MAY 9 UNTIL 11 – THAT<br />

HIGHLIGHTED SIGNIFICANT ACHIEVEMENTS<br />

TOWARDS REALIZING CHILDREN’S RIGHTS AS<br />

WELL AS THE KEY CHALLENGES THE MOST<br />

VULNERABLE CHILDREN STILL FACE.<br />

During her visit to Viet Nam Her Majesty was accompanied by<br />

Ms Rana Flowers, Representative of UNICEF Viet Nam;<br />

Mr Luc Suykens President of the Board of UNICEF Belgium;<br />

Ms Christèle Devos, Executive Director of UNICEF Belgium and<br />

Mr Karl Van den Bossche, Ambassador of Belgium to Viet Nam.<br />

Her Majesty the Queen witnessed how UNICEF Viet Nam supports<br />

the Government to close equity gaps and expand opportunities<br />

for the most vulnerable children. During her visit, she<br />

interacted with children, teachers, mothers and fathers, health<br />

workers and Government officials, learning first-hand about Viet<br />

Nam’s progress for every child.<br />

UNICEF. She also recognized that this year marks 50 years of<br />

close collaboration between Viet Nam and Belgium, “an opportunity<br />

for strengthening the long-standing ties of friendship and<br />

cooperation between the two countries”, she said.<br />

“I am impressed with Viet Nam’s progress towards ensuring its<br />

children are healthy, safe, educated, protected and empowered<br />

to reach their full potential,” she remarked. “This visit has reaffirmed<br />

for me that there are innovative and creative approaches<br />

being designed and tested that greatly enhance the opportunities<br />

and improve the well-being of children across this country”, Her<br />

Majesty added.<br />

Following these discussions, Her Majesty travelled to Lao Cai, a<br />

mountainous province in Northern Viet Nam, that ranks among<br />

the country’s poorest and where the majority of residents are<br />

from ethnic communities.<br />

FIELD VISITS<br />

HM Queen Mathilde of Belgium and President Vo Van Thuong during the greet and the meeting at the Presidential Palace.<br />

Photo: UNICEF<br />

At her meetings with President Vo Van Thuong and later, the<br />

Minister of Education, Mr. Nguyen Kim Son, Her Majesty the<br />

Queen referred to Viet Nam’s achievements and learnt about<br />

national efforts to address children’s issues working closely with<br />

Queen Mathilde’s visit to Viet Nam focused on UNICEF’s work to:<br />

• close equity gaps.<br />

• expand opportunities for the most marginalized children and<br />

adolescents in the hardest-to-reach rural areas.<br />

8 9


HM Queen Mathilde enjoyed the welcome dance at Hau Thao Primary and Lower Secondary Interlevel School. Photo: UNICEF HM Queen Mathilde of Belgium with children and their mothers at the Nutrition Club session in Hoang Lien Commune, Hang Lao Chai village.<br />

Photo: UNICEF<br />

• provide insights into UNICEF programmes in remote mountainous<br />

areas with large ethnic minority populations – with focus<br />

introduce digital learning, enhance STEM (Science, Technologies,<br />

Engineering and Math) education and build transferable skills.<br />

COVID-19 pandemic has seen increased mental health issues<br />

among children and adolescents around the world and in Viet<br />

ON THE QUEEN’S ENGAGEMENT WITH UNICEF:<br />

on education, nutrition, and mental health.<br />

Special focus is given to expanding the use of mother tongue<br />

Nam, with 21.7 percent of adolescents in Viet Nam reporting they<br />

For many years, first as Princess and later as Queen, Her Majesty<br />

• exchange views with children and young people, and hear<br />

based bilingual education for ethnic minority children whose first<br />

experienced a mental health problem over the past year.<br />

the Queen of the Belgians has been committed to children’s<br />

more about their initiatives, mental health concerns, ideas and<br />

language is not Vietnamese. This approach has been proven<br />

rights.<br />

hopes for the future.<br />

extremely effective in enhancing children’s learning outcomes in<br />

Addressing children’s and adolescents’ mental health is a priority<br />

both mother tongue and Vietnamese languages.<br />

area for UNICEF Viet Nam and a growing concern that Her Maj-<br />

Her Majesty is Honorary President of UNICEF Belgium since<br />

Her Majesty witnessed new approaches piloted by the Ministry of<br />

esty has indicated is a key advocacy priority for her work globally<br />

2009. Her Majesty undertakes a mission with UNICEF Belgium<br />

Education and Training (MOET), with UNICEF support, to improve<br />

Her Majesty the Queen also visited a community-based nutri-<br />

with UNICEF.<br />

every two years. Her visit to Viet Nam was her 9th mission with<br />

the quality of learning and digital literacy among the youngest<br />

tion club, where she met mothers learning to better use local<br />

and for UNICEF Belgium. Previous field missions took place in<br />

ethnic minority girls and boys. She observed how Augmented<br />

products to prepare nutritious meals for their families, particularly<br />

Her Majesty was pleased to note the work underway to promote<br />

Niger, Tanzania, Senegal, Liberia, Haiti, Ethiopia, Laos and in<br />

Virtual Reality (AVR) is being used to nurture curiosity, joyful<br />

their young children. The clubs, initially launched with UNICEF<br />

positive mental health through actions that help children and<br />

Kenya. During her 14 years involvement with UNICEF Belgium,<br />

learning and transferable skills for preschool students.<br />

support, are an example of where proven approaches are tested<br />

adolescents to adopt and maintain healthy lifestyles, encour-<br />

Her Majesty has participated in over 70 events/activities organ-<br />

and scaled up by Government to reach even more children. In<br />

aging UNICEF and its partners to increase efforts to strengthen<br />

ised by UNICEF Belgium.<br />

This pilot programme is closing the digital divide for children in<br />

Lao Cai, the local health authorities have adopted this approach<br />

service provision, including by increasing budget allocation for<br />

remote, mountainous regions and ensuring that ethnic minority<br />

as a part of their efforts to reduce malnutrition rates in Lao Cai<br />

mental health, integrating mental health into all social sectors,<br />

As an international advocate of the Sustainable Development<br />

children, who are least likely to complete primary and secondary<br />

province in a context where child stunting rates reach over<br />

and improving referral systems at health-care facilities, schools<br />

Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations, Her Majesty the Queen also<br />

school, get the best possible start to their education.<br />

37 per cent.<br />

and social welfare units.<br />

used this opportunity to draw attention to the SDG implementation.<br />

With the aim of improving quality education for all children, par-<br />

On her last day in Viet Nam, Her Majesty sat with a group of ado-<br />

Philippe Henon – UNICEF Belgium<br />

ticularly the most disadvantaged, UNICEF works with MOET to<br />

lescents to talk about their concerns and mental well-being. The<br />

www.unicef.be<br />

10 11


HM Queen Mathilde of Belgium with UNICEF Representative to Viet Nam, Ms Rana Flowers (right), and UNICEF Viet Nam Nutrition Officer,<br />

Mr Nguyen Dinh Quang (centre) and health workers, who are briefing HM on the local food that is available at Lao Cai communities.<br />

Photo: UNICEF<br />

HM Queen Mathilde of Belgium had the opportunity to walk across the rice fields and greet women and babies from the community in Hoang Lien<br />

Commune, Hang Lao Chai village.<br />

Photo: UNICEF<br />

HM Queen Mathilde attending UNICEF-supported digital learning activities at Ham Rong Preschool, Lao Cai Province, with children, UNICEF<br />

Representative to Viet Nam Ms Rana Flowers (right) and UNICEF Viet Nam Officer Ms Van Minh Hien (left).<br />

Photo: UNICEF<br />

HM Queen Mathilde under a traditional umbrella with Ms Rana Flowers, UNICEF Viet Nam Representative, children and teachers at Hau Thao<br />

Primary and Lower Secondary Interlevel School.<br />

Photo: UNICEF<br />

12 13


A number of world leaders in attendance, among whom<br />

President of Slovenia Nataša Pirc Musar, called for the establishment<br />

of a UN Special Envoy for Water, which would would help<br />

mobilize much needed further action.<br />

The Conference concluded with the adoption of the Water Action<br />

Agenda, which includes over 700 transformative commitments<br />

registered by states, NGOs, multilateral banks, academia, local<br />

communities and other actors, that can truly accelerate progress<br />

towards the water-related goals.<br />

Evidently, the world cannot wait another 50 years for the next<br />

Water Conference. The Conference outcomes and commitments<br />

will receive concrete follow-up in three key upcoming<br />

Summits: The 2023 SDG Summit – the High-level Political<br />

Forum on Sustainable Development under the auspices of the<br />

General Assembly; the Summit of the Future in 2024 and the<br />

<strong>World</strong> Social Summit in 2025, and additionally through the<br />

annual high-level political forum on sustainable development,<br />

Conference of the Parties and other United Nations processes,<br />

as well as the Dushanbe Water Process.<br />

First, the not-so-good news. The progress on the Sustainable<br />

Development Goals (SDGs) in general, and SDG 6 (ensuring<br />

availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation<br />

for all by 2030) specifically, is lagging behind. The impact of the<br />

COVID-19 pandemic, climate crisis and conflicts has further<br />

slowed down progress. Data shows the need to move four times<br />

faster to meet SDG 6 on time.<br />

A few statistics from the UN paint a disturbing scenario: today,<br />

a quarter of the global population – 2 billion people – use unsafe<br />

drinking water sources. Half of humanity – 3.6 billion people – live<br />

without safely managed sanitation. And 1 in 3 people – 2.3 billion<br />

– lack basic handwashing facilities at home. Over 80 percent of<br />

wastewater is released to the environment without being treated<br />

or reused.<br />

Almost three quarters of all recent disasters are<br />

water-related, having caused economic damage of almost<br />

USD 700 billion in the past 20 years. Moreover, there has been<br />

an acute upswing in water-related conflicts in recent years as<br />

sources dwindle. By 2050, an estimated six billion people will<br />

face water scarcity due to climate change, pollution and increasingly<br />

unsustainable consumption and production.<br />

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres illustrated this bleak<br />

scenario: “Water is in deep trouble. We are draining humanity’s<br />

lifeblood through vampiric overconsumption and unsustainable<br />

use, and evaporating it through global heating. We’ve broken the<br />

water cycle, destroyed ecosystems, and contaminated groundwater.”<br />

THE 2023 UN WATER CONFERENCE:<br />

A WATERSHED MOMENT<br />

Alberto Turkstra, Project Manager,<br />

<strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong><br />

It is in this context that the 2023 UN Water Conference took<br />

place in New York in March 2023, the first Water Conference in<br />

almost five decades (since 1977 in Mar del Plata, Argentina),<br />

co-hosted by the Republic of Tajikistan and the Kingdom of the<br />

Netherlands, two countries where water plays a central role: the<br />

Netherlands, with its low-lying river delta on the North Sea and<br />

small islands in the Caribbean, is quite literally shaped by water.<br />

Over the past centuries, the country has become a world leader<br />

in water management.<br />

And Tajikistan, known as the “water tower of Central Asia”: over<br />

90 percent of its land area is covered by mountains with plentiful<br />

– albeit decreasing – water stored in glaciers.<br />

Tajikistan understands the essential importance of water in accomplishing<br />

its development goals as a landlocked country with<br />

limited resources, and it has been at the forefront of the International<br />

Decade for Action “Water for Sustainable Development”<br />

2018-2028.<br />

The 2023 UN Water Conference was one of bold statements and<br />

concrete calls for more partnerships, more investments and more<br />

commitments. The time for business-as-usual was over, it was<br />

frequently heard during the duration of the three-day conference,<br />

which was cross-sectoral, action-oriented and inclusive, with<br />

strong participation from the Global South and from stakeholder<br />

groups previously under-represented such as women, youth and<br />

indigenous groups.<br />

The Agenda represents a bold resolve to address the water challenges<br />

through a more coordinated and results-driven approach,<br />

flexible enough to allow for custom arrangements but institutionalized<br />

enough to gain momentum and track the impact. It, however,<br />

does have one major shortcoming: it is voluntary and not<br />

legally binding, whereby it will be harder to hold governments,<br />

industry and financial institutions to account.<br />

The Conference, in fact, had no mandate for a formal global<br />

agreement like the 2015 Paris Climate Accords, so the voluntary<br />

commitments that make up the Water Action Agenda is the next<br />

best thing.<br />

New, York, NY, USA - September 24, 2016 - United Nations Headquarters in New York City: The United Nations General Assembly opens.<br />

Photo: Shutterstock<br />

14 15


HIS MAJESTY<br />

KING WILLEM-ALEXANDER<br />

OF THE NETHERLANDS<br />

AT THE OPENING OF THE UN 2023 WATER<br />

CONFERENCE IN NEW YORK<br />

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,<br />

One is a country with soaring mountains, and the other has<br />

That driving force is now under threat. We face a future with too<br />

low-lying polders. One country lies upstream and the other is<br />

much or too little water, or water supplies that are too polluted.<br />

downstream. One country is landlocked, and the other is coastal.<br />

Research commissioned by the UN has shown that almost half<br />

One is where rivers begin, and the other is where rivers flow into<br />

of the world’s population will suffer severe water stress by 2030.<br />

the sea. The differences between Tajikistan and the Netherlands<br />

Not just ‘stress’, but ‘severe stress’. And the worst affected will<br />

could not be greater. As co-hosts, we may seem like an odd<br />

be those who are already vulnerable. And let’s not forget that<br />

couple. We’re opposites, each with a completely different water<br />

2030 is only seven years away.<br />

balance.<br />

The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2022 painted an<br />

Nonetheless, together we are delighted to welcome you to the<br />

start of the UN 2023 Water Conference. Because together, we<br />

alarming picture in almost all areas. In the words of that report,<br />

interlinked crises are putting the Agenda for Sustainable Devel-<br />

Photo: Government of Tajikistan<br />

represent virtually the whole ‘world of water’. We even represent<br />

opment in grave danger, along with humanity’s very own survival.<br />

the Small Island Developing States, because part of the Kingdom<br />

We all know it. We all feel it. Now it is time to rise above our par-<br />

I’m also happy to see that the younger generation is highly mo-<br />

If you’re a diplomat, seek out an engineer.<br />

of the Netherlands lies in the Caribbean, and comprises Aruba,<br />

tial and sectional interests, see the big picture and get moving.<br />

tivated and ready to help find solutions. But as they themselves<br />

If you’re an engineer, talk to a policymaker.<br />

Curaçao and St Maarten. As well as the islands of Bonaire, Saba<br />

We, as members of the international water community, can be<br />

have said, we can’t leave all the problem-solving up to them. It’s<br />

If you’re a policymaker, meet up with someone from an NGO.<br />

and St Eustatius.<br />

the drivers of change.<br />

our responsibility to do everything we can. During this confer-<br />

If you work for an NGO, have coffee with a finance professional.<br />

ence, we want to get the water wheel spinning. We won’t rest<br />

If you’re over 50, have a talk with someone younger.<br />

Together, we want to emphasise that water is our common<br />

We have to value water – surface water and ground water – and<br />

until water is given the place it rightly deserves on global agen-<br />

And if you live in Europe, turn your attention to Africa or Asia.<br />

denominator. Let’s remove all the barriers that separate water-re-<br />

use it more efficiently and sustainably in every sector, locally<br />

das and policy programmes. We will bring all our commitments,<br />

Or vice versa.<br />

lated issues. Everything we need to live a decent life is directly<br />

and globally. So it’s encouraging that our invitation to attend this<br />

pledges and actions together in a Water Action Agenda. And<br />

Follow the example of the Republic of Tajikistan and the King-<br />

related to water. Our health, food, safety, habitat, economy,<br />

Water Conference has been accepted by so many.<br />

we will create a fluid connection between water and the broader<br />

dom of the Netherlands. Seek collaboration in the murky waters<br />

infrastructure and climate.<br />

work of the United Nations up to 2030 and beyond.<br />

of contrast. Water is our common ground! There’s so much to<br />

Not only by the members of the United Nations, but also many<br />

discover and achieve!<br />

Water security is one of the defining concerns of our time, and it<br />

stakeholders: companies, towns, indigenous groups, organisa-<br />

Above all, we will talk to each other and share our experiences.<br />

will determine our collective sustainable future. Leonardo da Vin-<br />

tions run for and by women, nature organisations and scientific<br />

And if I could offer just one tip: seek out the company of those<br />

Thank you.<br />

ci was absolutely right when he said that water was ‘the driving<br />

institutes. Rarely has a UN conference made such a splash!<br />

who are outside your own field. Look outside the box.<br />

force of nature’.<br />

16 17


PRESIDENT OF TAJIKISTAN<br />

H.E. EMOMALI RAHMON<br />

AT THE OPENING OF THE UN 2023 WATER<br />

CONFERENCE IN NEW YORK<br />

Photo: Government of Tajikistan<br />

Distinguished heads of state and delegation,<br />

Excellency Secretary-General, Excellency President<br />

of the UN General Assembly, Distinguished participants,<br />

I would like to welcome you to this important milestone event<br />

and offer my sincere gratitude for your proactive engagements in<br />

the process of preparation to this gathering.<br />

It is quite symbolic that this conference is coinciding with the<br />

<strong>World</strong> Water Day and the International Navruz Holiday. May I<br />

extend my sincere congratulations to all of you on this occasion.<br />

It is worth noting that Tajikistan has been leading water-related<br />

issues on the global development agenda for more than two<br />

decades.<br />

impact all aspects of public life, particularly the food security,<br />

generation of green power, and nature sustainability. In this context,<br />

the climate change is also at the centre of our attention as<br />

a factor affecting drinking water resources.<br />

The rapid melting of glaciers, both in the Arctic and Antarctic,<br />

and in the continental parts of the planet, is a clear testimony to<br />

this phenomenon. On the other hand, the accelerated growth<br />

of the world’s population also increases the demand for water<br />

respectively.<br />

Due to these two factors, during the last five decades, the water<br />

availability per capita indicator declined by almost 2.5 times<br />

globally, and by more than four times in some regions of the<br />

globe, including Central Asia.<br />

At our initiative, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Moreover, the climate change has also led to an unprecedented<br />

nine resolutions on water issues and their implementation laid a increase in water-born natural disasters. We all witnessed last<br />

strong foundation in achieving coordinated global water goals. year unprecedented droughts and floods, which with their large<br />

scale and unexpected geographical coverage once again proved<br />

Indeed, the UN member states and agencies, including members<br />

of the Friends of Water Group played an important role in<br />

the close linkage between the water and climate.<br />

promoting these global objectives.<br />

Tajikistan also suffers a significant financial and human losses<br />

from water-born natural disasters every year, which seriously<br />

As you are aware, water resources are currently deeply affected hinder our efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.<br />

by various threats and challenges, which indeed negatively<br />

Photo: Government of Tajikistan<br />

18 19


Photo: Government of Tajikistan<br />

Still 2 billion people of the planet lack safe drinking water and<br />

3.6 billion lack safe sanitation respectively. Almost half a million<br />

people die from water-related infectious diseases every year.<br />

during its presidency of the International Fund for Saving the Aral<br />

Sea, will continue its efforts to deepen and expand cross-border<br />

water cooperation in Central Asia.<br />

Unfortunately, these and other facts and figures indicate that the At the national level, we will make every effort possible to fully<br />

actions by the international community to address the existing<br />

issues is not sufficient. With this in mind, in the process of<br />

water resources management system nationwide.<br />

complete the water reform by 2025 and introduce the integrated<br />

preparation for the Conference, together with the Kingdom of<br />

the Netherlands and our partners from the United Nations, we We are developing Tajikistan’s National Water Strategy in line<br />

focused on commitments to accelerate actions to achieve the with the current standards and requirements. We are developing<br />

water-related development goals.<br />

a targeted national program to ensure the access of the country’s<br />

entire population to safe drinking water and sanitation by<br />

In this regard, at the Second Dushanbe Conference on the<br />

2030 and we are determined to double the funding in this area<br />

Decade of Water, which played a key role in preparing for today’s gradually.<br />

Conference, we presented the Water Action Agenda.<br />

Tajikistan generates 98 percent of its electricity in hydropower<br />

We will further strive through integrated efforts to address the<br />

plants, while it so far is able to use 5 percent of its hydropower<br />

resources only. Therefore, we are determined to double the<br />

water and climate issues within the United Nations, including<br />

during implementation of the International Year of Glaciers’<br />

capacity of our hydropower plants by 2050 and make a decent<br />

Preservation, which was proclaimed by the UN General<br />

contribution to the development of green economy.<br />

Assembly at the initiative of Tajikistan in December of the last<br />

year. In this context, we will host a high-level international conference<br />

on glaciers’ preservation in Dushanbe in 2025.<br />

in terms of the share of electricity generated from renewable<br />

It is worth mentioning that now Tajikistan ranks sixth in the world<br />

water resources, i.e. generation of “green energy”.<br />

Tajikistan, where 60 percent of water in Central Asia is formed,<br />

Photos: Government of Tajikistan<br />

20 21


Photo: Government of Tajikistan<br />

This Conference should be recorded in the history for promoting<br />

the clear understanding of the sphere’s challenges and exploring<br />

effective and executive solutions.<br />

We need to make joint efforts to achieve specific results and follow<br />

up the agreements reached with a view to decently meeting<br />

the expectations of the international community.<br />

peaks of my country, can provide the people of the Central Asian<br />

region with high-quality drinking water for many years.<br />

We are all aware that the drinking water sources are depleting<br />

every year under the influence of climate change and other global<br />

processes. For example, 1,000 out of 14,000 glaciers in Tajikistan<br />

have completely melted in the last few decades.<br />

With this in mind and with a view to monitoring the implementation<br />

of our commitments constantly, I would like to propose to<br />

arrange the next United Nations Water Conference in Tajikistan at<br />

the end of the Decade of Action in 2028.<br />

In order to fulfil these actions and commitments, especially the<br />

Water Action Agenda, I propose to widely use the Dushanbe<br />

Water Process as a monitoring platform.<br />

It is my firm belief that our collective efforts and new commitments<br />

and actions within the today’s Conference and their implementation<br />

will come to fruition.<br />

Water is the main source of life. Tajikistan is a country with abundant<br />

resources of drinking water. We brought some water from<br />

Sarez Lake, which is located at an altitude of 3,500 meters in the<br />

mountains of Tajikistan. Sarez, in fact, as a rare example of pure<br />

water resources originating from the glaciers and snow-covered<br />

Therefore, I would like to propose to develop and implement<br />

specific national, regional and international programs for the<br />

preservation and effective use of all water sources. Pursuing this<br />

initiative is, indeed, consistent with our commitments in the implementation<br />

of the Global Climate Agenda and requires fruitful<br />

cooperation with all partners.<br />

Accordingly, reliable modern mechanisms for water supply and<br />

effective management of water-related issues should be developed<br />

and implemented. I hope that we will achieve the agreed<br />

international goals related to water with collective efforts.<br />

Thank you.<br />

Photo: Government of Tajikistan<br />

22 23


Photos: <strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong><br />

Photo: Government of Tajikistan<br />

24 25


H.E. SIROJIDDIN MUHRIDDIN<br />

MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS<br />

OF TAJIKISTAN<br />

TAJIKISTAN AND THE NETHERLANDS<br />

ACCOMPLISHED A LOT TO MAKE THE 2023 UN<br />

WATER CONFERENCE MOMENTOUS IN TERMS<br />

OF ITS CONTENT AND OUTCOMES, AS WELL<br />

AS IN MOBILIZING ALL STAKEHOLDERS AND<br />

CCELERATING ACTIONS TOWARDS ACHIEVING<br />

ALL WATER-RELATED GOALS AND TARGETS<br />

On the sidelines of the 2023 United Nations Water Conference,<br />

<strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong> had the pleasure to interview Minister of<br />

Foreign Affairs of Tajikistan, H.E. Sirojiddin Muhriddin, to discuss<br />

the outcomes of the Conference, Tajikistan’s initiatives on the<br />

preservation of glaciers and cooperation with the EU on water<br />

and green energy.<br />

Photo: <strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong><br />

Photo: <strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong><br />

WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE UN WATER<br />

CONFERENCE FOR TAJIKISTAN AND WHAT<br />

DELIVERABLES AND FOLLOW-UP MEASURES<br />

DOES TAJIKISTAN EXPECT IN ORDER TO KEEP<br />

MOMENTUM ALIVE FOR GLOBAL WATER<br />

COOPERATION?<br />

The United Nations Conference on the Midterm Comprehensive<br />

Review of the Implementation of the Objectives of the International<br />

Decade for Action “Water for Sustainable Development,<br />

2018-2028 (2023 UN Water Conference) was a timely milestone<br />

on a global scale. More than 10,000 delegates came together<br />

at the UN Headquarters in New York and participated online<br />

from 22–24 March 2023 in the second UN Water Conference,<br />

conducted 46 years after the first one held in Mar del Plata,<br />

Argentina.<br />

The Conference brought together world leaders, governments,<br />

civil society, businesses, youth, academia, the UN System,<br />

development banks and international organizations from multiple<br />

water-related sectors – agriculture, energy, food, health, finance,<br />

climate, culture, economy and others. They came together since<br />

the Conference provided a new opportunity to raise the voice of<br />

water:<br />

WATER IS LIFE. WITHOUT WATER THERE<br />

IS NO LIFE.<br />

Deliberations at the Conference ranged from the urgent consideration<br />

of water crisis, including its role in migration, climate<br />

change and conflicts to stressing its critical role in ensuring<br />

good health and food security, as well in poverty reduction and<br />

sustainable development. Attention was also paid to solutions,<br />

with deliberations underlining the need for better data, enhanced<br />

governance, capacity development and funding gaps.<br />

The inputs and reflections by the UN Member States and stakeholders<br />

during general debates, interactive dialogues, special<br />

events and the hundreds of side events demonstrated that the<br />

principles on which the Conference had been constructed,<br />

namely inclusivity, cross-sectoral and action-oriented, were<br />

right and fair.<br />

Tajikistan and the Netherlands as the co-hosts accomplished a<br />

lot to make the Conference momentous in terms of its content<br />

and outcomes, as well as in mobilizing all stakeholders and<br />

accelerating actions towards achieving all water-related goals<br />

and targets, including those contained in the 2030 Agenda for<br />

Sustainable Development.<br />

26 27


We are strongly convinced that as one of key outcomes of the<br />

Conference – Water Action Agenda, containing transformative<br />

and game-changing commitments, will facilitate and accelerate<br />

progress towards achieving water-related goals.<br />

I would like to underline that the Water Action Agenda captured<br />

over 700 commitments and reflects the global community’s bold<br />

resolve to address the water challenges through a more coordinated<br />

and result-driven approach.<br />

To this end, we expect that the Water Action Agenda will be<br />

fed into relevant intergovernmental processes to ensure that all<br />

commitments will get follow-up through the existing mechanisms,<br />

including the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable<br />

Development; Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction;<br />

Forest Forum; Forum on Food Security, Climate COP,<br />

Biodiversity COP and the Dushanbe Water Process.<br />

With a view to monitoring the implementation of our commitments,<br />

Tajikistan proposed to arrange the next United Nations<br />

Water Conference in Dushanbe for final review of the implementation<br />

of the Water Action Decade and water-related SDGs.<br />

WHAT ROLE DO WATER AND CLEAN ENERGY<br />

PLAY IN TAJIKISTAN’S RELATIONS WITH THE<br />

EUROPEAN UNION?<br />

Cooperation between Tajikistan and the European Union over<br />

the past three decades has expanded visibly with water and<br />

clean energy issues as an integral part of a bilateral agenda.<br />

Being one of the leading donors in the field of water resource<br />

management, including irrigation, drinking water supply and<br />

sanitation, the EU has supported all global initiatives of Tajikistan<br />

on water and climate matters.<br />

At this moment, Tajikistan and the EU are closely working on the<br />

implementation of several water projects, such as “Kulob Water<br />

Supply and Sanitation” and “Sustainable Management of Water<br />

Irrigation”.<br />

As for energy cooperation with the EU, I would like to emphasize<br />

collaboration in “green energy” is a promising area. Tajikistan<br />

has a huge hydropower potential, generating 98 percent of its<br />

electricity from hydropower plants, which contributes sustainably<br />

to our energy security.<br />

Therefore, Tajikistan is actively contributing to the development<br />

of a regional electricity market in Central Asia, particularly<br />

through the construction of new and reconstruction of the<br />

existing hydropower facilities. To this end, we are continuing our<br />

cooperation with both the countries of Central Asia and the EU.<br />

I would like to highlight the cooperation of Tajikistan with the EU<br />

in the construction of the Sebzor Hydropower Plant (HPP) as an<br />

example.<br />

Moreover, in order to expand our cooperation on energy, recently<br />

Tajikistan and the EU have signed the first bilateral agreement on<br />

“Sustainable Energy Support Program” for Tajikistan.<br />

In addition to bilateral programs, Tajikistan benefits from the EU’s<br />

regional facilities in the fields of energy, environment, climate<br />

change and disaster risk management through the EU Strategy<br />

for Central Asia.<br />

The EU-Central Asia Platform for Environment and Water Cooperation<br />

can also be noted as an example.<br />

Lastly, I would like to highlight that Tajikistan welcomes Europe’s<br />

global and regional initiatives and regards the new initiative of the<br />

EU Global Gateway as another important step towards common<br />

development.<br />

To this end, it is worth mentioning that the projects currently<br />

underway in Tajikistan correlate with the objectives of the EU<br />

Global Gateway initiative to ensure further development between<br />

the EU and Central Asia in many areas.<br />

GLACIERS ARE AN ESSENTIAL ELEMENT IN THE<br />

NATURAL ECOSYSTEM. THEIR MELTING IS ALSO<br />

A POWERFUL REMINDER OF CLIMATE CHANGE.<br />

WHAT INITIATIVES AND POLICY MEASURES IS<br />

TAJIKISTAN TAKING, IN COOPERATION WITH<br />

INTERNATIONAL PARTNERS, IN ORDER TO<br />

PROTECT THESE ESSENTIAL SOURCES OF<br />

FRESH WATER?<br />

Indeed, during the past years the world’s mountain glaciers<br />

are melting faster, losing 31 percent of snow and ice per year<br />

more than they did 15 years ago. The world’s 220,000 mountain<br />

glaciers are losing more than 328 billion tons (298 billion metric<br />

tons) of ice and snow per year since 2015. It means that almost<br />

all the world’s glaciers, including those in Central Asia, are melting<br />

faster than ever before.<br />

Glaciers are a vital source of freshwater to supply the planet’s<br />

population with this natural asset. In this regard, the accelerated<br />

melting of glaciers is one of the most alarming global issues<br />

entailing negative consequences. To date, more than 1,000 of<br />

Tajikistan’s 14,000 glaciers have completely melted.<br />

To address these issues, the President of the Republic of<br />

Tajikistan proposed in 2009 to establish an International Fund<br />

for Preservation of Glaciers at the 15th Conference of the Parties<br />

to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change held in<br />

Copenhagen as well as during the UN General Assembly sessions,<br />

and other important regional and international fora.<br />

Tajikistan proactively promotes integrated approach to addressing<br />

water and climate issues, including within Water and Climate<br />

Coalition. During the Coalition’s first meeting, H.E. President<br />

Emomali Rahmon proposed declaring 2025 as an international<br />

year of glaciers’ preservation.<br />

It is encouraging that the UN General Assembly, through its<br />

resolution of 14 December 2022, declared 2025 as the International<br />

Year of Glaciers’ Preservation. The resolution facilitated the<br />

UN Member States’ support for the above-mentioned proposals,<br />

including the designation of March 21 as an International Day<br />

for Glacier’s Preservation; establishing a Trust Fund in support<br />

of activities for glaciers’ preservation coordinated by the UN<br />

Secretary-General and convening the International Conference<br />

on Glacier’s Preservation in Dushanbe in 2025.<br />

The huge number of co-sponsors (153 Member States) of the<br />

resolution once again demonstrates that the international community<br />

fully supports the initiatives and contributions of Tajikistan<br />

in addressing global climate challenges.<br />

We are looking forward to close cooperation with all co-sponsors<br />

of the resolutions as well as with other stakeholders in addressing<br />

the negative impact of climate change to freshwater resources<br />

and sustainable development.<br />

Photo: Government of Tajikistan<br />

Photo: Government of Tajikistan<br />

28 29


H.E. DALER JUMA<br />

MINISTER OF ENERGY<br />

AND WATER RESOURCES<br />

OF TAJIKISTAN<br />

Tajikistan faces a dilemma: our contributions<br />

to the carbon emissions are close to zero<br />

but we are one of the most impacted by climate change<br />

WHAT ARE TAJIKISTAN’S EXPECTATIONS<br />

TOWARDS THE 2023 UN WATER CONFERENCE,<br />

ESPECIALLY IN TERMS OF DELIVERABLES TO<br />

STRENGTHEN GLOBAL WATER COOPERATION?<br />

As far as Tajikistan is concerned, as a co-host of the UN Water<br />

Conference, this is significant landmark when it comes to the<br />

water agenda. We are in the middle of the International Decade<br />

for Action on Water for Sustainable Development, 2018-2028,<br />

and our expectation to have this mid-term review is to see what<br />

works and what does not work.<br />

It is clear that we, as a global community, are struggling to<br />

make headway fulfilling the 2030 Sustainable Development<br />

Goals (SDGs) agenda. Time is running out. What we are trying<br />

to achieve with our partner, the Kingdom of the Netherlands,<br />

as co-hosts of this conference, is to bring the decision-makers,<br />

regulators, governments, youth, NGOs, and any other relevant<br />

stakeholders, to see what we can do.<br />

The bad news is that we are behind schedule in the achievement<br />

of these goals. There are a myriad of current challenges that we<br />

face – geopolitical, economic and financial; not to mention the<br />

ongoing impacts of climate change which does not make our<br />

life easier, either – and it is important for us to understand the<br />

implications of the aforementioned challenges, and what are our<br />

available resources to tackle them.<br />

We expect the global community should not just be ambitious,<br />

but I think it should stick to its commitments and to be able to<br />

make tough calls. Recently, one report (“Turning the Tide: A Call<br />

to Collective Action”, published by the Global Commission on<br />

the Economics of Water) indicated that global freshwater demand<br />

will exceed supply 40 percent by 2030. If you think about<br />

it, it is quite concerning. We hope that we are all here in New<br />

York, not to challenge each other, but to understand what is happening<br />

and most importantly find avenues of working together to<br />

overcome the challenges.<br />

LAST YEAR, ON INITIATIVE OF TAJIKISTAN, THE<br />

YEAR 2025 WAS DECLARED THE INTERNATIONAL<br />

YEAR OF GLACIERS, WHICH ARE ARE A CRUCIAL<br />

FRESHWATER RESOURCE. WHAT IS THEIR<br />

IMPORTANCE TO TAJIKISTAN?<br />

Why are we talking about the conservation of glaciers today?<br />

First of all, Tajikistan is home to 60 percent of water resources in<br />

Central Asia, a region home to 100 million people (if we include<br />

Afghanistan).<br />

H.E. Daler Juma, Minister of Energy and Water Resources of Tajikistan, Barbara Dietrich CEO, <strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong> and Alberto Turkstra, <strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong><br />

Photo: <strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong><br />

30 31


H.E. Daler Juma, Minister of Energy and Water Resources of Tajikistan, Barbara Dietrich CEO, <strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong> and Alberto Turkstra, <strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong><br />

Photo: <strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong><br />

As far as Tajikistan is concerned, during the last decades we<br />

have lost 1,000 out of 14,000 glaciers. That is in terms of the<br />

number of glaciers. If speak about volume, we have lost almost<br />

one third.<br />

While we are losing more glaciers, at the same time the population<br />

has doubled in the region and the area of irrigated lands has<br />

increased by four and a half times. We have less water resources,<br />

because most of it comes from glaciers; but demand is growing<br />

exponentially. In terms of carbon footprint, Tajikistan’s contribution<br />

is negligible. Close to nothing. A good example is that 98<br />

percent of the electricity we produce comes from hydropower.<br />

But Tajikistan is among the top six most vulnerable countries to<br />

the climate change. Therefore, we have a dilemma: our contributions<br />

to global carbon emissions are close to zero but we are one<br />

of the most impacted by climate change.<br />

On initiative of the Government of Tajikistan, particularly from our<br />

Head of State President Emomali Rahmon, at the 77th session<br />

of the UN General Assembly last December, 2025 was declared<br />

as the International Year of Glaciers’ Preservation. As per the<br />

Resolution, March 21 was declared as the International Day of<br />

Glaciers’ Preservation; and an international fund for glacier<br />

conservation will be established.<br />

We need to ensure that Central Asia, home to 100 million people,<br />

continues having access to water resources. Therefore, it is important<br />

to understand and quantify the impact of climate change.<br />

For us, it is a matter of life. We would like to raise the issue in the<br />

world stage, and not just because we are an imminent vulnerable<br />

country. It will ultimately impact the entire region, and beyond.<br />

We have to ensure we manage water in a way that it continues to<br />

develop the region, but not to create major issues and challenges<br />

in the region.<br />

THIS YEAR, THE INTERNATIONAL FUND FOR ARAL<br />

SEA (IFAS) TURNS 30 YEARS AND DUSHANBE<br />

WILL HOST A SPECIAL CONFERENCE IN JUNE.<br />

WHAT IS TAJIKISTAN’S ROLE IN STRENGTHENING<br />

THIS INSTITUTION?<br />

IFAS is indeed celebrating 30 years. Tajikistan is very proud to<br />

have chaired IFAS for the last three years, and later this year<br />

H.E. Daler Juma, Minister of Energy and Water Resources of Tajikistan and H.E. Zulfiya Suleimenova, Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources of The Republic of Kazakhstan<br />

Photo: <strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong><br />

Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe will host an International<br />

Conference dedicated to this anniversary, in the presence<br />

of other Central Asian Heads of State.<br />

The experience of this international fund and the inter-state<br />

commission under the IFAS Executive Committee is a good<br />

case study for other parts of the world. It has been a regionally<br />

developed initiative to manage water resources. It has proven to<br />

be effective, serving a clear purpose, but given the new circumstances,<br />

members of the fund are looking for ways to enhance<br />

and improve it.<br />

One of the agenda items is that the fund should not be purely<br />

about water but we need to think about the water-energy nexus;<br />

we are talking to our neighbouring countries to make IFAS more<br />

comprehensive and better coordinated. Ultimately, this is to<br />

ensure not only effective water management but also to include<br />

an energy security component in its work.<br />

32 33


H.E. ZULFIYA SULEIMENOVA<br />

MINISTER OF ECOLOGY<br />

AND NATURAL RESOURCES<br />

OF THE REPUBLIC OF KAZAKHSTAN<br />

We would like to see ourselves as part<br />

of the solution for the future,<br />

positively contribution to global climate action<br />

On the sidelines of the UN Water Conference which took place<br />

in New York on March 22-24, the <strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong> team sat<br />

with Kazakhstan’s Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources of<br />

Kazakhstan Zulfiya Suleimenova to discuss her country’s green<br />

ambitious. Her Ministry has a broad and important mandate. In<br />

fact, when President Tokayev became President of Kazakhstan in<br />

2019, one of his first decisions was to re-establish the Ministry of<br />

Ecology and Natural Resources, whose functions previously fell<br />

under the Ministry of Energy.<br />

KAZAKHSTAN HAS AMBITIOUS IN TERMS OF<br />

TRANSITIONING TO A GREEN ECONOMY AND<br />

ACHIEVING CARBON NEUTRALITY BY 2060. WHAT<br />

ECONOMIC AND TECHNOLOGICAL TRANSFORMA-<br />

TIONS DOES KAZAKHSTAN NEED TO UNDERGO IN<br />

ORDER TO ACHIEVE SUCH AMBITIOUS GOALS?<br />

It is indeed a very ambitious goal we have set for ourselves. We<br />

are quite a carbon intensive economy; so for us reaching carbon<br />

neutrality means undergoing very deep economic structural<br />

transformations. Having said that, one of the very important<br />

components is the energy transition. We cannot overlook the<br />

energy transition when speaking about carbon neutrality. This<br />

goes hand-in-hand with the development of renewables and<br />

other alternative sources of energy such as green hydrogen. This<br />

is the reason why we are working very closely with our partners,<br />

including the European Union, to explore the prospects of the<br />

development of sustainable hydrogen production.<br />

In fact, on 7 November 2022, in the margins of COP-27 in Egypt,<br />

the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen,<br />

and Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Alikhan Smailov signed the<br />

Memorandum of Understanding between the EU and Kazakhstan<br />

on a strategic partnership in the field of raw materials, batteries<br />

and renewable hydrogen.<br />

Even our state-owned oil and gas company KazMunayGas has<br />

established a centre of excellence in green hydrogen development,<br />

and is already working on pilot projects.<br />

The carbon neutrality ambition in itself is a political will of<br />

President Tokayev, because he really understands that<br />

Kazakhstan, as a responsible member of the international<br />

community, and as a country with a carbon intensive economy,<br />

needs to to contribute to global climate action. Therefore, we<br />

have set the pledge to reach carbon neutrality by 2060.<br />

I should like to add that in our part of the world, we are the only<br />

country with an Emissions Trading System (ETS), and we are<br />

H.E. Zulfiya Suleimenova, Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources, Barbara Dietrich CEO, <strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong> and Alberto Turkstra, <strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong><br />

Photo: <strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong><br />

currently working on aligning it with the EU’s ETS. We see that<br />

the ETS is a very good instrument to create the right incentives<br />

for the private sector to decarbonize and be more aware about<br />

their carbon footprint.<br />

When we are speaking about carbon neutrality contributing to<br />

this global transition, we would like to see ourselves as part<br />

of the solution for the future, positively contribution to global<br />

climate action. We would like to forge more partnerships with the<br />

private sector, with other countries as well, because when we are<br />

talking about climate action, it has to be a global effort.<br />

THE ARAL SEA, ONCE THE FOURTH LARGEST<br />

LAKE IN THE WORLD, IS CONSIDERED ONE OF<br />

THE BIGGEST ENVIRONMENTAL DISASTERS, WITH<br />

THE WATER LEVEL SHRINKING BELOW 10 PER-<br />

CENT OF ITS ORIGINAL SIZE. WHAT INITIATIVES IS<br />

KAZAKHSTAN TAKING TO REVIVE THE ECOSYS-<br />

TEM AND LIVELIHOODS IN THIS ZONE?<br />

We are putting all efforts so that the water reaches the Aral Sea.<br />

This year we have had a good precipitation year, we were strategic<br />

to deliver as much as possible to the Aral Sea to preserve the<br />

ecosystem.<br />

In the first two and a half months of 2023, over 1 billion cubic<br />

meters of water reached the Aral Sea, compared to 800 million<br />

cubic meters in the whole of last year. Central Asia, as a<br />

landlocked region, has endorheic river basins, which are quite<br />

vulnerable to changes across the years.<br />

If you travel to the North Aral Sea, the delta of the Syr Darya river,<br />

where it discharges into the Aral Sea, is a wetland protected<br />

under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and containing over<br />

120 different types of birds.<br />

The preservation of the Sea is not only about environment, but<br />

also about social well-being. For example, during a recent travel<br />

to the village of Tautubek in the Aral district, I was at a fisherman’s<br />

house, meeting his family.<br />

34 35


H.E. Zulfiya Suleimenova, Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources, Barbara Dietrich CEO, <strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong> and Alberto Turkstra, <strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong><br />

Photo: <strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong><br />

I asked how many families there were in the village. They told me<br />

that before the sea returned there used to be only eight families<br />

remaining, but now there are 40 families. People are coming<br />

back, linking their future to the sea again.<br />

From that perspective, we have to make sure we are delivering.<br />

If we are speaking about New Kazakhstan that President Tokayev<br />

is speaking about, A Just and Fair Kazakhstan, it should be Just<br />

and Fair not in a narrow sense, only for the people, but also for<br />

the planet, for nature, for ecosystems. Any environmental degradation<br />

disadvantages local communities. We need to find the<br />

balance between people and the planet.<br />

WHAT IS THE CURRENT STATE OF REGIONAL<br />

COOPERATION IN TRANS-BOUNDARY WATER<br />

MANAGEMENT AND KAZAKHSTAN’S INPUT IN<br />

THE PROCESS?<br />

Kazakhstan is very aware about its geography. Out of our 8 basins,<br />

7 are trans-boundary. To us, water diplomacy and cooperation<br />

is a very important component of our foreign policy agenda,<br />

especially in the regional context of Central Asia, because we<br />

share the vulnerabilities to climate change with our neighbours,<br />

including the melting of glaciers, disruption of precipitation patterns,<br />

etc.<br />

To this end, we are working together in different regional platforms<br />

and institutions, for example the International Fund for<br />

Saving the Aral Sea (IFAS) and the Interstate Commission for<br />

Water Coordination (ICWC). At the moment we are discussing<br />

about galvanising the cooperation between our countries and<br />

ensuring these institutions get a second breath, because we<br />

would like to see them take a much more active role.<br />

As a region, we need a balanced approach to water and energy<br />

resources; and how to manage them together for win-win solutions<br />

for all of our countries. Because we would like to see our<br />

neighbours succeed, and grow together as a region.<br />

I would like to conclude by saying that the last UN Water<br />

Conference took place over 45 years ago, in 1977. Given the<br />

challenges to water resources and water-related ecosystems<br />

these days, we think that water deserves a separate platform of<br />

discussion. We highly appreciate that our neighbours are paying<br />

as much attention to water resources as we do, and we are<br />

particularly grateful to Tajikistan for co-hosting this conference.<br />

H.E. Zulfiya Suleimenova, Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources<br />

Photo: <strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong><br />

36 37


H.E. STEVO PENDAROVSKI<br />

PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC<br />

OF NORTH MACEDONIA<br />

Being for 17 years in the waiting room of European integration,<br />

since December 2005, it is extremely difficult to keep up<br />

the enthusiasm of the people and support for EU membership<br />

NORTH MACEDONIA’S EU ACCESSION PROCESS<br />

HAS BEEN ONGOING SINCE IT BECAME A CAN-<br />

DIDATE COUNTRY IN 2005. IN THE MEANTIME,<br />

NORTH MACEDONIA HAS ACHIEVED CONCRETE<br />

PROGRESS ON CERTAIN KEY AREAS, SUCH AS<br />

THE FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION, JUDICIAL<br />

REFORM, AND PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION RE-<br />

FORM. AT THIS STAGE, WHAT IS NEEDED TO<br />

BRING NORTH MACEDONIA CLOSER TO EU<br />

MEMBERSHIP?<br />

It is interesting to note, not so much for the people of North<br />

Macedonia, but particularly for foreign audiences, that our next<br />

step is changing, once again, the Constitution. Constitutional<br />

experts have been numbering the times we have changed our<br />

Constitution since 1992. The first amendment in that year was<br />

to temper Greek concerns that the name of our country implied<br />

any territorial claims against Greece. So in January 1992, we<br />

changed our post-communist Constitution for the first time and<br />

up until now we have been through nine rounds of constitutional<br />

changes.<br />

Last year we accepted and voted for a new round of constitutional<br />

changes in our Parliament to pave the way for long overdue<br />

EU membership talks. With a simple majority of 61 votes,<br />

the 120-seat Parliament voted in favour of the so-called EU<br />

Negotiating Framework. Now, we are facing a problem because<br />

for the constitutional changes to go through, we need a two<br />

thirds majority in the Parliament (80 out of 120 MPs) and at present,<br />

there is no collaboration on the part of the opposition. The<br />

current Government is lacking that majority, which is a precondition<br />

embedded in the Negotiating Framework in order<br />

to continue with a second Inter-Governmental Conference.<br />

The first Inter-Governmental Conference (IGC) opening the<br />

accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania took<br />

place in Brussels in July 2022. Right now, we are in the midst of<br />

the screening process, the first step in the accession negotiation<br />

process: The analytical examination of the body of EU laws<br />

(acquis), which allows to scrutinize our level of preparedness<br />

and plans to further alignment, and thus to obtain preliminary<br />

indications of the issues that will most likely come up in the<br />

negotiations.<br />

The screening process is structured along six thematic clusters:<br />

(1) Fundamentals; (2) Internal market; (3) Competitiveness &<br />

inclusive growth; (4) Green agenda & sustainable connectivity; (5)<br />

Resources, agriculture & cohesion and (6) External relations.<br />

That process is halfway. By the end of November we should formally<br />

conclude that stage. If, by December 1, we do not have an<br />

amended Constitution in place, we will be stuck, and waiting for<br />

parliamentary and presidential elections which are scheduled for<br />

the spring of 2024. We will then have to wait for the next government<br />

to try and assemble the two thirds majority required.<br />

H.E. Stevo Pendarovski, President of The Republic of North Macedonia<br />

Photo: Embassy of North Macedonia<br />

Photos: Kristijan Georgievski/Royal Palace<br />

38 39


Photo: Agency for Promotion and Support of Tourism of the Republic of North Macedonia<br />

Photo: Agency for Promotion and Support of Tourism of the Republic of North Macedonia<br />

THE PROCESS IS ONGOING FOR ALMOST TWO<br />

DECADES. ARE YOU CONCERNED THAT THE<br />

ENTHUSIASM FOR EU MEMBERSHIP IS DIMINISH-<br />

ING AMONG THE POPULATION OF NORTH<br />

MACEDONIA?<br />

written form a few demands which have puzzled EU colleagues<br />

and shocked us too, asking us:<br />

• To declare ourselves as ethnic Bulgarians. As per their claims,<br />

by the end of <strong>World</strong> War II, allegedly we were ethnic Bulgarians<br />

and after 1945, by a magical force of then President of<br />

CAN WE SAY THERE IS A CROSS-PARTY CONSEN-<br />

SUS IN NORTH MACEDONIA CONCERNING THE<br />

COUNTRY’S EURO-ATLANTIC PATH?<br />

This consensus held for three decades since our independence<br />

But the opposition is playing party politics, thinking of next year’s<br />

parliamentary and presidential elections. But Macedonians are<br />

fed up with demands for constitutional change, waiting endlessly<br />

for almost two decades to start negotiations, which once started<br />

will take additional years if not over a decade.<br />

Yugoslavia Tito, through some decree we were transformed<br />

in 1991, but today it is only rhetoric. Parties in the opposition<br />

Being for 17 years in the waiting room of European integration,<br />

into ethnic Macedonians;<br />

are saying they are rhetorically in favour of European integration.<br />

We have established a commission of experts, most of them<br />

since December 2005, it is extremely difficult to keep up the<br />

The Atlantic component has been fulfilled, as we joined NATO<br />

legal and constitutional experts, under the auspices of the<br />

enthusiasm of the people and support for EU membership. We<br />

• That the Macedonian language should be declared in our<br />

in 2020 – after having had to change the name of our country<br />

Justice Ministry. The amended text should be forwarded to the<br />

have been known for years to have a very high percentage of<br />

historical textbooks as a dialect of the Bulgarian language;<br />

in 2018 (from Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to North<br />

Parliament where we have a standing commission on constitu-<br />

the people in favour of EU membership: in the high 80s and 90s.<br />

Macedonia).<br />

tional issues. Alas, at present, there is no political will on part of<br />

Now we are at around 60 percent, still a majority but a substan-<br />

• To acknowledge that in the period 1941-1944 we were admin-<br />

opposition to support that.<br />

tial drop.<br />

istered, not occupied, by Bulgaria. But as everybody knows,<br />

The opposition in 2020 was against changing the country’s<br />

the Kingdom of Bulgaria was given occupation rights by Nazi<br />

name; and today it is again against demands coming from<br />

They are thinking about public standing and party ratings,<br />

North Macedonia is very heterogeneous in religious and ethnic<br />

Germany.<br />

Brussels (we are not even speaking about the demands coming<br />

not about the strategic goals of the country. This is of course<br />

terms: a quarter of our population is ethnic Albanian. In religious<br />

from Bulgaria), which is to add to the preamble and text of our<br />

legitimate from a political standpoint, but it is a pity to miss out<br />

terms, one third is Muslim. These people, non-Macedonians,<br />

These demands are a blatant attempt for historical revisionism<br />

Constitution the small ethnic Bulgarian minority living in North<br />

this chance as well. Especially considering that we have now<br />

are not affected at all by the demands coming towards us from<br />

and have nothing do with EU criteria for membership. They are<br />

Macedonia. I believe such a request to be benign, it will not<br />

additional momentum deriving from the war in Ukraine.<br />

Bulgaria. Unfortunately, the Republic of Bulgaria decided to put<br />

furthermore highly insulting for ethnic Macedonians. And to link<br />

weaken social cohesion.<br />

forward demands which have nothing do with EU membership<br />

this to the 60 percent support figure for EU accession I men-<br />

As a result, the EU has started to think more strategically than<br />

criteria: rule of law, freedom of media, etc.<br />

tioned above, the support by ethnic Macedonians is considerably<br />

We already have seven people mentioned in the Constitution:<br />

before concerning the Western Balkans. That is why in my opin-<br />

lower compared to the other ethnicities living in North Macedonia.<br />

Macedonian, Albanian, Turks, Bosniaks, Serbs, Vlachs and<br />

ion Bosnia Herzegovina was also granted candidate status last<br />

The Bulgarian side has started to speak about changing the his-<br />

Roma. Now, we wish to include not only Bulgarians but also<br />

December, alongside Ukraine and Moldova.<br />

torical narratives in our textbooks. This is not in line with previous<br />

We should think about the historical truth, in the first place about<br />

Montenegrins and Croatians, as we have a small minority of<br />

accession processes of any other candidate country. During<br />

the emotions of the people, instead of pursuing these historical<br />

those in our territory.<br />

the last two years, Bulgaria officially disseminated in Brussels in<br />

revisionist attempts.<br />

40 41


THIS YEAR, NORTH MACEDONIA HOLDS THE<br />

CHAIRMANSHIP OF THE ORGANISATION FOR<br />

SECURITY AND COOPERATION IN EUROPE<br />

(OSCE). AT A TIME OF UNPRECEDENTED<br />

SECURITY CHALLENGES, WHAT IS NORTH<br />

MACEDONIA’S AGENDA TO ADVANCE PEACE,<br />

SECURITY AND PROSPERITY ACROSS THE<br />

OSCE SPACE?<br />

On top of the OSCE agenda of course is the war in Ukraine,<br />

which his taking all energy and resources of the OSCE Member<br />

States. Additional problems in the past two-three years relate<br />

among many other things paved the way for Albanians to participate<br />

in state institutions. As a country, we are known to be able<br />

to make compromises with our neighbours and also domestically,<br />

in order to strengthen our internal cohesion. I can proudly say<br />

that we have the only functional model of multi-ethnic democracy<br />

in the region, with all the difficulties it entails.<br />

HOW CAN OSCE CONTRIBUTE TO ACCELERATE<br />

NORTH MACEDONIA’S DOMESTIC REFORM<br />

AGENDA?<br />

standpoint, as it is a strong economy; and because of the large<br />

Macedonian diaspora here, tens of thousands of them.<br />

It is important to tap into the leverage they provide, in order to<br />

have a better economic relationship with Belgium.<br />

It is important for North Macedonia, as a small country with<br />

a huge rate of emigration, not only to Belgium, to raise the<br />

standards of living and improve the state of the economy. This is<br />

one of the reasons why young, bright people keep leaving North<br />

Macedonia in very high numbers. In 2021, we held a census after<br />

many years not having one (since 2002).<br />

pen when the war is over one day? For the record, I hope this will<br />

happen today, not tomorrow, of course. But do we need a war<br />

in our continent in order to trigger the EU’s strategic vision? Do<br />

we need a war to erupt in order for the Western Balkans to finally<br />

become institutionally part of the EU?<br />

The EU, in the last year or so, is starting to emulate NATO in its<br />

geopolitical thinking. But NATO is of course a military-political organisation;<br />

the EU should be based on a different set of criteria,<br />

not waiting for some security threats to emerge in the continent<br />

to trigger strategic attention towards Western Balkans. I am<br />

afraid that when the war is over in Ukraine, maybe (and it is a big<br />

to the fact that Russians have been blocking the budget of the<br />

Up to 2016 we had an autocratic government in place, which has<br />

if), the EU will turn to business as usual, which means speaking<br />

OSCE, which is under temporary financing. Russia has also been<br />

in a sense isolated the country from the Euro-Atlantic main-<br />

It shows that in the past two decades, the population of North<br />

for months about the so-called long-term financial prospective<br />

blocking the appointment of key positions in the organisation.<br />

stream. After that, we have started to get the country back to in-<br />

Macedonia has dropped 10 percent. A similar situation is occur-<br />

of the budgets of the EU, instead of about the countries waiting<br />

They are doing everything possible to hamper the activities of<br />

ternational fora in a proactive way. The foreign agenda has been<br />

ring throughout the Western Balkans: Serbia, Kosovo, Albania,<br />

to be accepted. Since 2005, we have made a series of good re-<br />

the organization. And it is in this difficult environment that we are<br />

preoccupying the leadership since 2019, with then Prime Minister<br />

Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro… There are some statistics<br />

forms in North Macedonia, we are maybe not there yet, but there<br />

presiding the organisation.<br />

Zoran Zaev, and in the subsequent year or two, we managed to<br />

saying that in the 1990s, when the string of wars happened in the<br />

are positive changes in this direction.<br />

achieve the Prespa Agreement with Greece, a unique agreement<br />

Balkans after the fall of Yugoslavia, the number of people leaving<br />

Nevertheless, our Foreign Ministry, alongside the OSCE Troika<br />

in the history of world diplomacy. We not only changed the name<br />

at that time is quite similar to the number of people leaving the<br />

If Brussels sees accession as a merit-based process, ticking<br />

(which includes Poland and Sweden) are doing a great job, in<br />

of the country but managed to solve in the text of the agreement<br />

region today.<br />

the boxes, and threatening to freeze accession due to lack of<br />

trying to get together the warring factions. It is of course difficult<br />

some very emotional issues for both sides, such as provisions for<br />

reforms, then we are OK with that. But for many years the EU<br />

for a small country to succeed in such endeavour but at least we<br />

language, ethnicity, etc.<br />

People cannot wait eternally to become a member of the EU,<br />

has said nothing, good or bad, to the region as a whole, and now<br />

are trying to establish some contacts.<br />

which is in the first place perceived everywhere as a wealthy eco-<br />

we are seeing the negative effects of that. I always say that the<br />

There are people who are across the border in Greece and<br />

nomic club. Being so long in the waiting room, not only for North<br />

biggest threat to our national security is demographics. When the<br />

Overall, the OSCE has not been so productive in bringing<br />

Macedonia who are defining themselves as Macedonians or<br />

Macedonia but for all of the Western Balkans, has devastating<br />

young people that should be the dynamic force of our economy,<br />

Ukraine and Russia closer, but there are some movements in a<br />

Greeks, we have put that in a legal accord, which is unusual.<br />

effects on the enthusiasm of the people and the will to stay in<br />

decide to leave permanently, then this does not bode well for the<br />

positive direction in the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.<br />

Many people are concentrating on the name change of the coun-<br />

their countries, to prosper where they are born.<br />

future of our country.<br />

We have established initial contacts with both sides concerning<br />

try but it is only the most visible part of the agreement. In the last<br />

the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, eventually aiming to<br />

five years, we have recorded a massive easing of tensions and<br />

As I said, the rate of emigration is extremely high, and enthu-<br />

bring both sides not only to Vienna (OSCE headquarters) but why<br />

improvement in the bilateral relationship with Greece, including in<br />

siasm for the EU in each of these countries is declining, with<br />

not in the future to Ohrid.<br />

economic terms.<br />

the exception of Albania. Making painful, tough compromises<br />

(changing the name of our country and amending our Constitu-<br />

Just two two months ago we hosted the latest High-Level Meeting<br />

of the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue in Ohrid. Ohrid therefore<br />

has a long tradition in bringing forward good agreements such as<br />

the 2001 Ohrid Framework Agreement between the government<br />

WHAT OUTCOMES DO YOU EXPECT FROM YOUR<br />

BILATERAL VISIT TO THE KINGDOM OF BELGIUM?<br />

tion, as I explained above) and at the same time not progressing<br />

and continuing in our path of EU integration, is something very<br />

difficult to explain to our citizens.<br />

of Macedonia and representatives of the Albanian minority, which<br />

I used to work for two previous Macedonian presidents so I have<br />

I give you two other examples from the region: Montenegro and<br />

been to Brussels on a number of occasions and for various rea-<br />

Serbia, both of which have been negotiating for a decade, and<br />

sons, but I have always come here to the headquarters of either<br />

they are also hardly progressing. I am not saying that Brussels is<br />

the EU or NATO. Now, after 14 years, we have again a presiden-<br />

exclusively to be blamed for that. The internal reform agenda in<br />

tial visit from North Macedonia to Belgium.<br />

these countries also contributes. But in my view, what was lacking<br />

in the past was a strategic vision on the part of the EU<br />

The delegation includes our Minister of Economy Kreshnik<br />

to embrace the Western Balkan countries.<br />

Bekteshi and the head of the Directorate for Technological<br />

Industrial Development Zones, Jovan Despotovski; to boost the<br />

The attention of the EU has only been focused on our region dur-<br />

bilateral economic relationship. Belgium has been for many years<br />

ing the big migration crisis of 2015-2016, when the Balkan Route<br />

in the top 10 countries with which we had the highest volume of<br />

was one of the main migratory paths into Europe; and now again<br />

trade exchanges; now they have dropped to the top 15, mainly<br />

in the context of the war in Ukraine. So I am a bit reserved when<br />

as a consequence of the pandemic. We are making efforts to get<br />

trying to judge the prospects or forecast for the future.<br />

Photo: Agency for Promotion and Support of Tourism of the Republic of North Macedonia<br />

Belgium back into our top 10.<br />

Belgium is a very important country for us. From the economic<br />

If the war in Ukraine was the main driving force for the renewed<br />

attention of the EU towards the Western Balkans, what will hap-<br />

H.E. Stevo Pendarovski, President of The Republic of North Macedonia,<br />

Barbara Dietrich, CEO <strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong> and Alberto Turkstra<br />

Photo: <strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong><br />

42 43


THIS YEAR, NORTH MACEDONIA HOLDS THE<br />

CHAIRMANSHIP OF THE ORGANIZATION FOR<br />

SECURITY AND COOPERATION IN EUROPE<br />

(OSCE). AT A TIME OF UNPRECEDENTED<br />

SECURITY CHALLENGES, WHAT IS NORTH<br />

MACEDONIA’S AGENDA TO ADVANCE PEACE,<br />

SECURITY AND PROSPERITY?<br />

We are indeed living through a period of unprecedented security<br />

challenges, marked by Russia’s war of aggression against<br />

Ukraine that has shattered the principles around which our<br />

organization is built upon. To address this in 2023, as a<br />

Chairpersonship we have chosen a clear approach: putting<br />

people first, and foremost.<br />

In fact, we must not forget that all our efforts – in diplomacy, especially<br />

in the realm of multilateralism and naturally in the OSCE<br />

– are aimed at improving our people’s daily lives. We work for<br />

them, in each of our own countries, as well as collectively. This<br />

also means committing to preserving the Organization, which<br />

offers a unique and still much needed platform for dialogue and<br />

a unique toolbox to address security matters in a comprehensive<br />

manner.<br />

H.E. BUJAR OSMANI<br />

MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS<br />

OF THE REPUBLIC<br />

OF NORTH MACEDONIA<br />

North Macedonia has a solid credibility<br />

when it comes to overcoming bilateral<br />

and internal impediments,<br />

fostering a culture of dialogue<br />

and good-neighbourliness<br />

As Chair, we promote active engagement to focus and leverage<br />

on the distinct and tangible benefits that the OSCE brings to<br />

people, especially through the work of field operations and autonomous<br />

institutions in a wide array of important areas.<br />

For instance, when it comes to our region, I think about reconciliation<br />

efforts, the fight against corruption and the promotion<br />

of stronger rule of law and good governance. This is, after all, a<br />

matter of prosperity.<br />

North Macedonia, as a beneficiary of an OSCE field operation<br />

itself, knows this well. I can prove you that the OSCE successes<br />

have been our successes, and vice versa. We grew together,<br />

towards higher standards.<br />

When it comes to our agenda to advance peace and security,<br />

the recipe is straightforward: believe and invest in the assets we<br />

have. We believe in the OSCE as a platform for dialogue, and we<br />

stand ready to put this platform at disposal of all sides that are<br />

interested in it, as a credible voice.<br />

As I said on many occasions in the past, my country has a solid<br />

credibility when it comes to overcoming bilateral and internal im-<br />

pediments, fostering a culture of dialogue and good-neighbourliness.<br />

We will continue sharing our experiences and offering our<br />

good offices to each and every format where OSCE is mandated<br />

to act.<br />

However, we will not compromise on the quality of such dialogue:<br />

it has to be a meaningful one, based on our values, principles<br />

and commitments, which serve as our lighthouse and which<br />

we will continue to strive to uphold. We will continue serving as<br />

their devout guardian and I am confident that this is the right<br />

approach in preserving durable peace and stability across the<br />

OSCE region. If peace and peaceful settlement of disputes is an<br />

agreed principle, this cannot be a subject of compromising and<br />

concessions.<br />

Real dialogue, in the name of the Helsinki principles, is the only<br />

way to restore trust, and in turn security, stability, and ultimately<br />

peace. It is not an easy endeavour, also because what is happening<br />

is probably bigger than us all. But this, as I repeated many<br />

times, is no cause for defeatism but rather to step up our efforts<br />

and do all we can, never giving up on multilateralism.<br />

On the contrary, we will continue voicing the importance of effective<br />

multilateralism and be its active promoter. I repeat that the<br />

OSCE could offer both resources and mechanisms to alleviate<br />

tensions, boost predictability, restore channels of communications<br />

and critical dialogue.<br />

However, in order to rely on its toolbox and its utility, we need to<br />

invest in OSCE’s relevance and flexibility. Our aim for this year,<br />

first and foremost, is to preserve its functionality and purposefulness<br />

for the peace, stability and prosperity of the OSCE region<br />

and its people.<br />

H.E. Bujar Osmani, Minister Of Foreign Affairs<br />

HOW CAN OSCE CONTRIBUTE TO ACCELERATE<br />

NORTH MACEDONIA’S DOMESTIC REFORM<br />

AGENDA?<br />

North Macedonia and the OSCE autonomous institutions, including<br />

the OSCE Mission in Skopje, have a positive track record of<br />

cooperation. Past experience speaks of active dialogue, constructive<br />

and fruitful cooperation across different public policy<br />

sectors. The Mission overall engagement appears successful in<br />

responding to country’s specific needs and reform agenda.<br />

Its activities stem from the Mission’s mandate, so they are<br />

closely tied with our country’s reform portfolio. By contributing to<br />

the implementation of OSCE commitments, the Mission directly<br />

supports the domestic reform agenda.<br />

Our cooperation has evolved and gained a new quality, benefiting<br />

for further diversification, as the country progressed into the<br />

more sophisticated phases of European integration, which on its<br />

own, is a reform-driven process.<br />

The 2023 OSCE Chairpersonship came among other reasons, as<br />

a recognition to our reforming undertakings, but also proactive<br />

foreign policy role being a credible and responsible actor regionally<br />

and internationally. The fact that our country has moved from<br />

being an OSCE beneficiary to be at the helm of Organization is<br />

an indicator of the overall societal transformation and progression.<br />

The OSCE Mission has undoubtedly contributed to this<br />

end.<br />

Looking ahead, building on the strong foundations we have<br />

established in the past, I am confident that we will find avenues<br />

and create synergies that will reflect the current realities and<br />

the image of North Macedonia as a modern and functional<br />

multiethnic democracy.<br />

44 45


H.E. METODIJA BELEVSKI<br />

AMBASSADOR OF THE REPUBLIC<br />

OF NORTH MACEDONIA<br />

TO THE KINGDOM OF BELGIUM<br />

The European Union can be stronger,<br />

more compact, and less vulnerable if the countries<br />

of our region finally become members of the EU<br />

It is a particular pleasure for me to be able to address the readers<br />

of the prestigious edition of <strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong> and refer to the<br />

bilateral relations between the Republic of North Macedonia<br />

and the Kingdom of Belgium. On this occasion, I am speaking<br />

as the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of North<br />

Macedonia in Belgium, but I would like to emphasize that<br />

Brussels and all other places in Belgium are also close to me<br />

on a personal level. I was already in a diplomatic mission before,<br />

as secretary and Minister-Counsellor, which makes me feel like a<br />

close friend of Belgium.<br />

I associate beautiful memories and very positive feelings of it,<br />

and they continuously increase in this new engagement of mine.<br />

Such past and present experiences make me not only a representative<br />

of my country but, above all, a friend, who would like to<br />

contribute to our bilateral relations being upgraded and deepened<br />

with new and diverse contents of mutual interest.<br />

On February 23, 2024, the establishment of bilateral relations<br />

between North Macedonia and Belgium will mark 30 years,<br />

which creates a solid basis for reviewing the cooperation so<br />

far, but also analyse future opportunities for its enrichment.<br />

North Macedonia has been present in Brussels since the very<br />

beginning of the establishment of the relations, and together<br />

with its missions to the European Union and NATO, it realizes its<br />

main foreign policy priorities: the integration into NATO, which<br />

has already been a reality since three years ago; and the further<br />

integration to the European Union, which is now taking place<br />

through the screening process and should be completed by<br />

the end of 2023.<br />

Moreover, Brussels, apart from being headquarters of the<br />

two most important structures, is also the capital of Belgium,<br />

contributing to the entire length of these processes. That makes<br />

Brussels special, and Belgium among the countries that continuously<br />

advocate not only for the promotion of bilateral cooperation<br />

but also for the integration of all potential candidate and<br />

official candidate countries in the integration processes. Today,<br />

when Brussels is mentioned or spoken of in any context, it always<br />

causes a dilemma whether we are talking about the capital<br />

of Belgium or the European Union, NATO or any of the numerous<br />

other international organizations. This gives it enormous added<br />

value and respect in the eyes of all our citizens, especially the<br />

young generations.<br />

In the following several lines, I would like to refer to our bilateral<br />

cooperation. It is directly supported by the Embassy of North<br />

Macedonia in Brussels, and the Belgian Embassy in Sofia, on a<br />

non-resident basis. I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge<br />

the efforts and engagements of the Belgian Embassy<br />

in Sofia so far, which we greatly appreciate. Also, we would like<br />

to see the opening of a Belgian Embassy in North Macedonia as<br />

H.E. Metodija Belevski, Ambassador of The Republic of North Macedonia to the Kingdom of Belgium<br />

Photo: Embassy of North Macedonia<br />

soon as possible, as it would be another significant step towards ing which meetings were held with the highest authorities<br />

the advancement of our bilateral cooperation. At the same time, of Belgium: King Philippe; the presidents of the House of<br />

our Honorary Consuls of North Macedonia in Antwerp and of<br />

Representatives and the Senate of the Belgian Parliament; and<br />

Belgium in Skopje, who are strongly engaged in the direction<br />

with Prime Minister Alexander De Croo. Within the framework<br />

of promotion and advancement of mutual cooperation, have an of the visit, several seminars and presentations on the economic<br />

important added value in the current presentation and represent situation and priorities of our country were held. They underlined<br />

an extended hand for many specific activities.<br />

the opportunities for the promotion of economic cooperation<br />

in the upcoming period which we hope will meet the interest of<br />

Regarding political relations and cooperation, I would like to emphasize<br />

that communication at all governmental levels is carried<br />

potential investors.<br />

out continuously. There is a readiness for advancement in all<br />

We highly appreciate Belgium’s engagements with our country<br />

areas, of course with different dynamics depending on international<br />

circumstances and development, that both countries face in the official formats of the European Union as soon as possi-<br />

and the entire Western Balkans region, which we all want to see<br />

and deal with in the best possible way.<br />

ble. It is particularly important for the Balkans, as an inseparable<br />

part of Europe, to be integrated as soon as possible due to their<br />

It is important that friendly relations and readiness for cooperation<br />

are nurtured and that whenever there is an opportunity, both invasion of Ukraine by Russia. It has shown that the European<br />

extremely complex international relations, especially after the<br />

sides use it in the best way. In that context, I would also like to Union can be stronger, more compact, and less vulnerable if the<br />

emphasize the last visit of the President of North Macedonia to countries of our region finally become members of the Union.<br />

Belgium, H.E. Stevo Pendarovski, on May 22 and 23, 2023, dur-<br />

With that, the EU will be able to deal with all the challenges on<br />

46 47


exchange still remains at a medium level, the existing Belgian<br />

investments in North Macedonia are a very good example of our<br />

cooperation. In North Macedonia today, there are significant investments<br />

such as Van Hool, Katoen Natie, Slabinck, and future<br />

projects of Avesta Battery & Energy Engineering and other previous<br />

and current experiences of economic companies, HUBO,<br />

Evernear, Feranto, Vox Teneo, Alfa-Zet Macedonia, WB&E or<br />

Puratos, to name a few. Within this framework, I would like to<br />

emphasize the engagement and cooperation with regional economic<br />

operators who are responsible for economic cooperation<br />

and its promotion, primarily Flanders Investment & Trade, VOKA<br />

(the biggest Flemish network of enterprises), the Walloon Export<br />

and Foreign Investment Agency (AWEX) and Hub Brussels.<br />

Photo: Agency for Promotion and Support of Tourism of the Republic of North Macedonia<br />

the international political and security level in a more successful<br />

level. The excellent political dialogue, on the other hand, additionally<br />

contributes to the constant rise of economic cooperation.<br />

In terms of cooperation on a multilateral level, Belgium is an<br />

inspiration for North Macedonia for how one of the smaller states<br />

can play a more significant role in international relations. Guided<br />

by that example, North Macedonia is strongly committed and<br />

manages to cope with large engagements such as the presidency<br />

of the OSCE, the South-East Europe Cooperation Process,<br />

and similar other regional engagements. The excellent cooperation<br />

is also reflected within the framework of the United Nations,<br />

the Council of Europe, UNESCO, Francophonie, and many other<br />

international organizations.<br />

In the context of the European Union integration, I would like<br />

to refer to the importance of the regional cooperation promotion,<br />

realized through various forms, and which is key to the<br />

rapprochement and preparation of our region for full integration<br />

in the Union. Thus, I would personally like to emphasize the engagement<br />

of the countries of the region within the Open Balkans<br />

initiative, characterized by regional ownership. It arose from the<br />

engagement of the states themselves, in a desire to facilitate<br />

the life, work, communication, and movement of our citizens<br />

in several areas through a higher degree of liberalization and<br />

opening of mutual cooperation and coordination. This initiative<br />

is only a complementary engagement to the existing formats in<br />

the European Union – such as the Berlin process and others, and<br />

represents an added value in the process of our approximation<br />

and integration into the Union, its standards and values.<br />

As the two countries have specific systems of internal regulation<br />

that could be models for the future for other countries, each in<br />

its own way, it makes cooperation even more important and with<br />

a high degree of mutual understanding for all current issues and<br />

challenges. North Macedonia often cooperates with the regional<br />

entities of Belgium, especially on the economic level, but also on<br />

the level of education, science, culture, tourism, etc.<br />

The overall economic cooperation, regardless of the economic<br />

and energy crisis, which was preceded by the pandemic blockade,<br />

maintains a solid level, certainly with the possibility<br />

of intensifying trade and investments. Although the trade<br />

Among other types of cooperation, I would like to focus on<br />

the possibilities for the development of tourism. On one hand,<br />

Brussels is a frequent destination of our citizens. But we would<br />

like to meet Belgians more often in our main tourist destinations,<br />

such as the historical Ohrid or the beautiful mountains, nature,<br />

churches, and monasteries. In our country, a tourist can witness<br />

a lot of history and symbolism, which are the basis for the future<br />

of our country. At the moment, there is a direct flight connection<br />

through Charleroi airport, which allows Belgian citizens to get<br />

to know the beauties of our areas in less than three hours of<br />

flight. North Macedonia is known for the quality of its food and<br />

Macedonian wine, which can also be found on the Belgian market,<br />

through several of our well-known producers. The tradition<br />

of producing good wine in North Macedonia has a lot of history<br />

behind it due to the country’s excellent soil and climate, as well<br />

as the population’s love for wine. Therefore, I invite all those interested<br />

in visiting North Macedonia and to discover its beauties,<br />

whether through the most frequently used options on extended<br />

weekends or for their vacations and holidays.<br />

Culture represents an excellent segment for mutual acquaintance<br />

and recognition. North Macedonia presents its characteristics<br />

on several occasions, through exhibitions, music, literature, and<br />

theatrical performances. Despite the economic crisis and the<br />

limitations we face, we manage to present our music groups or<br />

films, as we did in the first months of the year in cooperation<br />

with the prestigious BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts, or the attractive<br />

Balkan Trafik festival in Brussels.<br />

H.E. Metodija Belevski, Ambassador of The Republic of North Macedonia to the Kingdom of Belgium,<br />

Barbara Dietrich, CEO <strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong> and Alberto Turkstra<br />

An equally important segment in our relations is the numerous<br />

diaspora from North Macedonia in Belgium, which represents a<br />

bridge for mutual acquaintance and rapprochement. Our citizens<br />

have found their second home in Belgium, and manage to prove<br />

themselves by working and integrating into the Belgian society,<br />

which has a multitude of nationalities and religions. In that context,<br />

the help and cooperation with Belgium is huge, and we are<br />

grateful for the full engagement and support they provide to our<br />

citizens who have decided to work and live in Belgium.<br />

Our diaspora in Belgium reflects the situation in North Macedonia<br />

as well, as a multi-ethnic and multi-confessional state in which<br />

Macedonians live, but also many other compatriots, Albanians,<br />

Roma, Torbesh, Turks, Serbs, Vlachs, and other parts of many<br />

nations. Such a mix makes us proud, because we build a coexistence<br />

based on values and prosperity for all, and therefore, we<br />

want to underline our example as a model for other countries, especially<br />

in the neighbouring countries. We believe that our model<br />

is very well known and offers solutions for some still open bilateral<br />

issues that burden relations and situations in the region. As an<br />

event that promotes these values, but also the political achievements<br />

of our country, is the annual already traditional holding<br />

of the Prespa Forum. Based on the historic agreement between<br />

North Macedonia and Greece, it resolved a decades-long issue<br />

and turned our relations from a blockade into true friendship that<br />

today serves as an example for two neighbouring countries.<br />

Finally, I would like to emphasize that in the integration processes<br />

North Macedonia is making strong efforts to complete the<br />

reforms, development, progress and ensuring a stable economic<br />

future for its citizens. Along the way, the creation and maintenance<br />

of friendships are a pillar for the successful implementation<br />

and fulfilment of our goals and priorities. Belgium is and remains<br />

our partner, ally, but above all a friend in today’s complex<br />

political and economic situations and challenges. I sincerely<br />

hope that in the coming period we will succeed together, but<br />

also each of us individually, to contribute to the development and<br />

cooperation of our two countries in a European environment. At<br />

the same time, we continue to stand strongly on a daily basis for<br />

achieving the European standards and values. I believe in friendship<br />

and identifying goals that can only bring us closer.<br />

Photo: <strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong><br />

48 49


H.E. MD. SHAHRIAR ALAM, MP<br />

HONOURABLE STATE MINISTER<br />

FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF BANGLADESH<br />

Under the dynamic and visionary leadership<br />

of Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina,<br />

Bangladesh is graduating from the category<br />

of Least Developed Countries in 2026<br />

State Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh, H.E. Md. Shahriar<br />

and outlined the key areas of cooperation as Bangladesh moves<br />

Alam, paid an official visit to Brussels on 1-5 May participate in<br />

towards a higher middle-income country, including knowledge,<br />

series of high-level meetings marking 50 years of Bangladesh-EU<br />

skills development, innovation and employment. “In this regard,<br />

Partnership. Among other high-level dignitaries, he met with<br />

we are particularly appreciative of the EU’s initiative to include<br />

the Secretary-General of the European External Action Service<br />

Bangladesh in the list of countries with which the EU is launching<br />

(EEAS Stefano Sannino; European Commissioner for Home Affairs<br />

the ‘Skills and Talent’ Partnership to facilitate legal migration into<br />

Ylva Johansson; Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez<br />

the EU. We also wish to expand our engagements with the EU<br />

Photo: Embassy of Bangladesh<br />

Lenarcic; Commissioner for International Partnerships Jutta<br />

into traditional and non-traditional areas of security, counter-ter-<br />

Urpilainen; Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis; Special<br />

rorism, climate change, connectivity, blue economy, circular<br />

policy that characterises Bangladesh, articulated by the Found-<br />

Satellite-1’ in 2018. Therefore, Ambassador Saleh concluded,<br />

Representative for Human Rights Eamon Gilmore; Vice President<br />

economy and beyond”, State Minister added.<br />

ing Father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as friendship<br />

“Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is realizing the dream of ‘Sonar<br />

of the European Investment Bank Kris Peeters; Chair of the<br />

to all and malice towards none: “Our contribution to the mainte-<br />

Bangla’ (‘Golden Bengal’) of our Founding Father Bangabandhu<br />

European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs David<br />

For his part, Ambassador of Bangladesh in Brussels Mahbub<br />

nance of international peace and security is clearly reflective of<br />

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman”.<br />

McAllister and Chair of the European Parliament’s Committee<br />

Hassan Saleh highlighted the peace-centric and humane foreign<br />

this. Bangladesh is the leading contributor to the UN Peacekeep-<br />

on International Trade Bernd Lange.<br />

The State Minister also attended a reception organized on the<br />

occasion of Bangladesh’s Independence and National Day<br />

2023 and 50 years of Bangladesh-EU relations. In his remarks at<br />

the iconic Cercle Gaulois, Minister Shahriar Alam said that “the<br />

economy of Bangladesh, today the 35th largest in the world,<br />

is set to be the 24th largest by 2030. Under the dynamic and<br />

visionary leadership of Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina,<br />

ing Operations. Bangladesh has been temporarily sheltering 1.2<br />

million forcibly displaced Rohingyas from Myanmar since August<br />

2017”, Ambassador Saleh remarked.<br />

Bangladesh’s remarkable journey of economic development<br />

was highlighted with specific examples. Thanks to the Digital<br />

Bangladesh vision, Bangladesh is the first country in South Asia<br />

to achieve 100 percent electricity coverage throughout the country.<br />

Rapid and massive infrastructure development is taking place<br />

ON THE LAST DAY OF HONOURABLE STATE<br />

MINISTER’S MISSION IN BRUSSELS, HE KINDLY<br />

SAT DOWN WITH DIPLOMATIC WORLD FOR AN<br />

INTERVIEW WHICH IS REPRODUCED BELOW.<br />

YOUR EXCELLENCY, CAN YOU OUTLINE THE MAIN<br />

OUTCOMES OF YOUR VISIT?<br />

a very able daughter of our Father of the Nation Bangabandhu<br />

including the Padam Bridge, one of the longest in the world and<br />

The European Union is our largest trading partner, half of our<br />

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Bangladesh is graduating from the<br />

built entirely with our own resources; Metro Rail in the capital<br />

national trade is with the EU. Apart from economic dependency,<br />

category of Least Developed Countries in 2026 and striving to be<br />

city of Dhaka and the tunnel under the river Karnaphuli, to name<br />

the EU to us is a role model. We see the EU as a positive force<br />

a higher middle-income country by 2031”. He thanked the EU for<br />

a few. Bangladesh became the 57th country globally to join<br />

in its engagement with the rest of the world, as the biggest de-<br />

its enormous contribution towards this impressive development,<br />

Photo: Embassy of Bangladesh<br />

the space club by launching its first satellite ‘Bangabandhu<br />

velopment partner, an ardent advocate of democracy,<br />

50 51


environmental sustainability, human rights as well as a promoter<br />

of conflict resolution, peace and humanitarian values.<br />

Bangladesh is a relatively young nation, turning 52 this year. But<br />

the journey of true democratic Bangladesh is only 20 years. The<br />

first 30 years we were ruled by military dictators and this held the<br />

country back. Therefore, our cooperation with the EU is important<br />

to strengthen our democratic institutions, our constitutional<br />

organs, etc.<br />

The progress we have made thus far, we believe is properly acknowledged<br />

by the EU. We believe in an open book relationship:<br />

We consult, we speak and engage to them. Apart from bilateral<br />

issues, there are global issues where we have an independent<br />

foreign policy on the basis of “friendship to all, malice towards<br />

none”. At the same time, we try to align with the EU, because<br />

we find their policies are largely neutral in the current world<br />

order, without any hidden agenda in terms of migration, climate<br />

change, and other areas.<br />

To mark the 50th anniversary of relations with the EU, I am in<br />

Brussels to revitalize and further the relationship. This is why<br />

I am meeting as many officials as possible (see list above).<br />

I would like take stock of the Bangladesh-EU relationship and<br />

what we should be doing in the future. We have agreed on the<br />

road ahead. Last November in Dhaka, we agreed with Deputy<br />

Secretary General of EEAS Enrique Mora to work towards a<br />

Partnership Cooperation Agreement (PCA), negotiations for<br />

which will start very soon. Both negotiating teams will try and<br />

conclude the agreement within a reasonable time frame.<br />

The European Union’s Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme, which<br />

grants duty free and quota-free access to its 27-country market,<br />

except for arms and ammunition, is the one single tool that has<br />

been the greatest enabler of Bangladesh’s economic development.<br />

It’s part of the Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP)<br />

for Least Developed Countries (LDCs).<br />

As Bangladesh becomes increasingly prosperous, it needs to<br />

agree a new trading relationship with the European Union. In<br />

2026, the country will graduate from the LDC category and<br />

thereafter, would receive the EBA preferential scheme for another<br />

three years till 2029, that has been generously offered by the EU<br />

to all graduating LDCs including Bangladesh. Thus, 2029 marks<br />

the start of the transition period for Bangladesh to qualify for the<br />

more ambitious GSP+ regime, which, as per the existing regulation,<br />

expects a country to sign 32 international conventions on<br />

labour and human rights, environmental and climate protection<br />

and good governance.<br />

In my meetings with four EU Commissioners including the Trade<br />

Commissioner and some high-ranking EU officials, I have been<br />

pressing the case for the EU’s strong support to the LDC Group’s<br />

proposal at the WTO for a six-year transition period after graduation.<br />

We are asking for a six-year post-graduation transition in<br />

WTO not just for Bangladesh though but for all the Least Developed<br />

Countries, that’s very important. Because the dependency<br />

on that duty-free instrument is so large, three years is too short<br />

of a time, especially considering the fact that in recent times the<br />

world economy has suffered two major blows: the COVID-19<br />

pandemic and the impact of the conflict in Ukraine. We have<br />

lesser capacity to absorb these shocks, and need more time<br />

to cushion these impacts and have a smooth take off. This will<br />

allow us to have a better preparation at home.<br />

Apart from that, we are grateful to EU to maintain the momentum<br />

on climate change issues. We know that a few years ago, some<br />

countries exited from their commitments made in Paris. The<br />

world has suffered, and we in Bangladesh are one of the most<br />

climate vulnerable countries. Bangladesh does not emit, our<br />

contributions per capita in global carbon emissions is miniscule.<br />

But we are one of the worst sufferers. Our Prime Minister Sheikh<br />

Hasina is leading many initiatives in this field, including chairing<br />

the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), a 58-nation platform. We<br />

wish the EU to remain the torch-bearer of that campaign. We are<br />

confident the EU will keep extending support to us during the<br />

green transition.<br />

THE LATEST FOREIGN POLICY VISION OF<br />

BANGLADESH – THE INDO-PACIFIC OUTLOOK –<br />

WAS ANNOUNCED ON 24 APRIL. WHAT ARE ITS<br />

MAIN CONTOURS? DO YOU SEE SYNERGIES<br />

WITH THE EU’S INDO-PACIFIC STRATEGY?<br />

There are many commonalities between EU’s Indo-Pacific<br />

Strategy and our own. But what we are mindful and careful about<br />

is that we must not compromise with our core foreign policy<br />

principle of “friendship to all, malice towards none”. Conflicts<br />

and disputes never help. We have seen examples of that in the<br />

European neighbourhood, and in our part of the world too, such<br />

as in the South China Sea.<br />

We believe in the rules-based international order; we believe<br />

in free movement of people, goods and services; we believe in<br />

security. And whatever differences may occur between countries<br />

and regions, should be discussed and negotiated. Whenever<br />

they fail to reach a consensus, they should rely on UN rules,<br />

regulations and international law.<br />

We have our own experience in this regard. India is one of our<br />

greatest friends, but even with India, when we had a difference<br />

of opinion on sea boundary delimitation, we went to the legal<br />

mechanism under the United Nations Convention on the Law of<br />

the Sea (UNCLOS). We accepted the outcome. After the verdict,<br />

we recognised it as a win-win outcome for both parties.<br />

We believe in shared prosperity. Our challenges are a lot more<br />

fundamental than what you face in Europe, we still have the<br />

bottom 20 percent of our population living below the poverty line.<br />

And that is our commitment: to give everyone food, shelter, a life<br />

they want to live, education, financial assistance in the form of<br />

interest-free loans to those in need, such as small entrepreneurs<br />

in rural Bangladesh for example. Unless we achieve that, nothing<br />

else matters. This is reflected in our Indo-Pacific outlook, which<br />

comes down to the realisation of our Founding Father’s dream<br />

to turn Bangladesh into a Golden Bangladesh. The reason he<br />

coined that idea over 50 years ago is that we always had the<br />

potential (fertile land, hard-working people, etc.) but we never got<br />

the opportunity to demonstrate that. If we can do it, we would<br />

turn into ‘Sonar Bangla’.<br />

In 2022, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina launched a programme<br />

called ‘Smart Bangladesh’, which will help turn Bangladesh into<br />

a high-income, poverty-free, developed nation, grounded in<br />

innovation, powered by technology (AI, IoT), and that will have<br />

a per capita GDP of USD 12,500. This is also reflected in our<br />

Indo-Pacific Outlook.<br />

To sump up, Bangladesh envisions a free, open, peaceful, secure<br />

and inclusive Indo-Pacific for shared prosperity for all. It’s a new<br />

Bangladesh, a modern Bangladesh, a digital Bangladesh, a<br />

knowledge-based society with indomitable spirit and confidence,<br />

a triumphant country that continues to overcome challenges with<br />

firm determination and sustained efforts, a country that continues<br />

to earn a more respectable place at the global table.<br />

BANGLADESH IS ALSO VERY ACTIVE IN<br />

ENHANCING SUB-REGIONAL CONNECTIVITY<br />

IN THE BAY OF BENGAL REGION<br />

Yes, and Europe is an inspiration in this regard. The free movement<br />

of people and goods, common currency, that is something<br />

we aspire that. But it is very difficult, at the moment. It is the ultimate<br />

goal but in between, there are smaller, intermediate targets.<br />

Regional connectivity is one of them.<br />

We have three ports already: Chittagong, Mongla and Payra,<br />

giving us access to the Bay of Bengal, but we lack a deep<br />

sea port, which we are only now constructing with the help of<br />

Japanese investment. We transit our goods through Sri Lanka,<br />

Malaysia, Singapore. We have allowed our neighbours to use<br />

these ports and transit their products, for both import and export,<br />

through our road and rail network, to Nepal, Bhutan and the<br />

Northeastern States of India. Nepal and Bhutan are using these<br />

facilities on a regular basis.<br />

The 1965 War between India and Pakistan cut all the historical<br />

trade routes and riverine routes. The commitment is to bring<br />

back the pre-1965 connectivity, based on today’s demands and<br />

requirements. The <strong>World</strong> Bank and other International Financial<br />

Institutions (IFIs) are supporting some of the initiatives and<br />

I believe the newly launched Global Gateway Initiative can be<br />

another instrument. During my meetings in Brussels with<br />

Commissioners of different colleges, we said we will continue<br />

to discuss and have a deeper understanding on how the Global<br />

Gateway initiatives can be useful for Bangladesh also.<br />

BANGLADESH CARRIES A HEAVY BURDEN<br />

HOSTING OVER ONE MILLION ROHINGYAS FROM<br />

NEIGHBOURING MYANMAR IN ITS TERRITORY.<br />

WHAT IS YOUR MESSAGE TO THE INTERNATIONAL<br />

COMMUNITY?<br />

There are two key dimensions to it: humanitarian (how we<br />

maintain them, feed them, and keep them reasonably healthy)<br />

and repatriation. But there is a third problem: the law and order<br />

situation in the camps, and the illicit activities of some of the<br />

Rohingyas.<br />

On humanitarian grounds, we want the EU to keep raising the issue<br />

and call upon the international community and other ASEAN<br />

countries, including Myanmar, to make sure there are contributions<br />

towards the Rohingyas we are sheltering. Bangladesh has<br />

a modest GDP per capita of just under USD 3,000 per capita,<br />

therefore hosting one million Rohingyas is not easy. Our call to<br />

the international community is to help the UN system, in charge<br />

of collecting and allocating assistance to Rohingyas.<br />

On repatriation, we need to put more pressure on Myanmar. We<br />

are engaged bilaterally and very soon we hope to start repatriation,<br />

but this is not solid or definite. It it always a hope and an<br />

aspiration.<br />

The law and order situation in side the camp is deteriorating by<br />

the minute, there is drug trafficking and gun running. Some of our<br />

law enforcement agency members have been brutally murdered<br />

by drug traffickers and gun runners in the camps. This only<br />

stresses the need for a quicker repatriation.<br />

We expect European Member States to do more. There have<br />

been sanctions issued against individuals and companies in<br />

Myanmar, but sanctions only will not help. We need effective<br />

measures, we need to be more innovative and put more pressure<br />

on the Government of Myanmar to ensure they act diligently.<br />

There is the risk that problems in the European neighbourhood<br />

will overshadow the Rohingya crisis, which has always been<br />

there, with ups and downs. We need to act decisively to eliminate<br />

the problem completely. In this regard, a deeper and greater<br />

engagement from EU Member States is absolutely essential. The<br />

EU, as a torch-bearer of human rights and democracy, should<br />

engage other countries in this regard.<br />

52 53


H.E. ADRIANA MIRA<br />

VICE-MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS<br />

OF EL SALVADOR<br />

The vision of El Salvador is to move<br />

towards digital transformation and innovation through<br />

our Digital Nation project<br />

WHAT WERE THE MAIN OUTCOMES OF YOUR<br />

VISIT TO BRUSSELS IN MARCH?<br />

Discussions were held with European authorities to present the<br />

progress, priorities and vision of economic development and<br />

cooperation of El Salvador with the European Union, generation of<br />

talent and promotion of renewable energies. El Salvador thanked<br />

the traditional support of the European Union to El Salvador,<br />

which is one of the main cooperation and development partners.<br />

It is expected that an agreement to strengthen El Salvador’s<br />

relations with the European Union, called Memorandum of Understanding<br />

on Bilateral Consultations, will be signed within the<br />

framework of the regional spaces foreseen in the second semester<br />

of 2023.<br />

We held strategic meetings with representatives of the private<br />

sector, such as Chambers of Commerce through outreach with<br />

important companies in infrastructure, aeronautics, energy, among<br />

others. They expressed the interest in knowing more about the<br />

business climate of El Salvador to do business with our country.<br />

Furthermore, a meeting was held with the Deputy Director General<br />

of the Directorate-General for Trade (DG Trade) of the European<br />

Commission, Mr. Leopoldo Rubinacci; with whom we discussed<br />

the favourable business climate that El Salvador has, as well as<br />

the different strategic projects currently promoted<br />

by the Government of President Nayib Bukele. Furthermore,<br />

we talked about the use of our trade agreement through the<br />

Economic Attachés, a project promoted by the Ministry of<br />

Foreign Affairs.<br />

El Salvador will be invited to participate in the Global Gateway<br />

Business Forum. This is a space where we will be able to promote<br />

the attraction of foreign investment from the European Region in<br />

strategic projects of infrastructure of our country.<br />

We spoke with the Director of International Relations of the Port<br />

of Antwerp and Bruges, with whom it was agreed to work on a<br />

partnership. El Salvador’s interest to develop the current memorandum<br />

of understanding between the two parties was also<br />

addressed.<br />

In addition, we spoke with the Director General of International<br />

Partnerships (INTPA) of the European Commission, Mr. Koen<br />

Doens, with whom we addressed the importance of working on<br />

the construction and launch of the Digital Innovation Center of El<br />

Salvador. The institution expressed its interest in exploring opportunities<br />

for collaboration between private sectors of<br />

El Salvador and the countries of the European Union, along<br />

with financial institutions to create joint work projects.<br />

In the meeting with the Committee on Economic and Monetary<br />

Affairs of the European Parliament, we mentioned the importance<br />

54 55


of strengthening political, economic and cooperation ties for the<br />

progress of El Salvador’s agenda in the region. We extended<br />

the invitation to visit El Salvador and learn first-hand about the<br />

advances in economic matters that have been developed in our<br />

country. As part of the visit, we had the opportunity to participate<br />

in the High-Level Forum of the EU-LAC Pharmaceutical Sector, in<br />

which we explain the investment opportunities offered by<br />

El Salvador in this sector to the different strategic actors of the<br />

European Union.<br />

The vision of our country is to move towards digital transformation<br />

and innovation through our Nación Digital (Digital Nation)<br />

project, from which roadmap is the implementation of the “Digital<br />

Agenda 2030” which seeks in a strategic way to integrate the<br />

actors involved in technological development and in turn, create<br />

a modern ecosystem of innovation.<br />

We promote education, technology, competitiveness and the<br />

access to services and mechanisms for an innovation ecosystem<br />

through the development of ICTs.<br />

THE ADOPTION OF BITCOIN AS LEGAL TENDER<br />

IN EL SALVADOR HAS ATTRACTED A LOT OF<br />

MEDIA COVERAGE, NOT ALWAYS BALANCED,<br />

AND OFTEN HIGHLIGHTING (POTENTIAL) RISKS<br />

TO THE ECONOMY, RATHER THAN OPPORTUNI-<br />

TIES. COULD YOU EXPLAIN TO OUR READERS<br />

WHY BITCOIN IS INDEED THE WAY FORWARD<br />

FOR EL SALVADOR, HOW CAN IT HELP ATTRACT<br />

INVESTMENT, CREATE JOBS, AND ENSURE<br />

FINANCIAL INCLUSION?<br />

The adoption of Bitcoin as legal tender has positioned<br />

El Salvador at the forefront of financial technology and<br />

innovation in general.<br />

As a sign of our commitment to the development of innovative<br />

systems, we created our own electronic wallet, called “Chivo<br />

Wallet”, through which Salvadorans inside and abroad, can<br />

conduct financial transactions making use of Bitcoin. The<br />

creation of our own digital wallet “Chivo Wallet” is an effort<br />

by the Government of El Salvador to reduce the gap of financial<br />

inclusion. “Chivo” is a wallet that supports bitcoin & dollar<br />

transactions, available for Salvadorans in many countries<br />

around the world.<br />

With this wallet Bitcoin can be used to make deposits and cash<br />

withdrawals in 50 bank branches. El Salvador currently has<br />

around 200 ATMs established nationwide and more than 50 established<br />

in the United States of America (the country with<br />

56 57


the most Salvadorans living abroad). The establishment of the<br />

to decentralize their capital to increase performance, which<br />

that provide access to more than 1.2 billion consumers in more<br />

Finally, El Salvador has the second-best quality in infrastructure<br />

ATMs abroad, allows the population not only to conduct their<br />

are: agribusiness, textiles and apparel, life sciences, services,<br />

than 40 countries. Additionally, we have a highly productive and<br />

in Latin America and the best quality in terms of transportation<br />

transactions to any international wallet, but in turn to send remit-<br />

tourism, and Fintech.<br />

qualified workforce, with around 60 percent of workers under<br />

infrastructure.<br />

tances without any additional cost.<br />

40 years of age, which means that most of the economically<br />

It is necessary for our country to promote trade and the attraction<br />

of investments, in line with the Trade and Investment Policy<br />

promoted by the Government of President Nayib Bukele.<br />

The reactivation of trade and direct investment should be a<br />

On the agribusiness sector, there are favourable conditions<br />

for the development of agro-industrial businesses due to the<br />

location of El Salvador in the tropics and the diversity of microclimates,<br />

investment opportunities in processed foods, aquaculture<br />

sector, ornamental plants, fruit sector, among others.<br />

active population is at its most productive age. At least 35<br />

percent of that workforce is professional.<br />

In turn, a point to highlight is that the operating costs of<br />

El Salvador are highly competitive in the region, thanks to<br />

the strategic geographical location of our country, having an<br />

WHAT MEASURES HAS PRESIDENT BUKELE’S<br />

GOVERNMENT IMPLEMENTED TO PROVIDE<br />

A FAVOURABLE, SAFE, AND PROFITABLE<br />

INVESTMENT ENVIRONMENT?<br />

driving force behind the recovery of the economy. A new boost to<br />

In addition, in terms of life sciences, El Salvador is the first coun-<br />

open economy and production of goods that constitute raw<br />

To have an integral economic growth, the Government of<br />

the multilateral approach is also necessary, which is why it is of<br />

try in the region to have the certification of good manufacturing<br />

materials, as well as the qualification of labour. This provides an<br />

El Salvador implements the Trade and Investment Policy, which<br />

interest to promote El Salvador as a safe destination for inves-<br />

practices indicated by the <strong>World</strong> Health Organization (WHO).<br />

advantageous position for the economic development of<br />

defines the main strategic lines to face the structural challenges<br />

tors.<br />

We offer investment opportunities in medical devices, health<br />

the country.<br />

in the country’s economy and seeks equal opportunities for in-<br />

services, pharmaceutical and cosmetic chemicals.<br />

vestors, simplification of processes, opening of new businesses,<br />

WHICH SECTORS ARE THE MOST PROMISING<br />

FOR POTENTIAL INVESTORS LOOKING TO ENTER<br />

THE SALVADORAN MARKET?<br />

On the other hand, our cost-efficient nearshore location provides<br />

promising investment opportunities in the service sector through<br />

the establishment of contact centres, business processing services,<br />

information technology services, among others.<br />

El Salvador is a strategic place to have a distribution hub in the<br />

region. In border compliance, we are one of the most effective in<br />

Central America.<br />

On the other hand, El Salvador’s monetary policy is anchored to<br />

use of commercial agreements, promote integration, and benefits<br />

for economic development.<br />

In addition, the Government of El Salvador promotes important<br />

efforts in trade facilitation, with the main objective of streamlin-<br />

El Salvador has identified six priority sectors for the growth and<br />

the US Dollar, which reduces the risk of inflation and therefore<br />

ing import and export processes, as well as contributing to the<br />

economic development of the country, which are highly profitable<br />

At the same time, it is important to mention that El Salvador’s<br />

price variations in the market, we have one of the lowest inflation<br />

reduction of time and costs. In addition, there is the National<br />

for national and international private enterprise. These sectors<br />

business climate is extremely positive due to characteristics such<br />

rates in Latin America, the third lowest in the region and provid-<br />

Committee for Trade Facilitation, which has become the platform<br />

are presented as an attraction to foreign entrepreneurs who seek<br />

as having a package of free trade agreements and mechanisms<br />

ing monetary stability to the country.<br />

for public-private dialogue for decision-making on all matters<br />

58 59


elated to foreign trade, thereby guaranteeing compliance with<br />

Regarding the progress that El Salvador has made in achieving<br />

the commitments assumed by our country in this area and,<br />

the Sustainable Development Goals, El Salvador participated<br />

especially, with the provisions of the WTO Trade Facilitation<br />

Agreement.<br />

We have a remarkable legal framework for the projection of<br />

investors, which includes laws that provide foreign investors with<br />

in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Investment Fair in<br />

April this year, in the framework of the event organized by the<br />

United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. At<br />

that event, El Salvador presented to potential investors infrastructure<br />

projects under the SDGs.<br />

EL SALVADOR IS NEW ON THE WORLD TOURIST<br />

MAP. HOW IS EL SALVADOR POSITIONING ITSELF<br />

AS AN ATTRACTIVE TOURIST DESTINATION?<br />

Also, Surf City is today the government program that has<br />

become the tourist identity of El Salvador to the world and has<br />

marked a wave of opportunities for tourism. Based on this, the<br />

work has been focused on the reconstruction of relations with<br />

tax exemptions for their investment, as well as equal benefits<br />

Tourism is one of the main economic sectors in our country<br />

the forgotten tourism sectors, the modernization of the infra-<br />

with local investors. In relation to the above, President Nayib<br />

• SDG 8: Economic growth and decent work, seeking better<br />

because it is a tool that sets our economy in motion and repre-<br />

structure of the destinations and innovation in the positioning<br />

Bukele presented to the Legislative Assembly on March 30,<br />

levels of economic productivity through diversification, techno-<br />

sents a fundamental part in strengthening exchanges with other<br />

and promotion of the country, as well as contributing to generate<br />

2023, the draft Law for the Promotion of Innovation and Techno-<br />

logical modernization and innovation focused on sectors with<br />

countries.<br />

the conditions that allow greater investment and more jobs in<br />

logical Manufacturing, which includes tax benefits (such as the<br />

high added value.<br />

El Salvador.<br />

extension of taxes to services linked to the technology sector), to<br />

• SDG 9: Building resilient infrastructure, as well as promoting<br />

El Salvador is promoting the Surf City project, which seeks to<br />

encourage investment by technology companies in the country.<br />

sustainable industrialization and fostering innovation, in which<br />

create a first-class circuit, covering the entire Salvadoran coast,<br />

Forbes <strong>Magazine</strong> highlighted in one of its recent publications that<br />

In relation to the above, President Nayib Bukele signed into law<br />

El Salvador seeks to develop reliable, sustainable and quality<br />

to promote development in six Salvadoran beaches. In addition,<br />

El Salvador is among the 30 destinations to visit during 2023,<br />

the Innovation and Technology Manufacturing Act, that elimi-<br />

infrastructure, including regional and cross-border infrastruc-<br />

it conceives a model of sea citadels, focused on surfing, first-<br />

suggested by renowned travel guide Lonely Planet. In addition,<br />

nates all taxes (income, property, capital gains and import tariffs)<br />

ture, in addition to supporting economic development and<br />

world hospitality, gastronomy, and marine biology, which serves<br />

El Salvador hosted three tourism tournaments during 2022, a<br />

on technology innovations, software and app programming, AI,<br />

human well-being.<br />

as a tourist attraction nationally and internationally.<br />

year which brought 2.5 million visitors to El Salvador, leaving<br />

computer and communications hardware manufacturing.<br />

• SDG 11: Seeking to make El Salvador a point of reference for<br />

behind USD 2,646 million in income for our country.<br />

countries with more inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable<br />

In the context of the pandemic, El Salvador was placed at the<br />

This law aims to strengthen the competitiveness and sustainable<br />

cities, through improving the transport system, making it safer,<br />

forefront in the performance of the tourism sector at the regional<br />

In 2023 El Salvador is expected to host six international surf<br />

economic development of the country by encouraging innovation<br />

affordable, accessible and sustainable for all and improving<br />

level, obtaining the “Safe Travel Seal” by the <strong>World</strong> Travel and<br />

tournaments and receive more than ten cruise ships which will<br />

and the manufacture of technology developed in the national<br />

road safety by expanding public transport.<br />

Tourism Council (WTTC); positioning itself as a pioneer country<br />

promote the flow of tourists to our country.<br />

territory, including the promotion of the growth of the work-<br />

in the implementation of a health verification seal throughout the<br />

force trained to generate advanced technological products and<br />

In addition to the above, it is worth mentioning that El Salvador<br />

tourism value chain.<br />

Likewise, the Ministry of Tourism and the Salvadoran Tourism<br />

services that promote the incorporation of El Salvador into the<br />

has the National Council for Sustainable Development, headed<br />

Corporation, together with the Salvadoran Tourism Institute, have<br />

technological supply chain at a global level.<br />

by the Vice-President of the Republic, which monitors the pro-<br />

The Government of El Salvador, through the Salvadoran Tourism<br />

worked on the technical specialization of human resources, to<br />

gress of the 17 SDGs, with updated information. To date, we are<br />

Corporation (CORSATUR) and the Ministry of Tourism (MITUR)<br />

prepare destinations for a new way of offering services based on<br />

WHAT IS THE STATUS OF EL SALVADOR’S<br />

PROGRESS TOWARDS ACHIEVING THE 2030<br />

AGENDA, SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS?<br />

at 62 percent progress in achieving the SDGs.<br />

have established work axes aimed at positioning El Salvador as<br />

a sustainable, attractive, and competitive tourist destination, this<br />

is a vision of the country to promote sustainable tourism and<br />

economic development.<br />

quality, in order to maintain a vision that ensures the importance<br />

of environmental sustainability as a transversal axis in tourism.<br />

Photos: Embassy of El Salvador<br />

60 61


H.E. ANNA AGHADJANIAN<br />

AMBASSADOR OF ARMENIA<br />

TO THE KINGDOM OF BELGIUM<br />

HEAD OF MISSION OF ARMENIA<br />

TO THE EUROPEAN UNION<br />

Today, we have a thriving Armenian Community in Belgium<br />

which is very well integrated in the society<br />

and contributes to all aspects of life<br />

HOW DO YOU EVALUATE RELATIONS WITH<br />

THE EUROPEAN UNION, INCLUDING THE<br />

IMPLEMENTATION OF THE COMPREHENSIVE<br />

AND ENHANCED PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT<br />

(CEPA), WHICH ENTERED INTO FORCE IN 2021?<br />

been facing since 2020, or perhaps because of them, we remain<br />

devoted to the values of democracy, protection of human rights<br />

and rule of law. We believe that democracy is key for ensuring<br />

security, maintaining and strengthening sovereignty and in<br />

democracy we see the continuity of our statehood.<br />

Naturally, the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement<br />

(CEPA) remains the basis on which our cooperation is build.<br />

It offers an ambitious and realistic architecture for strengthening<br />

the Armenia-EU relations, it is crucial for further consolidation of<br />

the reform process in Armenia and provides a solid framework<br />

discussing an extensive agenda and taking stock of the existing<br />

and new areas of cooperation. A follow-up work is underway<br />

both in Armenia and here, in Brussels, and we are all very much<br />

looking forward to the next meeting where we can embark on<br />

concrete cooperation.<br />

for ensuring the development and resilience of our society as a<br />

After independence, Armenia looked to Europe because that is<br />

The unwavering support from the EU and individual Member<br />

whole.<br />

Of course, I cannot speak about the Armenia-EU cooperation<br />

where Armenians had a past and, more importantly, that is where<br />

States to institution building and implementing the reform agen-<br />

without mentioning the European Union Mission in Armenia<br />

they would have a future. In the years since, it has become<br />

da, is crucial if we are to go through the challenges and come<br />

The EU’s engagement, experience and practical assistance go<br />

(EUMA), a Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) civilian<br />

evident that European standards compel Armenia to examine<br />

out strong and proud. Over the years, we have maintained and<br />

a long way to settling concerns and providing encouragement<br />

deployment in the territory of Armenia. You might recall, that after<br />

our own conduct and behaviour. The EU’s experiences provide<br />

gradually intensified the Armenia-EU political dialogue at different<br />

and faith to the Armenian society. With this in mind, together,<br />

Azerbaijan invaded Armenia in September 2022, we requested<br />

examples and guidance, as we embarked on building a function-<br />

levels, including the highest, and we are constantly adding to<br />

we added a new, very important dimension to our cooperation<br />

the EU to send a civilian monitoring mission. I want to use this<br />

al, responsive, responsible society that is at home in a greater<br />

new dimension. A part of Armenia-EU cooperation, perhaps less<br />

– security. As you might recall, there was a certain degree of<br />

platform to one more time thank our EU partners, both in<br />

Europe.<br />

visible but absolutely essential for ensuring a deeper and wider<br />

disappointment with the lack of reaction from the EU during and<br />

Brussels and in all Member States, for the rapid and efficient<br />

integration, is the broadening of the legal framework.<br />

immediately after the 44-day war in 2020. I must say, that several<br />

reaction to our request. We are convinced that the presence of<br />

EU-Armenia relations have their effect on Armenia’s domestic,<br />

months after the end of the war, we started to see much more<br />

the Mission contributes to the stability and is an important source<br />

regional and international policies. Domestically, ongoing reforms<br />

By signing agreements in different spheres, we pave the way<br />

readiness to engage at various levels, including the facilitation<br />

of unbiased information on the situation in the areas of patrol.<br />

are grounded in an understanding that these changes will jump-<br />

for multi-layered, multi-faceted relations and to participation in<br />

to the peace process provided by President of the European<br />

start the country’s social and economic development to more<br />

many exciting programs and projects. Over the past few years<br />

Council Charles Michel.<br />

There is, however, an additional, yet not less essential dimension<br />

quickly bring it in line with European norms. There is no denying<br />

we signed and/or ratified agreements on Common Aviation Area;<br />

the EUMA has brought to Armenia – increased visibility of the<br />

that the reform process can be difficult, it takes time, needs ma-<br />

association with Horizon Europe, participation in the Creative<br />

As part of this new dimension, we jointly launched the Armenia-<br />

EU, especially in the smaller towns and villages, through daily<br />

jor investment of resources and determination to be sustainable.<br />

Europe programme; strategic cooperation agreement with<br />

EU Political and Security Dialogue. The inaugural meeting in<br />

interactions with the local population.<br />

Today, too, despite all the security challenges that Armenia has<br />

Europol, and we became observer in European Migration Network.<br />

Yerevan, early this year, created a platform for defining and<br />

62 63


Photo: IStock<br />

Photo: IStock<br />

THE ARMENIAN DIASPORA IN BELGIUM IS<br />

SUBSTANTIAL. HOW DO THEY CONTRIBUTE<br />

TO THE PRESERVATION AND PROMOTION OF<br />

ARMENIAN IDENTITY AND CULTURE?<br />

used for our churches to be, but it is an essential centre of the<br />

life of the Belgian Armenian community.<br />

But perhaps not many of your readers are aware of an Armenian<br />

small, and were very much impressed by the eagerness of the<br />

people who so readily devote their time and energy to set up<br />

and run those societies. But, frankly, the most impressive of all<br />

were the schools. There are about a dozen Saturday or Sunday<br />

common for a Saturday school whose main focus is on helping<br />

to preserve the national identity. However, for us, Armenians,<br />

chess is very much part of our everyday life.<br />

Saint in Belgium and the Netherlands. Back in the 4th century, a<br />

schools in different parts of Belgium run mostly by volunteers<br />

Growing up in Armenia, most learn to play chess from someone<br />

As you are aware, the Armenian Diaspora, in its bulk, is a result<br />

monk named Servatius was one of the first to preach the Gospel<br />

where hundreds of Armenian children come to learn the lan-<br />

in the family, like a grandfather. You do not necessarily continue<br />

of the 1915 Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire. There<br />

in Western Europe. He is believed to be the first to Christianize<br />

guage, literature, history.<br />

to play for the rest of your life, but, whenever needed, most of us<br />

are, however, countries where the Armenian presence has been<br />

the Netherlands and became the bishop of Tongeren (Belgium).<br />

could support a non-too-complex game or follow others playing.<br />

strongly visible for centuries. Belgium is one of the those. The<br />

His remains are interred in Maastricht, at the Basilica of Saint<br />

Most of them also offer music and dance classes, where<br />

Throughout the 1970-80s, one of the prime-time weekly pro-<br />

rich history of the Armenian community here in Belgium dates<br />

Servatius, one of Europe’s oldest. Did you know that Servatius is<br />

high-quality professional artists share their knowledge and<br />

grams was a chess review, which, during big tournaments, would<br />

back to merchant travellers in the Middle Ages, when the first<br />

the patron saint not only of Maastricht, but also of Grimbergen?<br />

help maintain the rich Armenian cultural heritage. Last year the<br />

become practically a blockbuster. Having a friend who is a chess<br />

Armenian families brought settled here to trade in oriental rugs,<br />

And he was also a diplomat!<br />

schools came together for a first joint event built around the<br />

master or a grandmaster is a rather common occurrence. With<br />

diamonds and tobacco. Interestingly, Davros, Arax, Marouf and<br />

legacy of Hovhannes Tumanyan, one of the most important<br />

that background, it was only a matter of time, that chess would<br />

Enfi were the only cigarette brands made in Belgium at the<br />

Today, we have a thriving Armenian Community in Belgium which<br />

Armenian poets. It was such a joy to watch the short shows and<br />

become mandatory at schools.<br />

turn of the 20th century and behind each of these names were<br />

is very well integrated in the society, contributes to all aspects of<br />

dance performances and to witness the pride and the happiness<br />

Armenian families.<br />

life of their new home country and I can proudly say, is respected<br />

of the young children who could showcase the achievements of<br />

Around 12th-13th centuries, chess starts to appear in the<br />

in all the regions where it is present. At the same time, the new<br />

their weekend classes! Events like that are also an opportunity<br />

Armenian manuscripts, which are carefully preserved in the<br />

I hardly need to remind you that Armenia was the first country<br />

generation of Armenians of Belgium continue to build up on the<br />

for younger generation that lives in different parts of Belgium to<br />

Matenadaran, the Institute of Ancient Manuscripts in Yerevan.<br />

to adopt Christianity as a state religion back in 301. So it is not<br />

legacy of the earlier ones in preserving the national identity and<br />

come together and to keep alive the common Armenian spirit.<br />

really surprising that Christianity is a strong part of our identity<br />

in finding the balance of keeping the two processes in harmony.<br />

Genrikh Kasparyan, who put Armenia on the chess map of the<br />

and is woven in our history. The St. Mary Magdalene Armenian<br />

My colleagues and I have visited the Armenian cultural unions,<br />

It might be interesting for you to know that most of the schools<br />

20th century, was in the first batch of players awarded the inter-<br />

Apostolic Church in Ixelles might not be as ancient as we are<br />

associations, and community centres in different towns, big and<br />

offer also chess classes, which might seem as something less<br />

national master title, when it was introduced by the International<br />

64 65


Photo: IStock<br />

Photo: IStock<br />

Chess Federation (FIDE) in 1950. However, the real boom started<br />

played since the first time we learned that kings and queens can<br />

that the Armenian Church has a feast of Holy Translators dedicat-<br />

And have you met Robin the Robot? Created by Karen Khachikyan,<br />

with Tigran Petrosian becoming the <strong>World</strong> champion in 1963 and<br />

be moved around by a tiny hand of child.<br />

ed to the literary figures who started the movement of translating<br />

this adorable character has a most wonderful job, he provides<br />

again in 1966!<br />

into Armenian using the Armenian script. Characteristically, the<br />

emotional support to paediatric and geriatric patients. No wonder<br />

In 1992, one year into independence, Armenia surprised the<br />

world by coming third at its first Chess Olympiad. This ushered in<br />

an incredible streak of victories for the Armenian team, as it won<br />

I DO TEND TO GET CARRIED AWAY WHEN IT<br />

COMES TO CHESS, DON’T I?<br />

first words written in the Armenian script by St Mesrob Mashtots,<br />

the creator of the alphabet, were “To know wisdom and instruction;<br />

to perceive the words of understanding” (the opening of the<br />

Book of Proverbs).<br />

Time magazine named Robin one of the best innovations of<br />

2021.<br />

As we were talking about Armenia and the Armenians, the<br />

the Olympiads in 2006, 2008 and then again in 2012.<br />

In between, our team came third two more times, and was<br />

second in 2022, with a new generation of players taking lead.<br />

I have heard experts and fans refer to this success as a miracle,<br />

because, even though we had a strong line-up, so did many<br />

ARMENIA SHOWS GREAT POTENTIAL FOR<br />

INNOVATION-LED GROWTH DUE TO ITS STRONG<br />

LEGACY OF EXCELLENCE IN SCIENCE, TECHNOL-<br />

OGY, EDUCATION AND RESEARCH.<br />

In modern Armenia, alongside a traditional focus on humanities,<br />

we are promoting advanced science and innovation, partially<br />

building upon the research centres established in the 20th century.<br />

Our children study robotics at school, win awards at international<br />

robotics competitions and the way they deal with cutting<br />

ancient and the modern, I remembered a conversation I had<br />

recently with someone who said that during their travels through<br />

Armenia they found us to be a most quiet, kind and peaceful<br />

people. I would add to that our sense of humour and self-irony,<br />

which, I am convinced, has been an important factor in our<br />

endurance and survival.<br />

others, especially the traditional leaders in the chess world that<br />

Armenia is a small country with a tricky geopolitical situation<br />

edge technology is mind-blowing.<br />

came second and third.<br />

and very limited resources. We realized that in order to survive,<br />

And over and over again, I think of the very famous quote from<br />

we needed to be creative and innovative, even before there was<br />

And of course, there are Armath Engineering laboratories and<br />

William Saroyan, a prominent Armenian-American writer, who,<br />

Add to this the individual achievements of the female players,<br />

a word for innovation. Over centuries, education has been essen-<br />

TUMO Centres for creative technologies. Through these fasci-<br />

20 years after the Genocide, wrote the following:<br />

where the Armenian masters and grandmasters quite impressive<br />

tial to the Armenian identity.<br />

nating undertakings, hundreds of thousands of young students,<br />

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this<br />

and it is no wonder that Mariam Mkrtchyan just won the world<br />

starting at the age of 10, get free engineering and technological<br />

small tribe of unimportant people, whose history is ended, whose<br />

chess championship among the U-18. Personally, I believe that<br />

The development of the unique Armenian alphabet in 405, paved<br />

education through after-school classes. Both these projects are<br />

wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crum-<br />

when it comes to chess, there is a certain magic that goes be-<br />

way for the translation of the Bible and numerous important<br />

so successful that we are now exporting them to an increasing<br />

bled, whose literature is unread, whose music is unheard, whose<br />

yond the proverbial team spirit and encompasses all the games<br />

books and works into Armenian. So important was that work,<br />

number of countries in Europe and Asia.<br />

prayers are no longer uttered.<br />

66 67


Go ahead, destroy this race…See if they will not live again. See if<br />

they will not laugh again. See if the race will not live again when<br />

two of them meet in a beer parlour, twenty years after, and laugh,<br />

and speak in their tongue.<br />

Go ahead, see if you can do anything about it. See if you can<br />

stop them from mocking the big ideas of the world.”<br />

Photos: Embassy of Armenia and <strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong><br />

Photo: IStock<br />

68 69


H.E. RAFAŁ SIEMIANOWSKI<br />

AMBASSADOR OF POLAND TO BELGIUM<br />

Copernicus is deeply rooted in the Polish culture.<br />

One can say that, as in a mirror, he reflects<br />

our national characteristics – diligence, dedication,<br />

but also the courage to oppose<br />

the mainstream when necessary<br />

THE POLISH DAY IN BRUSSELS IS ORGANISED<br />

AS PART OF THE POLISH HERITAGE DAYS,<br />

CELEBRATED ALL OVER THE WORLD TO<br />

PROMOTE POLISH CULTURE AND HISTORY.<br />

WHAT ARE THE MAIN INITIATIVES AND INSTITU-<br />

TIONS THROUGH WHICH POLISH CULTURE<br />

IS PROMOTED HERE IN BELGIUM?<br />

And last year, the Polish Institute invited Belgian visitors to the<br />

Polish stand at Fête de la BD, where alongside a selection of the<br />

most talented young Polish comic artists, also Ukrainian comics<br />

were featured.<br />

We also decided to use a comic to bring Polish astronomer<br />

Nicolaus Copernicus closer to visitors of the Polish Day in<br />

Brussels which was held on May 7 in Parc du Cinquantenaire.<br />

Photo: Royal Palace<br />

Belgium is a very demanding place to promote culture as every<br />

day people’s attention, especially in Brussels, is attracted by<br />

many cultural events and projects held by bilateral embassies,<br />

national cultural institutes, EU institutions, Brussels-based<br />

regional offices and Belgian authorities.<br />

What is also important is the fact that the audience in Belgium<br />

Thousands of copies of the comic dedicated to Copernicus were<br />

distributed during the event. Addressed mainly to the Polish<br />

diaspora and co-organised by Poles living in Belgium the event<br />

attracted also many non-Polish speaking guests.<br />

Thousands of visitors could enjoy Polish contemporary music<br />

and historical dance, taste traditional Polish food, learn more<br />

THIS YEAR WE CELEBRATE THE 550TH BIRTHDAY<br />

ANNIVERSARY OF POLISH ASTRONOMER<br />

COPERNICUS. WHAT HAS BEEN HIS IMPACT ON<br />

THE DEVELOPMENT OF SCIENCE, CULTURE, AND<br />

THE ARTS?<br />

lutions of the Celestial Spheres. The second edition (1566) of this<br />

masterpiece was exhibited at the Polish Embassy in Brussels a<br />

few months ago to mark the anniversary of the great astronomer’s<br />

birth.<br />

The figure of Nicolaus Copernicus is likewise deeply rooted in<br />

is diverse, both in terms of the languages spoken, and in terms<br />

about our history and important figures of our culture as well<br />

Nicolaus Copernicus’ influence on Polish culture, as well as on<br />

the Polish culture. One can say that, as in a mirror, he reflects<br />

of their expectations and preferences, which must be taken into<br />

as discover beautiful tourist destinations in Poland. We offered<br />

the scientific achievements of the mankind cannot be over-<br />

our national characteristics – diligence, dedication, but also the<br />

account as well.<br />

many attractions for children so whole families joined us at this<br />

estimated. He was a true Renaissance man - a lawyer and a<br />

courage to oppose the mainstream when necessary. After all, his<br />

picnic and celebrated Polish heritage.<br />

doctor by education, a canon by profession, an administrator,<br />

announcement of the heliocentric theory was a revolution going<br />

The Polish Institute in Brussels is the main institution promoting<br />

a diplomat, to name merely some of his ventures. Interestingly,<br />

against thousands of years of scientific interpretation. This move<br />

the Polish culture in Belgium. Public diplomacy is also an impor-<br />

As the Embassy we took on board more than 40 partners,<br />

astronomy was not always his principal field of interest. Few<br />

required tremendous courage, though Copernicus knew that this<br />

tant part the Polish Embassy’s activity.<br />

including Polish regions and Polish diaspora NGOs, to prepare<br />

people know, for example, that Copernicus proved an accurate<br />

was the right thing to do.<br />

very diversified programme attractive for varied audiences. In<br />

economic law, yet known today as Gresham’s Copernicus Law.<br />

From my perspective, in order to be effective in promoting<br />

my opinion close cooperation with different partners is crucial<br />

Nonetheless, his most prominent contribution to science was<br />

Finally, Copernicus is also widely present in Polish art. For cen-<br />

cultural heritage it is essential to properly understand the context<br />

to conduct effective public and cultural diplomacy, especially in<br />

the formulation of the heliocentric theory. Copernicus placed the<br />

turies he was a figure that artists wanted to immortalize in their<br />

which you operate in and then to use appropriate tools. For<br />

Brussels.<br />

Sun ― instead of the Earth ― at the centre of the universe. This<br />

creations. I mean a painting by another great Pole, Jan Matejko,<br />

example, Belgians are well-known for their affection to comics.<br />

groundbreaking theory was presented in his book On the Revo-<br />

entitled “Astronomer Copernicus, or Conversation with God”.<br />

70 <strong>71</strong>


BELGIUM AND POLAND ARE LINKED BY OVER A<br />

CENTURY OF BILATERAL RELATIONS. AS WE<br />

ENTER THE SECOND CENTURY, WHERE DO YOU<br />

SEE POLISH-BELGIAN RELATIONS HEADING?<br />

History always creates an important context for current relations<br />

between states and nations. In the case of Poland and Belgium,<br />

historical links constitute positive background to current cooperation.<br />

Polish generals forced to emigrate after the collapse of the<br />

anti-Russian November uprising played an important role in the<br />

creation of the Belgian army in the 1830s, while in 1944 Polish<br />

soldiers under General Stanisław Maczek liberated many Flemish<br />

towns and villages, including Tielt, Roeselare and Ghent. Over<br />

centuries Poles have demonstrated how freedom and solidarity<br />

are important for us as a nation. It is also true nowadays in the<br />

face of the Russian aggression against Ukraine.<br />

As we have opened our hearts and homes for hundreds of<br />

thousands of Ukrainian refugees within merely a couple of days,<br />

solidarity once again has become our national brand. We have<br />

been on the frontline of the multidimensional support for Ukraine,<br />

including humanitarian aid and heavy weapons. In Poland we<br />

have no doubt that Ukrainians have fought not only for freedom<br />

of their own country but also for freedom of Europe to protect us<br />

against Russian imperialism.<br />

supports our entrepreneurs in their expansion into the Belgian<br />

market. I am very proud that last year we organised, together<br />

with five Polish regions, the first Polish Wine Festival in Brussels.<br />

Nine Polish vineyards presented their offer to the international<br />

audience.<br />

When thinking about the future of our relations energy transformation<br />

seems to be a promising area of cooperation as Belgian<br />

experience in developing wind energy and hydrogen projects<br />

could not be more valuable for us.<br />

Last but not least, I believe that Poland will be getting more and<br />

more attractive for Belgian tourists. Still few of them know that<br />

they can admire the beautiful collection of the Flemish tapestries<br />

in the Wawel Royal Castle in Kraków. The main part of this<br />

collection, known as the Wawel Arrasses, was commissioned in<br />

Brussels by King Sigismund II Augustus in the 16th century.<br />

From Kraków you can easily get to the famous Wieliczka Salt<br />

Mine and then to the highest Polish mountains – the Tatras. Of<br />

course discovering Poland by visiting our capital first is also a<br />

good choice as this year Warsaw has won the prestigious title<br />

of the most attractive tourist destination in the European Best<br />

Destination 2023 contest.<br />

It is worth mentioning that one of his many monuments is located<br />

also in Brussels – in the front of the Planetarium of the Royal<br />

Observatory of Belgium.<br />

Photo: Embassy of Poland<br />

they emphasize work ethics of Polish employees and their high<br />

qualifications. Over 20 years of living in Warsaw I haven’t seen as<br />

many strikes as in Brussels within one and a half years. We are<br />

proud of one of the lowest unemployment rate in the EU.<br />

The role of Poland in supporting Ukraine was appreciated by the<br />

Belgian politicians but also by the general public. Our bilateral<br />

contacts are dominated by the consequences of the war and in<br />

the future security issues and reshaping of the international order<br />

devastated by the Russian aggression undoubtedly will account<br />

for a substantial part of the Polish-Belgian agenda.<br />

POLAND HAS SUCCESSFULLY IMPLEMENTED<br />

AN ECONOMIC MODEL FOCUSED ON FOREIGN<br />

DIRECT INVESTMENT THROUGH SPECIAL<br />

ECONOMIC ZONES (SEZS). WHY IS IT A GOOD<br />

TIME TO INVEST IN POLAND? WHAT ARE THE<br />

MOST PROMISING SECTORS?<br />

My country is definitely a good destination for investments.<br />

Despite difficult circumstances, such as the pandemic and the<br />

Russian invasion of Ukraine which shook the stability of the global<br />

economy, Poland continues to record an increase in foreign<br />

direct investment. Last year, the value of foreign investment in<br />

Poland amounted to EUR 3.7 billion, a sizeable jump compared<br />

to previous years.<br />

With its strategic location in the heart of Europe and a good infrastructure,<br />

including modern highways and airports, Poland is attractive<br />

for foreign investors as the biggest market in Central and<br />

Eastern Europe and a logistic hub to expand into other markets.<br />

When I speak with Belgian investors having businesses in Poland<br />

The attractiveness of Poland as a place to do business is closely<br />

connected with the diversification of our economy which makes<br />

it resilient to economic crisis. Foreign investors can easily find<br />

business partners in different sectors, including aeronautics,<br />

e-mobility, electronics, furniture and many others. The biggest<br />

global companies have invested in dynamically developing IT<br />

and business service sector in Poland. Visa, a global leader in<br />

digital payments, has recently announced that it plans to open<br />

a new global Technology and Product Hub in Poland that will be<br />

the first of its kind for Visa in Central and Eastern Europe.<br />

We are going to develop offshore wind energy projects on the<br />

Baltic Sea and build our first nuclear power plant. Traditionally,<br />

the food sector is one of the most important branches of the<br />

Polish economy. We are the biggest producers of poultry, apples<br />

and blackcurrants in Europe to give just a few examples in this<br />

field. To surprise of many of my interlocutors here in Belgium,<br />

Poland is also one of the biggest producer of sturgeon caviar<br />

around the world and it is served also by Belgian restaurants.<br />

We can see that our approach to Russia is now more understood<br />

in Western Europe and we are ready to share our expertise in<br />

the field of Eastern issues also with our Belgian partners. For<br />

many years we have warned our partners against close economic<br />

cooperation with Russia which was developed by some<br />

European countries even after the illegal annexation of Crimea<br />

in 2014. Now I hear very often in Brussels that Poland was right.<br />

We are going to spend 4 percent of GDP on defence next year<br />

and we are glad that Belgium has also decided to raise their own<br />

defence expenditures. As allies in NATO, we need to build up<br />

our military capabilities necessary to deter and defend against<br />

Russian threat.<br />

I am strongly convinced that the Polish-Belgian economic<br />

relations will be continuously developed in the future. Last year<br />

we noticed the record level of EUR 16.7 billion in our bilateral<br />

trade exchange. Belgian companies like Ghelamco, Solvay,<br />

Vlassenroot, Tectum or Umicore have been successfully present<br />

in Poland for many years. Others are interested in exploring business<br />

opportunities in my country. Obviously, the Polish Embassy<br />

Photo: <strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong><br />

72 73


POLISH HERITAGE DAY<br />

IN BRUSSELS<br />

Ewa Kurlanda-Billiet<br />

On 7 May, 2023, in the iconic Jubelpark (Parc du Cinquantenaire)<br />

where volunteers were encouraged to cut out their own cookies.<br />

of Brussels, on an overcast day, a growing crowd gathered to<br />

Honey sweet and full of hearty spices, pierniki, or a version of<br />

celebrate Polish Heritage Day.<br />

gingerbread cookies, are another famous export of Copernicus’s<br />

hometown of Torun.<br />

It is estimated that there are between 100,000-120,000 Poles<br />

living in Belgium, therefore it was no wonder that there was<br />

Other stalls included those of the schools of the Polish dias-<br />

increasing interest in the many colourful stalls that were set up<br />

pora, supported and led by the Polish Embassy in Brussels,<br />

alongside the centre stage despite the threat of rain.<br />

with branches in Antwerp (named after General Maczek and<br />

his liberation army) and Brussels (named after Polish historian,<br />

Co-organised by the Embassy of Poland in Brussels; the Polish<br />

geographer and polyglot Joachim Lelewel). Children of Polish<br />

Educational Organization in Belgium; Help Centre Belgium;<br />

residents or immigrants in Belgium can easily be registered in<br />

Polish Institute Brussels; the Brussels Office of the Polish Tour-<br />

one of the schools, where Polish is taught once a week, usually<br />

ism Organization; the Permanent Delegation of the Republic of<br />

Wednesday afternoons or Saturday mornings. These schools on<br />

Poland to NATO; as well as Polish regional offices in Brussels;<br />

their own organize or help to organize many cultural events such<br />

the idea was to repeat the overwhelming success of last year’s<br />

Polish Heritage Day, which attracted an estimate of 10,000<br />

visitors.<br />

Photo: Embassy of Poland<br />

Established to promote knowledge pertaining to Poland’s rich<br />

as Christmas markets, book sales or natural cosmetics, often<br />

The centre stage of Parc du Cinquantenaire was taken by<br />

culture and heritage, many stalls representing several of<br />

with the support of the Polish Catholic Church parishes dotted<br />

Cracovia Danza Court Ballet, providing a real spectacle for a<br />

Poland’s voivodeships (the highest-level administrative division<br />

across the country.<br />

captivated audience, complete with colourful and gorgeous cos-<br />

of Poland, corresponding to a province in other countries) provid-<br />

tumes of the Polish nobility of the 18th century, a presentation of<br />

ed information on tourism, local cuisine, and cultural attractions<br />

Children and teenagers also have the opportunity to upkeep their<br />

the folding and dressing of the Kontush Sash – a handmade or-<br />

for people of all ages, such as dance and singing groups from<br />

Polish language skills as well as cultural pride and awareness<br />

nate band 35 cm wide and up to 4 metres wide worn around the<br />

the Mazury region, beautiful flower headwreaths from Silesia, or<br />

with the help of scouts organisations, such as ZHP (Zwiazek<br />

waist of the fashion-savvy Polish noblemen, together with a short<br />

booklets and pamphlets on traveling to the mountain regions,<br />

Harcerstwa Polskiego – The Polish Scouting and Guiding<br />

lesson on how a Polish nobleman of the 18th century would have<br />

offered with delicious tasters of the famous tree cake (sekacz).<br />

Association) Belgium, whose stall prepared scientific experi-<br />

greeted his guests – a step backwards, a step forwards and a<br />

ments, quizzes and a display of a secret coding system – those<br />

theatrical bow with a befeathered fur hat.<br />

Many of the stalls paid homage to Nicolaus Copernicus, 2023<br />

who managed to solve it awaited an award.<br />

marking the 550th anniversary of his birth. Nicolaus Copernicus,<br />

The group delighted the audience with interesting facts about<br />

the famous polyglot and polymath and father of modern astron-<br />

A further stroll across the Jubelpark provided guests the ability<br />

Polish nobility of the time, and followed this with a splendid<br />

omy, was born in Torun and educated in Krakow and several<br />

to make their own bio-cosmetics and get to know more about<br />

dance performance, presenting fragments of, among others, the<br />

other prominent European universities. He is known chiefly for his<br />

the uses of various herbs and flowers, admire and taste a display<br />

spectacles “Planets Moved by Dance” and “Alla Polacca”.<br />

declaration of heliocentrism, a model of the universe that placed<br />

dedicated to the reddest, juiciest Mazovian apples and apple-re-<br />

the Sun rather than Earth at its centre, which was a radical and<br />

lated desserts such as freshly pressed juices and apple pies,<br />

Their performance ended with an invitation to the public to join in<br />

unheard of idea in his time.<br />

jump away at a colourful array of bouncy castles as well as join a<br />

the Polonez, or “Polonaise dance”, a dignified ceremonial dance<br />

hefty line-up for delicious Polish sausage, Polish beer and bowls<br />

that from the 17th-19th centuries often opened court balls and<br />

One of the stalls set up to celebrate the famous Pole asked chil-<br />

of steaming hot bigos (hunter’s stew): a traditional dish made<br />

other royal functions, and today is the essential opening dance of<br />

dren of all ages to draw their idea of what an astronomer should<br />

with cabbage, chunks of various types of meat (traditionally of<br />

high school prom balls, and often accompanies wedding parties<br />

look like, and their efforts were rewarded with a wide selection<br />

any animal that was hunted on the day that Polish nobility went<br />

and other formal events such as New Year’s balls. The first notes<br />

of children’s books, which they could take home. It was not<br />

hunting for bear or boar), mushrooms and tomato juice, spiced<br />

of famous Polish film music composer Wojciech Kilar’s take on<br />

always easy to focus on the task, however, with the mouth-wa-<br />

royally with salt, pepper, allspice, laurel leaf, cumin and some-<br />

the Polonaise immediately ushered countless couples to form the<br />

tering scent of freshly baked pierniki of the stall next door,<br />

Photo: Ewa Kurlanda-Billiet<br />

times a hint of gingerbread spices.<br />

long line of the “walking/line” dance, which snaked and ribboned<br />

74 75


its way across the centre of the Parc du Cinquantenaire, bringing<br />

good cheer and high spirits amongst those taking part in the<br />

dance or clicking photographs from the sidelines.<br />

Slowly, as the evening drew near and the stalls began to disassemble<br />

and pack, the centre stage took on a more festival-alike<br />

appearance and introduced its final star of the day, Kwiat Jabloni,<br />

or Apple Blossom, young Polish stars made up of siblings<br />

Katarzyna and Jacek Sienkiewicz, known and awarded for their<br />

pop, folk, bluegrass and indie fusions. The band put on an excellent<br />

show and were very enthusiastically showered with applause<br />

by an audience both young as well as young at heart, who sang<br />

along and cheered.<br />

Polish Heritage Day 2023 was undoubtedly a success. People<br />

of all ages, whether Polish, befriended or espoused to a Pole, or<br />

simply those who passed by the park with their families that day,<br />

were introduced, reintroduced, or reminded of the rich culture,<br />

history, traditions and famous persons of the heart-shaped country<br />

of Central Europe laying at the coast of the Baltic Sea and<br />

stretching across to the Tatra and Carpathian mountain ranges.<br />

Whether exiting the park with a trademark string of ruby red<br />

beaded necklaces round their necks, balloons or garden windmills<br />

in hand, full of tasty tokens of Polish cuisine or with tunes<br />

ringing in their ears, visitors could agree in high spirits that interest<br />

in Poland, whether it be for entrepreneurial or business-related<br />

reasons, cultural acquaintance or planning their next holiday,<br />

is certainly on trend.<br />

Photo: Ewa Kurlanda-Billiet<br />

Photo: Ewa Kurlanda-Billiet<br />

76


H.E. AGRON BAJRAMI<br />

AMBASSADOR OF KOSOVO<br />

TO THE KINGDOM OF BELGIUM,<br />

THE GRAND DUCHY OF LUXEMBOURG<br />

AND THE EUROPEAN UNION<br />

Our strategic orientation is Euro-Atlantic integration.<br />

We have no doubts about this.<br />

H.E. Agron Bajrami, Ambassador of Kosovo<br />

LET US START WITH SOME (LONG OVERDUE)<br />

GOOD NEWS. FOLLOWING AGREEMENT BETWEEN<br />

THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND THE COUNCIL<br />

ON A PROPOSAL BY THE COMMISSION, PASS-<br />

PORT HOLDERS FROM KOSOVO WILL BE AL-<br />

LOWED TO TRAVEL TO THE EU WITHOUT A VISA<br />

(FOR MAXIMUM 90 DAYS IN ANY 180-DAY PERIOD)<br />

STARTING ON JANUARY 1, 2024.<br />

Of course, we fulfilled the conditions for visa liberalisation five<br />

years ago. The European Commission itself has said several<br />

times in official reports that Kosovo has complied with all the<br />

rules, regulations and fulfilling conditions. Unfortunately, the<br />

Member States were not able to come to this decision for a long<br />

time. Until now. This is a sign to us that it is well worth to engage.<br />

It is important because we have a long list of things we want to<br />

We think that in the current geopolitical context, Kosovo’s EU<br />

candidacy would help not only us but the region as a whole. We<br />

hope that our application will be dealt with as soon as possible,<br />

that EU Presidency will provide us with the questionnaire, and<br />

then the process will move forward.<br />

For our citizens, and for citizens of the EU, it is important to<br />

We consider these to be very important agreements, which are<br />

very difficult to accept, but we accepted them nevertheless, so<br />

the process moves forward. When we did accept them, we also<br />

wanted to sign them, which unfortunately did not happen, as<br />

there was no willingness to sign them by the other side. Nevertheless,<br />

they are now considered to be legally binding, at least<br />

according to the EU and the US, and the intention of EU is for the<br />

achieve, and with this objective completed and out of the way, it<br />

see that the Kosovo of today is not the Kosovo of 15-20 years<br />

commitments from the agreements to be incorporated into the<br />

We are happy that by the end of this year, the visa regime will<br />

leaves more room for other political processes to be attended to,<br />

ago. Our improvement is solid and sustainable. We have been<br />

European perspective and integration processes of both Kosovo<br />

be lifted for citizens of Kosovo, and I hope this will only im-<br />

most notably EU candidacy.<br />

politically stable for over two years and we are ready to keep<br />

and Serbia.<br />

prove our relations with EU. We are glad that this agreement is<br />

this course. The only crisis is the one in our relations with Serbia.<br />

concluded because it was long overdue, as you well say. It was a<br />

Towards the end of last year, during the Czech Presidency of the<br />

In every other field, we are comfortably moving, progressing<br />

And we are comfortable with that. We are committed to fulfilling<br />

unanimous decision of the Council, and this is a very good sign<br />

Council of the EU, we submitted our candidacy for EU mem-<br />

forward in a positive direction.<br />

and implementing these agreements in their entirety. But we<br />

because it means that all 27 Member States of the EU supported<br />

bership. This is a natural step for us, a step that underlines our<br />

insist and place special emphasis that they have to be respected<br />

visa free regime for Kosovo.<br />

The importance of this process is manifold because Kosovo<br />

citizens will finally be able to move freely, to enjoy, to see and to<br />

strategic orientation, that is to stay, that we belong to Europe and<br />

we belong to the EU. It also underlines the fact that we are ready<br />

for this step.<br />

WHAT IS YOUR VISION ON THE NORMALISATION<br />

PROCESS WITH SERBIA?<br />

in their entirety, not selectively. It seems however, that this view<br />

is not shared by Serbia. Belgrade has been denying parts of the<br />

agreement since the first day we achieved it. As a consequence,<br />

more than three months since we agreed in Ohrid, we are yet to<br />

communicate with Europe. This is particularly important for our<br />

All the relevant reports, including European Parliament and<br />

This year we reached two major agreements: the February<br />

have an agreed calendar about when each of the points of the<br />

young people. It gives our society the full taste of freedom that<br />

EU Commission reports, are identifying steady progress in all<br />

Agreement on the path to normalisation between Kosovo and<br />

agreement will be implemented.<br />

we have lacked so far. At the same time, it is proof that in a rela-<br />

relevant fields, those relevant to the EU and to our society: rule<br />

Serbia and the Implementation Annex to the Agreement on the<br />

tionship with the European Union (EU), when you commit your-<br />

of law, democracy, human rights, economy, etc. Progress is<br />

Path to Normalisation of Relations between Kosovo and Serbia,<br />

I hope that by the time this interview is published we are going<br />

self and achieve the standards that are requested and required,<br />

therefore visible, recorded and shown in these reports. And this<br />

agreed in Ohrid on March 18.<br />

to have a clearer picture, but politics is not a movie, it does not<br />

there are benefits to be derived.<br />

makes us a very credible candidate for EU membership.<br />

end in two hours. Of course, it was always to be expected that<br />

78 79


Credentials Ceremony with Grand Duke Henri<br />

Photo: Royal Palace of Luxembourg<br />

we will have ups and downs in this difficult process. The premise<br />

Unfortunately, that was not the case, and now we have this nor-<br />

of the whole process is complicated. It could have been much<br />

malisation dialogue, which is at the stage where we need to con-<br />

better and easier for everyone involved if in 2008 Serbia would<br />

clude the process that started in 2011. But normalisation cannot<br />

have had the courage and strength to accept and recognise<br />

come if there is no clear agreement about what the relationship<br />

Kosovo’s independence, which is the consequence of a history<br />

between Kosovo and Serbia is. For everyone involved, it is clear<br />

and is unlike other histories being talked about.<br />

that unless there is mutual recognition, the relationship cannot be<br />

considered to be normal. And this – mutual recognition between<br />

Kosovo’s independence is the natural and just conclusion of a<br />

Kosovo and Serbia – is what will have to come at the end of this<br />

situation in which we were for years under Serbian repression.<br />

process. There is no way around it: the conclusion of dialogue,<br />

During the 1998-99 war the State of Serbia committed genocide<br />

full normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia, is<br />

against the Albanian population of Kosovo. Thousands of civil-<br />

possible only if there is mutual recognition.<br />

Credentials Ceremony with His Majesty King Philippe<br />

Photo: Royal Palace<br />

ians were killed, entire villages were burned and many cities were<br />

destroyed. A million Kosovars – more than half of the population<br />

– were made refugees in countries of Europe and beyond.<br />

Most of the rest, hundreds of thousands, were internally displaced.<br />

The repression of Serbia against Kosovo Albanians was<br />

Yet, we are not sure Belgrade wants to conclude this dialogue<br />

and achieve the lasting solution. We have continuously seen<br />

signs that Serbia does not intend to accept all the parts of the<br />

recent agreement. They only fully accept one point in which the<br />

government of Kosovo commits to ensure an appropriate level of<br />

KOSOVO ALSO HAS A CLEAR VISION FOR NATO<br />

AND HOPES TO PARTICIPATE IN ITS PARTNERSHIP<br />

FOR PEACE PROGRAMME.<br />

NATO. Again, there are four countries in the NATO Alliance which<br />

do not recognise Kosovo yet. But by working and engaging constructively<br />

with everybody we can overcome this issue.<br />

cause for NATO intervention in the spring of 1999, after which<br />

self-management for the ethnic Serbian community in Kosovo.<br />

Our strategic orientation is Euro-Atlantic integration. We have no<br />

In the current context of threats to security, not only because<br />

Kosovo was removed from the authority of then Yugoslavia.<br />

But they refuse to accept they have agreed to the other points,<br />

doubts about this. There is no political party in Kosovo opposed<br />

of Russia’s aggression to Ukraine, the EU, NATO and the West<br />

such as the point in which they agree not to block Kosovo’s<br />

to this vision. The absolute majority of Kosovo citizens want to<br />

have realised that we need to have a very compact system of<br />

Independence was therefore a natural conclusion of that pro-<br />

membership in any international organisation. Serbia already<br />

be citizens of a country which is a member of both the EU and<br />

defence and security: physical defence; economic security and<br />

cess. If our independence had been recognised by Belgrade,<br />

breached the agreement by voting against Kosovo’s membership<br />

NATO.I think that in technical aspects, regarding NATO and its<br />

the protection of our system of values and other freedoms. In this<br />

today both Kosovo and Serbia would probably have been at the<br />

to the Council of Europe. And the EU is mistakenly keeping silent<br />

Partnership for Peace programme, we fulfil all criteria, meaning<br />

regard, Kosovo, as part of the Western Balkans, inevitably has to<br />

final stages of EU membership.<br />

about it.<br />

that our armed forces are trained by NATO, in fact created by<br />

be included in this family of Euro-Atlantic organisations.<br />

80 81


The non-recognisers are slowly starting to realise that keeping<br />

In that regard, our main priorities are rule of law, the fight against<br />

Kosovo out of NATO Partnership for Peace project, for example,<br />

corruption and public administration reforms. We also want to<br />

is not helping anybody. While including Kosovo will help every-<br />

improve education, to give the younger generation better oppor-<br />

body. For a start, it would make our region more stable<br />

tunities to compete in the modern world. And we can do all of<br />

and secure.<br />

this, as we have already shown. Just look at what was achieved<br />

during the past year. As the EU Commission Report on Kosovo<br />

There is no alternative to our Euro-Atlantic path. But this does<br />

shows, in most of areas – like fight against corruption, public<br />

not mean we are against somebody else. It only means it is<br />

administration reform, economic and monetary policy, function-<br />

our path. In that path, we have constantly said that we want to<br />

ing of market economy, education and culture, social policy and<br />

support and stand on the side of the just and the humane. In the<br />

employment, transport policy, trans-European networks, food<br />

current context, there is no neutrality when it comes to Russia’s<br />

safety, veterinary and phytosanitary issues – we have evident<br />

aggression on Ukraine. We stand with Ukraine, regardless of the<br />

progress.<br />

fact that Ukraine does not recognise us. That is of no importance<br />

in this context, since it is a matter of principle.<br />

We are recognised by more than 100 countries; and we have<br />

relations with countries which have not recognised us, and with<br />

some of them we have very good relationship. So recognition has<br />

just become a formality. As a small country, we need to find ways<br />

of cooperation with everybody who wants to cooperate in good-<br />

KOSOVO HAS PERFORMING QUITE WELL IN<br />

BUSINESS RANKINGS AS OF LATE. WHAT MEAS-<br />

URES HAS THE GOVERNMENT OF KOSOVO TAKEN<br />

TO CREATE AN ENABLING ENVIRONMENT FOR<br />

INVESTORS AND BUSINESSES?<br />

will, and on equal footing. Also, we want to deepen our relation-<br />

Kosovo has certain assets which I think are worth highlighting.<br />

ship with wider world. Yes, we belong in Europe and EU, but we<br />

Our population is quite young, more than half is under 30. Our<br />

also belong to the whole world. During the war in Kosovo, when<br />

population is multi-lingual and used to working in multi-cultural<br />

our people were suffering, nations from all over the globe were<br />

and multi-religious environments. The government has tried and<br />

helping us, from Asia and Latin America, to Africa, Middle East<br />

improved the conditions of doing business for foreign investors<br />

and Oceania. With many of these nations we have very good<br />

and for local entrepreneurs.<br />

relations. With others, we intend to build very good relations.<br />

In past two years, Kosovo has achieved political stability and has<br />

LOOKING AHEAD TO THE EU ACCESSION<br />

PROCESS, WHICH REFORMS WILL BE NEEDED<br />

DOMESTICALLY TO ALIGN WITH EU STANDARDS<br />

AND THE ACQUIS COMMUNAITAIRE?<br />

been demonstrating a stable macroeconomic environment since. Our<br />

economic growth reached a double digit of 10.7 percent in 2021.<br />

Our ambitious industrial policy, sustainable investment, and<br />

strategic investor status we offer, has achieved an increase in<br />

exports by 84 percent reaching the value of EUR 2.7 billion. It is<br />

continuing this year as well with an increase of the export value<br />

On the other hand, we also work to see how to attract our<br />

own diaspora, which is quite substantial, successful and well<br />

Photo: Shutterstock<br />

I would highlight the IT sector and wood processing. There are<br />

capacities in agriculture which have to be explored. There are<br />

We prioritise, constantly, the rule of law. You can achieve a<br />

by 62 percent, and 88 percent increase in export amount. The<br />

integrated across Europe. In Belgium, it is around 50-60,000. In<br />

also good perspectives in green energy, but because of the past<br />

certain standard, but if it is not maintained, they can drop rather<br />

impact was also felt in Foreign Direct Investment, which in-<br />

Germany, it is almost half a million. In Switzerland, over 300,000.<br />

war, and the years of neglect, our energy generation capacity has<br />

fast too. Democracy is not a given. Every day work is needed to<br />

creased by 22 percent.<br />

We wish to bring them back and provide them the conditions<br />

been rather limited. Now we are in the process of renewing it.<br />

maintain it. This is not just a matter of fulfilling standards to join<br />

to invest back home, to allow them to serve as a greater link<br />

the EU, but providing our own people with good perspectives of<br />

With our ambitious legislative agenda, we expect to see it grow<br />

between Kosovo and the rest of Europe.<br />

Mentioning IT sector, let me just briefly explain that Kosovo’s<br />

living in a country which is democratic and in which everyone has<br />

further through reforms in investment policy. As a result of our<br />

great asset is its young people. More than 60 percent of Kosovo’s<br />

equal opportunities for success and progress.<br />

Economic Revival fiscal policy and the decisive steps taken in<br />

In Belgium, for example, the opinion about Kosovo 20 years ago<br />

population is younger than 30. Our youth is multilingual, very<br />

the formalization of the economy, 10,000 jobs have been formal-<br />

was quite different from what it is today. Back then, opinions<br />

innovative, and oriented towards modern economic trends, with<br />

Among the priorities ahead are critical reforms in rule of law,<br />

ized, while 35,000 new ones have been created.<br />

were influenced by the fact that we were a post-war country<br />

IT sector being the most fast growing one in Kosovo.<br />

and here I will highlight the Criminal Procedure Code, Law on<br />

of the former Yugoslavia. Lots of crises, instability, conflict and<br />

Commercial Court, Financing of Political Entities, National<br />

At the same time, we have shown to be quite resilient, as we<br />

inter-ethnic hatred. That was dominating the news headlines.<br />

Let me mention here that Kosovo, as investment destination,<br />

Strategy and Action Plan against Domestic Violence, and adop-<br />

have managed very well the pandemic and consequences<br />

Today, while we still have problems with Serbia, everyone who is<br />

is also attractive. Foreign Direct Investments in the Republic of<br />

tion of the Migration Strategy.<br />

of Russian aggression on Ukraine. This resilience shows that<br />

moving to or visiting Kosovo is aware that Kosovo is much more<br />

Kosovo have increased over the years. Foreign companies from<br />

Kosovo presents a good opportunity for European businesses,<br />

than a place where some troubles are occurring from time to<br />

around the globe have opened their business and invested in the<br />

We need to reform the economy, as well, and to be able to do<br />

especially those that have been thinking about near-shoring,<br />

time. It is, in fact, a very vibrant country.<br />

country in many fields.<br />

that we approved the Economic Reform Programme 2023-2025.<br />

moving from far away places to a country which is close enough<br />

In the field of economic development, I should highlight the Consumer<br />

Protection Programme 2021-2025, general law on inspections,<br />

amending the law on the protection of competition, etc.<br />

geographically, politically stable and on the path of integration to<br />

the EU. And many other reasons among which a good legislative<br />

framework; adaptive workforce; competitive labour costs, etc.<br />

WHAT ARE THE MAIN SECTORS WITH THE<br />

HIGHEST POTENTIAL?<br />

To name a few, PowerPack Kosovo LLC – a Belgian investment<br />

– is a leading manufacturer and supplier of refuse sacks, PMC<br />

bags and organic waste bags. SOWI Kosovo L.L.C – a joint<br />

82 83


Dinaric Alps<br />

Photo: Shutterstock<br />

H.E. Agron Bajrami, Ambassador of Kosovo and Alberto Turkstra<br />

Photo: <strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong><br />

Kosovo, German and Israel venture – invested more than EUR<br />

Kosovo is very close to Brussels, less than a three-hour flight<br />

of cultural events, among which one of the best documentary<br />

people. After decades of repression and systematic violence,<br />

170 million on a 105 MW wind farm. Hirano Mushroom LLC – a<br />

away. Pristina is a very lively capital city of 200,000 inhabitants,<br />

film festivals in the world, Dokufest, which this year will take<br />

culminating with destructive war and genocide in 1999, Kosovo<br />

Kosovo-Japanese investment in the field of shiitake mushrooms<br />

which has a good social and cultural atmosphere especially for<br />

place between 4 and 22 August. So, there is something for every<br />

and its people were able to build a country that is a model of<br />

– is exporting 99 percent of their products to the EU market.<br />

the younger people: inexpensive, with a good food scene and a<br />

taste.<br />

democracy in the region. It is a remarkable progress, which we<br />

vibrant nightlife.<br />

are committed to build upon further.<br />

Also, Marriot International Inc. – a US chain of hotels – has built<br />

We have very good air connections with Western Europe, our<br />

two hotels – “Four Points by Sheraton” and “Courtyard Marriot”<br />

– in Pristina. In the banking sector there is presence from Türkiye<br />

(TEB, Ziraat, Turkiye Is Bankasi, BKT), Austria (Raiffesen Bank,<br />

ProCredit Bank), Italy (Credins), and so on.<br />

Of course, Kosovo has much more potential for investments,<br />

especially now that the Energy Strategy has entered into force<br />

and the interest of investors in this field is on its peak.<br />

WE DO NOT NORMALLY THINK OF KOSOVO AS A<br />

TOURIST DESTINATION, BUT IT CERTAINLY IS AN<br />

UP-AND-COMING DESTINATION.<br />

From Pristina, you can be within one hour in a place that<br />

transports you five centuries back. There are rural areas with<br />

untouched nature and old villages. We have a mountain range<br />

on the border between Kosovo, Albania and North Macedonia,<br />

which provides great hiking and trekking opportunities, as well<br />

as a ski resort – Brezovica. Mountain and nature-based tourism<br />

therefore have the most potential for future. And while we are<br />

landlocked, the sea is just a couple of hours away in Albania.<br />

The past has left a lot of marks in Kosovo, and I do not mean<br />

only the ugly ones related to the war. I am referring to monuments<br />

of social life of centuries ago. If you visit Prizren, an old<br />

city with a well preserved Ottoman centre, you could have the<br />

feeling of walking into 17th century Istanbul. This city hosts a lot<br />

airport is one of the leaders in the region by number of flights and<br />

number of passengers. Kosovars themselves like to travel a lot<br />

themselves.<br />

And I would link back to the first question on visa liberalisation,<br />

and why it is so significant for us. This will break the chains of<br />

isolation which are usually the underlying reason for conflict,<br />

hatred and miscommunication. In this regard, we are in quite a<br />

positive place as a country and as a society, 25 years after the<br />

war.<br />

Mentioning the war, before we conclude, allow me to underline<br />

that Kosovo is a great success story. Just think about it – this<br />

small Balkans country was born out of the great suffering of its<br />

AGRON BAJRAMI WAS BORN ON DECEMBER 5,<br />

1967. MARRIED TO ADELINA, AND FATHER OF<br />

SON SHARR (20) AND DAUGHTER LISË (18).<br />

BEFORE COMING TO BRUSSELS AS AMBASSA-<br />

DOR OF THE REPUBLIC OF KOSOVO, AGRON<br />

BAJRAMI HAD A REMARKABLE CARRIER IN<br />

JOURNALISM – IN THE YEARS 1994-2021 HE WAS<br />

A JOURNALIST, EDITOR AND EDITOR-IN-CHIEF<br />

(2004-2021) WITH KOHA DITORE, THE MOST<br />

NOTABLE DAILY NEWSPAPER IN KOSOVO.<br />

IN HIS TWITTER ACCOUNT @AGRONBAJRAMI DE-<br />

SCRIBES HIMSELF AS FAN OF HISTORY, BOOKS,<br />

MOVIES, GRAPHIC NOVELS & ROCK MUSIC.<br />

84 85


H.E. JOÃO MENDES PEREIRA<br />

AMBASSADOR OF<br />

THE FEDERATIVE REPUBLIC OF BRAZIL<br />

TO THE KINGDOM OF BELGIUM<br />

Belgium has consistently been among<br />

the top 10 investors in Brazil, which is an indication<br />

of the trust and complementarity between our two countries<br />

BRAZIL AND BELGIUM OBTAINED INDEPENDENCE<br />

JUST A FEW YEARS APART FROM EACH OTHER<br />

(1822 AND 1830, RESPECTIVELY). SINCE THEN,<br />

THEIR HISTORY HAS BEEN OFTEN INTERTWINED.<br />

FOR EXAMPLE, BELGIAN COMPANIES HAVE<br />

PLAYED A PROMINENT ROLE IN BRAZILIAN IN-<br />

DUSTRIALIZATION. WHAT IS THE CURRENT STATE<br />

OF BILATERAL RELATIONS AND WHAT ARE THE<br />

OPPORTUNITIES FOR FUTURE COOPERATION?<br />

the top 5 investors in Brazil, which is an indication of the trust<br />

and complementarity between our two countries. Our trade<br />

relations are also intense, having reached almost USD 8 billion in<br />

2022. Brazil is a reliable source of agricultural and mineral products,<br />

while Belgium is an important provider of pharmaceutical<br />

goods, for example.<br />

Brazil is of course also present in Belgian cultural life, as can<br />

be seen by the fact that so many artists from my country are<br />

performing and exhibiting in Brussels in the current year. Baixú,<br />

Ambassador João Mendes Pereira presents his credentials to King Philippe.<br />

THE AMAZON RAINFOREST IS OFTEN REFERRED<br />

TO AS THE EARTH’S LUNGS. WHAT MEASURES<br />

IS BRAZIL TAKING TO PROTECTING THIS CRITI-<br />

CAL GLOBAL ECOSYSTEM AND SLOWING/CON-<br />

TROLLING DEFORESTATION?<br />

The protection of the Amazon and measures to mitigate climate<br />

change are among the top priorities for Brazil’s government. Our<br />

program that uses sugar cane as the basis for a sustainable and<br />

efficient fuel. Many people do not know this, but all gas stations<br />

in Brazil provide ethanol and almost 90 percent of cars in Brazil<br />

are what is called “flex fuel”, which means they can run alternatively<br />

on gasoline or the cleaner bioethanol.<br />

Photo: Royal Palace<br />

Brazil and Belgium have developed a close relationship ever<br />

a cultural centre that opened recently at Tour&Taxis, has been<br />

role in bringing environmental issues to the forefront of interna-<br />

since their creation as independent states. Brazil was one of the<br />

hosting some of our greatest talents, including people like Paula<br />

tional debates is historic as can be traced, for instance, to the<br />

first countries to have a legation in Brussels, having opened that<br />

Morelenbaum, who played with Tom Jobim, and virtuosos like<br />

hosting of the Rio 92 conference, in Rio de Janeiro, which was<br />

representation in 1834, one of only seven countries that were<br />

Hamilton de Holanda, who will be performing there in July.<br />

crucial to promote global understandings on climate change,<br />

present in Belgium at that time.<br />

Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil and Djavan, household names for<br />

biological diversity and sustainable development. Brazil is also<br />

those who know Brazilian music, will be playing in other venues<br />

remarkable in its use of renewable sources of energy.<br />

An important milestone was King Albert I’s visit to Brazil in 1920,<br />

over the following months. Famed guitarist Yamandu Costa is set<br />

whose 100-year anniversary we celebrated at the Embassy with<br />

to perform in November.<br />

Over 80 percent of our electric energy consumption is from<br />

an exhibition of historic photographs from the occasion. The visit<br />

renewable resources – hydroelectric, wind, solar, ethanol and<br />

not only expressed Belgium’s recognition for Brazil’s role in its<br />

In other art forms, as well, Brazil is present in Belgium: the recent<br />

biomass, compared to less than 30 percent for the rest of the<br />

food security during <strong>World</strong> War I, but also opened the doors to<br />

Elles Tournent film festival showcased director Flavia Neves’<br />

world; around 44 percent of our overall energy consumption is<br />

an expansion of Belgian investments in Brazil.<br />

movie “Fogaréu”. Renowned comic book artist Marcello Quint-<br />

generated from renewable resources, as opposed to 15 percent<br />

anilha currently has an exhibition at the Centre Belge de la Bande<br />

in the rest of the world.<br />

Since then, our economic ties have grown immensely, with<br />

Belgium having been consistently among the top 10 and often<br />

dessinée. Not to mention the permanent presence in Brussels of<br />

Brazilian galleries Jacqueline Martins and Mendes Wood DM.<br />

Brazil has developed, since the 1970s, a successful bioethanol<br />

Ambassador João Mendes Pereira presents his credentials to Grand Duke Henri.<br />

Photo: Maison du Grand-Duc<br />

86 87


President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who took office in January,<br />

has placed environmental issues at the top of his political agenda.<br />

This is something that was already prominent in his policies<br />

during his first two mandates, from 2003 to 2010, when Brazil<br />

was able to bring about an 80 percent reduction in deforestation<br />

rates in the Amazon. Even before beginning this current<br />

mandate, Lula made an important speech at the COP27 climate<br />

change conference in Egypt.<br />

There he pointed out how the climate emergency is an issue for<br />

all countries and peoples of the Earth, as it affects everyone, and<br />

more severely those that are already more vulnerable and subject<br />

to disease and hunger, problems that global warming can make<br />

worse. This is particularly unsettling as the 1 percent richest part<br />

of the world population emits around 70 tons of carbon gas per<br />

capita per year, while the 50 percent poorest emit only one ton<br />

per capita.<br />

To tackle the urgent climate and environmental issues the world<br />

is facing, President Lula has put into practice a number of<br />

national and international initiatives. From the first hours of his<br />

new government, already on January 1, the President strengthened<br />

the powers of the Ministry of the Environment to combat<br />

deforestation in the Amazon and in the other biomes, in particular<br />

by reinforcing Ibama, our environmental protection agency,<br />

and reinstating the Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of<br />

Deforestation in the Amazon. This action plan was successful in<br />

reducing deforestation during Lula’s first two governments.<br />

Other action plans are also being put in place for other biomes,<br />

such as the Pantanal and the Caatinga. All of these initiatives are<br />

reinforced by harsher penalties for infractions and a closer supervision<br />

of activities that may harm the environment, such as illegal<br />

mining. These measures are overseen by a group composed of<br />

19 ministries who have the task of making sure they are carried<br />

out efficiently.<br />

Brazil signed the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and<br />

Land Use, which sets our goal of reducing deforestation in our<br />

biomes to zero by 2030, an ambitious goal that the government<br />

is determined to achieve. The government has committed to<br />

replanting 12 million hectares – an area about four times the size<br />

of Belgium – and is investing in the bio-economy to bring about a<br />

more sustainable economic model.<br />

One of the ministries involved in this effort is the newly created<br />

Ministry of Indigenous Peoples, an innovation of this government,<br />

which takes into account the important role of these peoples in the<br />

preservation of the Amazon. Protected Areas, including indigenous<br />

land, make up about 44 percent of the Amazon region. The<br />

new Ministry will be able to act more decisively to protect these<br />

peoples and to make use of their knowledge to develop policy<br />

proposals that can help bring about sustainable practices.<br />

This will help the 25 million Brazilians who live in the Amazon<br />

region to be beneficiaries of a better development model, one<br />

that generates wealth while preserving the forest.<br />

Brazil’s efforts at the international level have also been reinforced.<br />

First of all, we have presented the candidacy of the city<br />

of Belém, in the state of Para, to host the 30th Conference of the<br />

Parties of the UNFCCC (COP30) in 2025. This a clear demonstration<br />

of Brazil’s ambition and of its commitment in the fight<br />

against climate change.<br />

Lula’s government has also reactivated the Amazon Fund, which<br />

directs international resources to crucial preservation and sustainable<br />

use projects in the Amazon. Norway, the main contributor<br />

to the Fund, as well as Germany, a historic partner, have<br />

announced their intention of restarting their cooperation with the<br />

initiative. The United States has announced that it will contribute<br />

USD 500 million over a period of five years, while the United<br />

Kingdom has committed GBP 80 million. We would be pleased<br />

to see the number of participating countries and companies<br />

increase, as the Amazon Fund has a greatly beneficial impact<br />

on the region.<br />

These are crucial investments in our common goal of preserving<br />

the environmental treasure that is the Amazon, with its implications<br />

for climate change and biodiversity, as well as to the<br />

well-being of vulnerable populations in Brazil and elsewhere. As<br />

President Lula has emphasized, the role of the largest economies<br />

in the world cannot be understated when it comes to their<br />

responsibility in creating conditions for developing countries to<br />

carry out their preservation efforts. At COP15, in Copenhagen in<br />

2009, an agreement was reached for USD 100 billion to be provided<br />

annually to developing countries, starting in 2020, in order<br />

to bring about effective climate change policies. In 2023, we are<br />

still far from that objective.<br />

In terms of cooperation with other countries, Brazil has made an<br />

effort to bring together the eight countries of the Amazon (Bolivia,<br />

Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela)<br />

in order to promote a common agenda for environmental<br />

protection and sustainable development in the region. The<br />

Organization of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty (OTCA), formed<br />

by these eight countries, is set to meet in August in the northern<br />

city of Belem, for the Amazon Summit, which will be important in<br />

defining next steps for our cooperation.<br />

President Lula has also prioritized cooperation with DRC and<br />

Indonesia, countries which, alongside Brazil, concentrate 52<br />

percent of the remaining primary tropical forests in the world.<br />

The idea is to develop sustainable financing mechanisms that<br />

can allow these countries to reduce deforestation and therefore<br />

contribute to reduce global warming.<br />

Aerial panorama of Christ and Sugar Loaf Mountain, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. Vintage colors<br />

Photo: Shutterstock<br />

88 89


The group Clube do Choro de Bruxelas performs at the Embassy of Brazil along with Portuguese cellist Fernando Espírito Santo.<br />

Climate change has a devastating effect for those most vulnerable<br />

to poverty, hunger and inequality in the world and that is why<br />

Brazil has been acting with those people in mind. It is urgent to<br />

direct efforts to the goal of fighting these problems. As President<br />

Lula has made abundantly clear, Brazil has been trying as much<br />

as possible to create conditions for peace in the world, because<br />

it is difficult to prioritize these pressing issues when so much of<br />

global attention and effort is taken up by conflict. As Lula has<br />

stated: “there is no sustainability in a world at war”.<br />

EVERY YEAR ON APRIL 23, BRAZIL CELEBRATES<br />

THE INTERNATIONAL CHORO DAY, COINCIDING<br />

WITH THE BIRTH ANNIVERSARY OF MUSICIAN<br />

PIXINGUINHA. IT HAS SUBSEQUENTLY BEEN<br />

POPULARIZED BY COMPOSERS SUCH AS HEITOR<br />

VILLA-LOBOS, AND TRESPASSED BRAZIL’S FRON-<br />

TIERS. WHAT ARE THE ORIGINS AND THE IMPOR-<br />

TANCE OF THIS GENRE IN BRAZILIAN CULTURE?<br />

Choro is a wonderful musical genre, in many ways an emblematic<br />

symbol of Brazil’s history, of the fusion of different peoples<br />

and cultures that formed the country. Choro, or “chorinho” as<br />

it is also called, consolidated in the 19th century, mainly in Rio<br />

de Janeiro, which was then the capital. It brought together<br />

African rhythms such as lundu with European influences from<br />

styles such as the waltz, polkas and notably baroque music. It<br />

is interesting that Dom Pedro II, the Emperor of Brazil, brought<br />

European musicians to the court, among them Belgian flute<br />

player André-Mathieu Reichert, who is said to have played with<br />

and influenced one of the pioneers of choro, Joaquim Callado, a<br />

flute-player himself and the composer of “Flor Amorosa” (1867),<br />

considered to be one of the first pieces of what was then a new<br />

musical genre.<br />

The history of choro owes a lot to these musical talents, one of<br />

which, pianist Chiquinha Gonzaga, is remarkable. Gonzaga, a<br />

friend of Callado’s, was an impressive character not only for the<br />

number of successful compositions she created, but also for<br />

standing out as a female composer and musician in an era in<br />

which there were strong societal pressures against her work as a<br />

popular artist.<br />

Photo: Embassy of Brazil in Brussels<br />

Pixinguinha is from a later generation, having been born at the<br />

end of the 19th century, in 1897. He is a 20th century composer<br />

in the sense that he incorporated into choro some of the<br />

influences of jazz and of other styles that became better known<br />

in Brazil with the advent of radio. Pixinguinha interacted with and<br />

was influential for a number of other musicians, not only Villa-Lobos<br />

– who you mentioned – but also Tom Jobim and the creators<br />

of bossa nova.<br />

There was also a memorable encounter between Pixinguinha and<br />

Louis Armstrong in 1957. What made him so important for the<br />

history of choro was the beauty of his compositions and the fact<br />

that, aided by radio and then by television, his music managed<br />

to reach an ever expanding audience. He is still revered in Brazil<br />

and elsewhere. To give you an idea of how he remains important,<br />

he was recently the subject of a feature film about his life, with<br />

singer Seu Jorge playing the role of Pixinguinha.<br />

It is remarkable how Belgian musicians have adopted choro as<br />

their own. Several Belgian groups, such as the Clube do Choro<br />

de Bruxelas or musician Henri Greindl, perform regularly in that<br />

style. There is a growing following, which is understandable given<br />

the style’s graceful melodies and the excellent musicianship that<br />

is required to perform these compositions.<br />

I should mention, however, that Brazilian music is so rich that<br />

choro is only one of many musical styles that are worth seeking<br />

out. Samba and bossa nova are perhaps the most famous, with<br />

“The Girl from Ipanema” sounding familiar to ears anywhere on<br />

Earth. But there is a rich musical tradition originating in different<br />

regions of Brazil.<br />

The Northeast has maracatu, forró, baião, frevo; the North has<br />

carimbó and even – given the proximity to the Caribbean –<br />

a specific kind of dance influenced by reggae; the South has<br />

milongas, connected to Argentinean tango; the Center has<br />

sertanejo, one of the styles most popular in Brazil today. The<br />

list goes on. I recommend seeking out these musical styles in<br />

Brussels, given that there are constantly Belgian and Brazilian<br />

musicians playing many of these genres here in town.<br />

THERE ARE OVER 40,000 BRAZILIANS RESIDING<br />

IN BELGIUM. WHAT ROLE DOES THE BRAZILIAN<br />

DIASPORA PLAY IN STRENGTHENING CULTURAL<br />

AND ECONOMIC LINKAGES BETWEEN THE TWO<br />

NATIONS?<br />

The Brazilian community is well established in Belgium and<br />

is known for its hard-working attitude, its friendliness and its<br />

creativity. It is a diverse group of people, from different regions<br />

of Brazil, working in many sectors and from varied backgrounds.<br />

What they have in common is their determined contribution to<br />

Belgium’s society and economy, something that they demonstrate<br />

on daily basis.<br />

The Consulate-General of Brazil here in Brussels is the main<br />

representation of the Brazilian government in Belgium in matters<br />

pertaining to the Brazilian community. They have been carrying<br />

out a remarkable job of assisting people in dealing with the many<br />

issues that arise when moving to a different country, but also in<br />

promoting the enormous economic and cultural potential of this<br />

community.<br />

I should also mention that the Brazilian community in Luxembourg,<br />

which is also under the Consulate’s jurisdiction, is becoming<br />

increasingly important, as many Brazilians have identified family<br />

roots that connect them to Luxembourgian relatives. This has<br />

meant that in Luxembourg there is a thriving interest in Brazil and<br />

Brazilian culture, as can be seen by the work carried out by the<br />

association Cultura Brasileira em Luxemburgo, which has been<br />

valuing the many ties between our countries.<br />

Therefore, to answer your question, the role of the Brazilian diaspora<br />

is of great importance, both in Belgium and in Luxembourg.<br />

They are, in a sense, also ambassadors, promoting a number of<br />

important economic initiatives and representing the richness of<br />

Brazilian culture and values.<br />

H.E. João Mendes Pereira Ambassador of Brazil, Barbara Dietrich, CEO<br />

<strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong> and Alberto Turkstra. Photo: <strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong><br />

90 91


H.E. YAIRA JIMÉNEZ ROIG<br />

AMBASSADOR OF CUBA TO BELGIUM<br />

AND THE EUROPEAN UNION<br />

The constant exchange of cultural projects has allowed<br />

the creation of a very positive synergy<br />

between Havana and Brussels<br />

Photo: Embassy of Cuba<br />

HAVANA IS THE ONLY NON-EUROPEAN CITY<br />

WHICH IS INCLUDED IN THE ART NOUVEAU<br />

NETWORK. WHAT HAS BEEN THE ROLE AND<br />

SIGNIFICANCE OF ART NOUVEAU IN THE DEVEL-<br />

OPMENT OF CUBA’S CAPITAL?<br />

Art Nouveau arrived in Havana in 1902, at a time when the city<br />

was experiencing great growth, after having been held back by<br />

colonial rule for a long time, and grew unbridled during the first<br />

two decades of the 20th century. In 1898, Cuba gained independence<br />

from Spain and turned its attention to other parts<br />

have undertaken with our patrimony. Of course, this privilege is<br />

closely linked to the figure of Dr. Eusebio Leal Spengler and his<br />

work at the head of the Office of the Historian, which allowed La<br />

Habana to join the efforts of the Art Nouveau network in the early<br />

years of the 21st century, with the main objective of disseminating<br />

and protecting the Art Nouveau heritage.<br />

For all these reasons, it is a beautiful coincidence that the headquarters<br />

of our Embassy in Brussels is an Art Nouveau building,<br />

designed by the famous Belgian architect Victor Horta, in 1900.<br />

HAVANA AND THE BRUSSELS-CAPITAL REGION<br />

SIGNED A COOPERATION AGREEMENT IN 1999,<br />

WITH A STRONG FOCUS ON ART AND CULTURAL<br />

HERITAGE PRESERVATION. WHICH ARE THE<br />

SYNERGIES EXISTING BETWEEN THESE TWO<br />

GEOGRAPHICALLY DISTANT CITIES?<br />

Cuba and Belgium have maintained uninterrupted diplomatic<br />

relations for more than 120 years and there is a cooperative relationship<br />

between the two countries in various sectors.<br />

HIGHER EDUCATION COOPERATION IS ONE OF<br />

THE KEY AREAS OF EXCHANGE BETWEEN CUBA<br />

AND BELGIUM. VARIOUS AGREEMENTS EXIST,<br />

SUCH AS THOSE BETWEEN THE UNIVERSIDAD DE<br />

ORIENTE AND GHENT UNIVERSITY; AND BETWEEN<br />

THE UNIVERSITY OF HAVANA AND THE UNIVERSI-<br />

TÉ LIBRE DE BRUXELLES (ULB), TO NAME A FEW.<br />

WHAT ARE THE MAIN SUBJECTS OF COOPERA-<br />

TION AND KEY OUTCOMES THAT HAVE EMERGED<br />

FROM SUCH PARTNERSHIPS?<br />

of Europe, such as Belgium and Paris. The first architects to<br />

In particular, the cooperation agreement signed in 1999 is one of<br />

Our bilateral relations with Belgium have a strong component of<br />

graduate would go there. Part of our Art Nouveau heritage is<br />

the first signed by the Brussels-Capital region with a foreign city<br />

cooperation and scientific and academic exchange.<br />

indebted to this Franco-Belgian aspect, with buildings adopting<br />

and where the figure of Dr. Eusebio Leal Spengler was decisive<br />

more stylized features. But there is another very important aspect<br />

as the driving force behind cultural and heritage relations be-<br />

For example, the most important cooperation that Cuba has with<br />

that comes from the hands of Spanish migrants, which was so<br />

tween the Cuban capital and Brussels.<br />

a European country is with the Flemish inter-university system<br />

powerful at the beginning of the 20th century, and of which we<br />

through the programmes of the VLIR-UOS (Flemish Inter-Univer-<br />

are also heirs. In this sense, Catalan modernism is introduced by<br />

The constant exchange of cultural projects has allowed the cre-<br />

sity Council). This programme is made up of all the universities<br />

the master builders who began to build following the main trends<br />

ation of a very positive synergy between both cities; focused on<br />

in the Flemish region and most of the Cuban ones. The most<br />

taking place in Barcelona.<br />

heritage conservation and the dissemination of cultural values.<br />

significant links are concentrated in the Universidad Central de<br />

As a result of this closeness between the Office of the Historian<br />

Las Villas (UCLV) with 25 years of cooperation, and the Universi-<br />

Havana, which since 2014 is one of the seven wonder cities of<br />

of the City of Havana and the Brussels-Capital region, in 2006<br />

dad de Oriente, with 10 years of fruitful exchange.<br />

the modern world, is also the only one outside the European<br />

the cultural centre “La Vitrina de Valonia” was founded, which<br />

continent registered in the Art Nouveau Network, an international<br />

promotes comics and other aspects of Belgian culture. The<br />

Additionally, there are other collaborative projects with ARES<br />

institution in charge of documenting, researching and protecting<br />

Center and its specialists carry out numerous projects with the<br />

(Academy for Research and Higher Education) and the Antwerp<br />

Art Nouveau world heritage, which brings together more than 14<br />

community, especially with children and adolescents.<br />

Institute of Tropical Medicine, with which joint research has been<br />

cities. This is undoubtedly a response to the patrimonial value<br />

carried out for more than 20 years, specifically with our Institutes:<br />

of its architecture but also a recognition of the management we<br />

Photo: Royal Palace<br />

Institute of Tropical Medicine Pedro Kouri; National Institute of<br />

92 93


Havana City, Cuba: Iron fence in Art Nouveau style protects an old wooden window.<br />

Photo: Shutterstock National Capitol building in central district of capital city. Cuban Parliament building, built in 1929.<br />

Photo: Shutterstock<br />

Hygiene, Epidemiology and Microbiology and the Finlay Institute<br />

of Vaccines.<br />

For a country like Cuba, with a public, free and universal education<br />

system up to higher education level, and with a network<br />

of more than 50 universities throughout the national territory,<br />

this cooperation with Belgium is essential for the development<br />

and training of professionals with higher skills. In these years of<br />

exchange, hundreds of Cuban professionals have been trained<br />

as doctors of science in various areas; which directly improves<br />

the quality of our teaching and increases the capacities of Cuban<br />

who, without a doubt, must work towards the development of a<br />

common agenda that allows the economic, environmental and<br />

social advancement of our peoples.<br />

What unites Latin America and the Caribbean is the indispensable<br />

need for integration, and that is why we advocate for a<br />

diverse and inclusive Summit with the European Union based on<br />

a deep vocation of respect and complementarity. We value the<br />

European Union as a key international actor while we appreciate<br />

that our region is fully aware of the strength that comes from<br />

jointly tackling the main global challenges.<br />

IN JANUARY, CUBA TOOK THE PRESIDENCY<br />

OF THE GROUP OF 77 + CHINA FOR THE FIRST<br />

TIME IN HISTORY AFTER BEING ELECTED IN<br />

SEPTEMBER 2022 DURING THE 77TH SESSION<br />

OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY.<br />

WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE G77 IN OUR<br />

CURRENT TIMES OF GEOPOLITICAL TENSIONS<br />

AND CRISIS OF CAPITALISM? HOW CAN CUBA’S<br />

PRESIDENCY OF THE GROUP OF 77 + CHINA<br />

STRENGTHEN SOUTH-SOUTH BONDS?<br />

The efforts will be marked by the promotion, through concrete<br />

actions, of the objectives of the 2030 Agenda; promoting international<br />

solidarity and cooperation in support of the post-pandemic<br />

recovery of developing nations; as well as making South-South<br />

and triangular cooperation a more effective instrument. This is<br />

how our President Miguel Mario Díaz-Canel Bermúdez explained<br />

it in his message to the member countries of this important<br />

Group.<br />

Today, more than ever, it is imperative to reach a consensus on<br />

issues that affect us as countries and as a group. In this sense<br />

higher education.<br />

Cuba has a deep and beautiful history of cooperation, I dare say<br />

and as an example of this proactive agenda at the head of the<br />

In this sense, Cuba’s expectations are aimed at strengthening<br />

unparalleled in the world. Since May 23, 1963 with the medical<br />

G77+China, Cuba has proposed to carry out actions in various<br />

WHAT ARE CUBA’S EXPECTATIONS AND<br />

PRIORITIES WITH REGARD TO THE EU – CELAC<br />

COMMUNITY OF LATIN AMERICAN AND<br />

CARIBBEAN STATES) SUMMIT, WHICH WILL<br />

BE HELD IN BRUSSELS IN JULY 2023?<br />

these ties in a natural and respectful way, where the political debate<br />

contributes to the construction of new ties and the development<br />

of projects that really benefit our nations.<br />

The relationship between Latin America and the Caribbean and<br />

the European Union is essential to achieve greater and more effective<br />

cooperation in key areas such as the fight against climate<br />

cooperation in Algeria, Cuban health professionals started to<br />

walk the path of international solidarity. This year marks the 60th<br />

anniversary of South-South cooperation in this sector. During this<br />

period, Cuba has served 165 countries with more than 605,698<br />

professionals. As of 2022, we were serving 59 nations with<br />

25,688 collaborators.<br />

sectors of relevance to the sustainable development objectives<br />

and the priorities of the agenda of our Presidency. Some examples<br />

demonstrate it.<br />

On May 4, the Meeting of the Ministers of Culture of the Group<br />

of 77 and China was held in Havana. This meeting was held<br />

within the framework of the I International Congress of Cultural<br />

The celebration of the CELAC – European Union Summit in the<br />

change, the green and digital transition, and the defence of a<br />

Being consistent with this record at the international level, Cuba<br />

Heritage. The event contributed to the development of proposals<br />

month of July will be an exceptional moment to deepen inter-re-<br />

more just international order, among many other causes that<br />

has firm intentions during its Presidency at the head of the Group<br />

aimed at promoting cooperation mechanisms and alternatives<br />

gional ties. It will also be a moment of necessary dialogue and<br />

we share.<br />

of 77+China, which hosts two thirds (134) of the members of<br />

that strengthen culture as a global public good. The social and<br />

understanding between the political leaders of both regions,<br />

the United Nations, and 80 per cent of the planet’s population.<br />

economic dimension of culture as a driving force behind sustain-<br />

94 95


Photo: Istock<br />

Photo: Istock<br />

able development and social transformation and inclusion was<br />

also discussed.<br />

In addition, Havana hosted the Ministers of Tourism of the Group,<br />

as one of the fundamental activities of the FITCuba 2023 International<br />

Tourism Fair.<br />

Tourism as an essential sector of economic, inclusive and<br />

sustainable development for the countries of the South was the<br />

central theme of the meeting. In this meeting, they exchanged<br />

on how to stimulate the debate around the recovery of tourism<br />

so that it contributes to economic development, the impact of<br />

tourism in the countries of the Group and the opportunities to<br />

grow sustainably, with special emphasis on habitat protection<br />

and conservation, the development of information and communication<br />

technologies and the training of personnel in the sector.<br />

In the second semester of 2023, Havana will host a Summit of<br />

the countries of the South on science, technology and innovation<br />

as a premise for the development and confrontation of future<br />

pandemics.<br />

THIS YEAR, WE CELEBRATE THE 35TH ANNIVER-<br />

SARY OF DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS BETWEEN<br />

CUBA AND THE EUROPEAN UNION (EU). OVER<br />

THE LAST DECADE, THE EU HAS BECOME ONE OF<br />

CUBA’S MAIN ECONOMIC, TRADE AND INVEST-<br />

MENT PARTNERS. FROM CUBA’S PERSPECTIVE,<br />

WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF THE OUTSTANDING<br />

ASPECTS OF ITS RELATIONS WITH THE EU?<br />

The signing in 2016 and subsequent entry into force of the<br />

Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement (PDCA) between<br />

Cuba, the European Union and its Member States has been, in<br />

our opinion, one of the main milestones in our relations.<br />

This Agreement has become the instrument par excellence to establish<br />

our ties in a respectful, constructive and balanced manner<br />

through the establishment of mechanisms for political dialogue<br />

and sectoral policies that contribute to our common priorities.<br />

During the pandemic, in the midst of an unprecedented tightening<br />

of the economic, commercial and financial blockade of the<br />

United States against Cuba, the cooperation of the European<br />

Union towards my country was significant, for which we are<br />

grateful. We could not fail to mention that Cuban healthcare<br />

workers also came in medical brigades to some European countries,<br />

to support them in the confrontation in the most complex<br />

moments of the health crisis.<br />

Cuba acknowledges and appreciates the support of the<br />

European Union for the Cuban struggle against the US blockade<br />

and its rejection of the inclusion of Cuba in the slanderous list<br />

of State Sponsors of Terrorism of the United States Department<br />

of State. Both unilateral policies of the United States affect the<br />

integration of our country in the international economic scenario<br />

and directly hinder the development and well-being of Cuban<br />

men and women.<br />

In the economic domain, the European Union is Cuba’s main<br />

trading partner and the largest foreign investor in the country,<br />

mainly in the tourism, construction, light industry and agro-industry<br />

sectors.<br />

Since 1988, the European Union has financed hundreds of cooperation<br />

projects with Cuba. There are currently some 80 projects<br />

underway directly linked to strategic sectors for the development<br />

of the country such as sustainable agriculture and food security,<br />

renewable energy and climate change, the modernization of the<br />

economy, among others.<br />

96 97<br />

Photo: Nestor Martí


H.E. JAIME VICTOR B. LEDDA<br />

AMBASSADOR OF THE PHILIPPINES<br />

During my tenure, in addition to political and economic cooperation,<br />

I would like to strengthen cultural and people-to-people connections<br />

between the Philippines and Belgium, Luxembourg and the EU<br />

WELCOME TO BRUSSELS, AMBASSADOR LEDDA.<br />

WHAT PRIORITIES WILL YOU PURSUE DURING<br />

YOUR TENURE IN STRENGTHENING RELATIONS<br />

WITH THE EUROPEAN UNION, BELGIUM, AND<br />

LUXEMBOURG?<br />

The Philippines enjoys the position of being the dialogue partner<br />

coordinator of ASEAN for the European Union.<br />

And we are a significant partner when it comes to economic<br />

cooperation, we are a major market of 110 million people, grow-<br />

Photo: Royal Palace<br />

ing at 7.6 percent (in 2022) with an upward trajectory. There are<br />

Firstly, we would like to really thank you for this opportunity to be<br />

so many economic opportunities for cooperation, from trade and<br />

able to share more about the Philippines with your readers and<br />

investment, infrastructure building, development cooperation and<br />

I would like to build on all this. But as you know, for the past<br />

job creation, poverty alleviation, focusing on the social services<br />

what we would like to achieve here in Brussels.<br />

addressing issues of climate change through the use of space<br />

years, every time the Philippines has been mentioned in the news<br />

in order to improve education and social mobility.<br />

technology, etc.<br />

in Europe, it often happened in a negative light, related to natural<br />

There are many things we can do, one of which is being able to<br />

disasters, or other developments. And today I want us to focus<br />

Fiscal responsibility is very important, thereby managing our<br />

show the Philippines under a new light, to make it more visible<br />

And so, we represent that connection that the EU has made with<br />

and bring to light a positive image of our country.<br />

exposure to risks. One example: Our monetary policy is carried<br />

and recognized as an active bilateral partner of Belgium,<br />

its Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific and the ASEAN<br />

out by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (Central Bank of the<br />

Luxembourg, and the European Union.<br />

Our countries share a long history of relations and there is much<br />

that is happening in many aspects: we are an active bilateral<br />

partner because we have shared values; we both support a<br />

rules-based international order; we uphold democracy; we stand<br />

for the promotion and protection of human rights; and we actively<br />

promote people-to-people exchanges. In this day and age<br />

when there are so many sources of risks, threats and disturbances<br />

(both man-made and natural), we firmly believe in dialogue,<br />

diplomacy, multilateralism, and peaceful approaches<br />

to any global issue.<br />

Outlook on the Indo-Pacific. Therefore, there is already a substantial<br />

convergence of interests.<br />

We are a significant and growing market currently undergoing a<br />

process of liberalization, opening up our economy to be able to<br />

attract more foreign investment and partnerships. For example,<br />

towards the end of the second quarter, there will be an economic<br />

mission from theWallonia Export-Investment Agency (AWEX) and<br />

we hope that it will attract a lot of participants.<br />

We are also looking forward to both official and non-official visits<br />

and exchanges between Belgium and the Philippines, especially<br />

now that the countries have opened again after the pandemic.<br />

YOU MENTIONED THE 7.6 GROWTH RATE.<br />

DESPITE THE ONGOING CHALLENGES TO THE<br />

WORLD ECONOMY, THE PHILIPPINES REMAINS<br />

ONE OF THE MOST DYNAMIC ECONOMIES AND<br />

HAS SHOWN GREAT RESILIENCE, MAINTAINING<br />

A HIGH GROWTH RATE. ECONOMIC INDICATORS<br />

ALSO SHOW THAT THE PHILIPPINES IS ON TRACK<br />

TO BECOME AN UPPER MIDDLE-INCOME COUN-<br />

TRY IN THE NEAR TERM. WHAT IS THE FORMULA<br />

BEHIND THE SUCCESS OF THE PHILIPPINE<br />

ECONOMY?<br />

Philippines) or BSP, which acts independently from the government.<br />

It plays a very important role to ensure that we have enough<br />

international reserves. Currently, we have nine months of international<br />

reserves when the international average is just three<br />

months. Managing inflation, foreign exchange and interest rates<br />

is the responsibility of the BSP. The government does not interfere<br />

with these key economic decisions by the BSP.<br />

In addition to prudence in spending and the promotion of<br />

exports, we also facilitate remittances, especially since we<br />

have more than 10 million Filipinos living and working abroad,<br />

Second, we are a key partner of Belgium, Luxembourg and the<br />

And we are happy to see high numbers of European visitors<br />

I think you can credit that to the successive governments in<br />

and they represent a great contribution to our economic<br />

European Union through our membership of ASEAN, a very<br />

already choosing the Philippines as their destination.<br />

the Philippines trying to focus on strengthening the economic<br />

development.<br />

important player in international and regional politics.<br />

fundamentals. Our policies have always been oriented towards<br />

98 99


Eleveted, night view of Makati, the business district of Metro Manila Photo: Istock Kunio Mikuriya, Secretary-General of the <strong>World</strong> Customs Organization and H.E. Jaime Victor B. Ledda,<br />

Ambassador of The Philippines<br />

The Filipinos themselves are the country’s greatest asset,<br />

whether in the Philippines, in another country, or on board<br />

of ships in the high seas. All of them are contributing to the<br />

Philippine economy.<br />

This is why the economy has been growing, because these<br />

macroeconomic fundamentals have been consistently carried<br />

throughout successive administrations regardless of their politi-<br />

has attracted the interests of Denmark’s largest wind energy<br />

companies. Similarly, Belgium, with its know-how in this sector,<br />

is also interested to expand its investments. On the political<br />

side, the Philippines and EU have regular exchanges under the<br />

Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), under which we<br />

hold dialogues on trade investment and economic cooperation;<br />

on development cooperation; as well as on good governance,<br />

rule of law and human rights.<br />

THIS MAGAZINE ENDS UP THE DESKS OF MANY<br />

BUSINESSPEOPLE HERE IN BELGIUM AND<br />

LUXEMBOURG AND YOU MENTIONED ALREADY<br />

RENEWABLES AND AEROSPACE, WHAT OTHER<br />

SECTORS WOULD YOU ENCOURAGE INVESTORS<br />

FROM BELGIUM AND LUXEMBOURG THAT ARE<br />

PLANNING TO ENTER THE FILIPINO MARKET?<br />

universities in Belgium and we have been receiving very good<br />

responses. For example, we have a partnership with the<br />

University of Namur for a Philippine Studies Program. And this<br />

is the side that I also want to show, in addition to the political<br />

and economic cooperation, I want to talk about the culture,<br />

about the people, and create connections in that area.<br />

We want to encourage also other universities here in Belgium<br />

cal affiliation. Consistency is key here, and of course respect for<br />

Infrastructure is very important, and both the investors and the<br />

to provide more studies or programs about the Philippines and<br />

the rule of law, for the Constitution and for the role of the different<br />

With Belgium, our two Foreign Ministers signed the Joint Plan of<br />

Philippines could benefit from such a partnership. I recently vis-<br />

there are so many matters to study: the maritime, the environ-<br />

branches of government. As a result, this develops an important<br />

Action last February on the sidelines of the Munich Security<br />

ited the Jan de Nul headquarters in Aalst after the presentation<br />

mental, social, legal, etc. These subjects are very relevant as well<br />

sense of confidence by investors, by the business sector, by all<br />

Conference. This charts the direction of the relations between<br />

of my credentials. They are the biggest Belgian investor in the<br />

and we have a lot of experts who could collaborate with Belgian<br />

relevant stakeholders because they see consistency, regularity in<br />

our two countries.<br />

Philippines.<br />

and Luxembourg counterparts to provide these programs.<br />

the transitions of power and in the formulation and implementation<br />

of economic reforms.<br />

It entails stronger collaboration on regional and international<br />

The Embassy of the Philippines is organizing a meeting with the<br />

I shall also like to mention the potential of Filipino products to<br />

issues; exchanges of visits; promotion of economic cooperation<br />

Belgian shipping and maritime infrastructure companies that em-<br />

enter the Belgian market, in particular calamansi (Philippine lime),<br />

And this is continuing under the current government. I mentioned<br />

and exchanges between parliamentarians, who are also going to<br />

ploy a lot of Filipino seafarers who play a vital role in the shipping<br />

ube (Filipino purple yam), or cacao, which is now being used by<br />

liberalization before, and here in particular I would like to bring<br />

be involved more intensively in the dialogue and in the promotion<br />

industry. Statistics show that one out of every five seafarers is<br />

Belgian chocolatiers.<br />

to your attention renewable energy, solar and wind sources. The<br />

of the relations. The Joint Plan of Action is initially planned for a<br />

a Filipino national. Another possible field of cooperation I would<br />

liberalization of the renewable energy sector in the Philippines<br />

duration of five years.<br />

like to promote is education. We have been meeting with several<br />

The Philippines also exports coconut oil which is a great additive,<br />

100 101


a great source of nutrients and is widely appreciated for its many<br />

(food and non-food) applications. We are very happy that it is<br />

also now able to access the market here in the EU thanks to the<br />

privileges that we enjoy under the GSP+ (Generalized System of<br />

Preferences).<br />

While we would be very happy to continue to enjoy the GSP+<br />

privileges, we are aiming to establish a Free Trade Agreement<br />

(FTA) with the EU. The Philippines is ready to move up to that<br />

level of economic cooperation and partnership.<br />

And we may eventually not be eligible to be GSP+ beneficiaries<br />

if we achieve our upper middle-income status. The way that our<br />

economy is growing, we could get there sooner rather than later.<br />

As we transition to an innovative and greener economy, the<br />

Philippines would like to explore joint ventures/partnerships in<br />

industrial development, particularly in the Green Economy/Green<br />

Metals Processing. Our abundant resources of green metals such<br />

as nickel, cobalt, and copper, and our commitment to environmental<br />

protection and responsible mining, ensures the long-term<br />

sustainability of these resources.<br />

We can be the EU’s strategic partner in supplying critical minerals<br />

for electric vehicles and battery production. We also have<br />

solid competencies in semiconductors and electronics, which<br />

contribute more than 50 percent of our GDP, and which could<br />

be leveraged to support the EU’s Chips Act and Critical Raw<br />

Materials Act.<br />

us to have access to data and enable us to have a better appreciation<br />

of our environment, of our geography, and how we can<br />

help develop faster response mechanisms to enable people to<br />

address risks, and calamities.<br />

We could use it for example to deal with the recent oil spill off<br />

the coast of Oriental Mindoro province, which has very badly<br />

affected the marine biodiversity of an important area. With such<br />

a system we could track the extent of the oil spill, and now we’re<br />

getting help from countries like the USA, Japan, France in trying<br />

to contain the effects of the oil spill.<br />

Another important industry in the Philippines which I think more<br />

and more countries are tapping into, is the IT and Business Process<br />

Management (BPM) industry. As I mentioned, Filipinos are<br />

everywhere, not only physically but also virtually. We provide call<br />

centres, communication points of people from across the globe<br />

in whatever time zone the people might need their services in,<br />

providing very amiable agents who are always ready to help.<br />

In the Philippines, we have a very young population and a strong<br />

labour force of 49 million people and the median age is about<br />

25-26 years old, so demographically the Philippines is a very<br />

young, productive and dynamic population. That is one of our<br />

advantages, the other being that we have a very diverse pool<br />

of skills, ranging from nurses, healthcare workers, engineers,<br />

seafarers to lawyers and doctors and they are considered the<br />

best in their respective fields.<br />

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CONCERNING THE EU’S INDO-PACIFIC<br />

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OPEN NEW AVENUES OF COOPERATION<br />

The aim of the EU’s Indo-Pacific strategy is to diversify not only<br />

markets but also sources of supplies and products: the Philippines<br />

is a great source of green minerals for example, we have<br />

copper, nickel, lithium, cobalt. The Philippines is going to shift to<br />

electric vehicles, but that is a very delicate subject because the<br />

transition from relying in fossil fuels into a more sustainable way<br />

of living needs to be carefully prepared and planned.<br />

It is important that we also speak about our access to the technology<br />

and expertise of Europe regarding space. We just created<br />

a Philippine Space Agency in 2019, they are working to create a<br />

greater awareness of the importance of space in relation to the<br />

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102


H.E. ALIBEK KUANTYROV<br />

MINISTER OF NATIONAL ECONOMY<br />

OF THE REPUBLIC OF KAZAKHSTAN<br />

Kazakhstan remains an island<br />

of peace and stability for foreign investors<br />

During a visit to Kazakhstan in March 2023 to observe the legislative<br />

elections, the <strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong> team attended a briefing<br />

by Minister of National Economy H.E. Alibek Kuantyrov. The main<br />

points of his speech are reproduced below.<br />

High oil prices, foreign investments, and a positive, strong<br />

trade balance maintained our international reserves. As of<br />

1 January 2023, the country’s international reserves amounted<br />

to USD 90.8 billion, including gold reserves of USD 35.1 billion,<br />

and the National Oil Fund’s foreign assets amounted to USD 55.7<br />

I would like to give an overview of how Kazakhstan’s economy is<br />

adapting to the deteriorating external conditions, what has been<br />

achieved so far, and how we cope with challenges. Over the<br />

past year, the external environment has changed dramatically.<br />

The global economy has been experiencing unprecedentedly<br />

high inflation rates, increases in interest rates, and disruptions to<br />

worldwide demand and supply chains.<br />

As the results of 2022 demonstrate, the economy of Kazakhstan<br />

is sustainable and adapted to new external conditions quite well.<br />

First of all, we have managed to maintain positive economic<br />

growth. According to preliminary data, in 2022, our economy<br />

expanded by 3.2 percent year-on-year.<br />

The economic growth was mainly driven by an increase in investments<br />

and foreign trade. In 2022, investment in fixed capital<br />

increased by 7.9 percent. FDI inflows are estimated at USD 27<br />

billion in 2022. And we expect a further increase in FDI in the<br />

coming years. This year we expect GDP to grow by 4 percent.<br />

Moreover, redirecting trade flows led to a significant increase in<br />

foreign trade volumes last year. In 2022, our external trade turnover<br />

grew by 32.1 percent, totalling USD 134.4 billion. Overall, the<br />

positive trade balance increased by 81.7 percent, amounting to<br />

USD 34.4 billion.<br />

billion. Kazakhstan’s external and fiscal balance sheets remain<br />

strong, providing sufficient buffers to absorb potential external<br />

shocks.<br />

Nowadays, risks related to the current geopolitical situation and<br />

confrontation between certain countries remain among the most<br />

pressing challenges in Kazakhstan’s economic agenda. We are<br />

taking all necessary measures to mitigate the potential impact of<br />

risks arising from sanctions and minimize their negative consequences<br />

on our economy.<br />

As part of this work, we have established a dialogue with representatives<br />

of the United States government agencies, including<br />

the US Embassy in Kazakhstan, the Treasury Department<br />

(including the Office of Foreign Assets Control), the Department<br />

of State, and Congress.<br />

We maintain regular contact with our Western partners to discuss<br />

current issues of the impact of economic sanctions on the economic<br />

agents of Kazakhstan. The effectiveness of this work has<br />

been confirmed by the recent removal of Bereke Bank (former<br />

Sberbank Kazakhstan) from Specially Designated Nationals<br />

(SDN) sanctions lists. Currently, the process of unblocking the<br />

transactions of Kazakh entities is in progress.<br />

Kazakhstan’s geographical location and historical background<br />

implies close economic relations with all neighbouring countries,<br />

including Russia and China. Therefore, as a landlocked country<br />

with intertwined commercial inter-sectoral linkages to the<br />

economy of Russia, Kazakhstan has been experiencing knock-on<br />

effects from sanctions.<br />

Kazakhstan does not participate in sanctions against Russia, but<br />

adheres to the principle that our territory is not being used by<br />

various companies to bypass them. At the same time, being a full<br />

member of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and the <strong>World</strong><br />

Trade Organisation (WTO), we will continue trade relations with<br />

Russia and other countries.<br />

Moreover, we are actively working with rating agencies to maintain<br />

the Kazakhstan sovereign rating at the investment reliability<br />

level. Overall, the efforts of the Government, the National Bank<br />

and the Agency for regulation and development of the financial<br />

market to ensure macroeconomic and financial stability have<br />

been positively assessed by international rating agencies, such<br />

as S&P, Moody’s and Fitch. On 3 March 2023, S&P revised<br />

Kazakhstan’s outlook from negative to stable, affirming the<br />

sovereign rating at BBB-/A-3.<br />

The Government has been undertaking systematic work on<br />

institutional reforms to provide conditions for further sustainable<br />

socio-economic development and growth. A favourable investment<br />

climate is one of the main advantages of Kazakhstan.<br />

Kazakhstan remains an island of peace and stability for foreign<br />

investors.<br />

Our Government will continue systematic and institutional<br />

reforms to improve investment and business climate. For these<br />

purposes, in 2022, the Government adopted the Investment<br />

Policy Concept until 2026, to attract more investments to<br />

Kazakhstan.<br />

The Concept ensures the country’s attractiveness considering<br />

the global ESG requirements, increasing private investment<br />

inflows, and developing competitive high value manufacturing.<br />

Moreover, last year we formed a single pool of 930 significant<br />

projects totalling 32.3 trillion Tenge. By the end of this year, we<br />

will implement 281 projects with a total value of 1.97 trillion<br />

Tenge.<br />

It is also worth noting that there is a great demand for the relocation<br />

of foreign companies to Kazakhstan under the current<br />

104 105


H.E. Alibek Kuantyrov, Minister of National Economy<br />

geopolitical situation. In 2022, more than 20 companies relocated<br />

and responsibility, and strengthen fiscal decentralization. This will<br />

Privatizing Fund’s assets will continue in line with the updated<br />

Last year we introduced a broad scope of political reforms.<br />

to Kazakhstan (Honeywell, InDriver, Weir Minerals, Ural Motorcy-<br />

significantly improve budget effectiveness. In turn, the new Tax<br />

Comprehensive Privatization Plan until 2025, including through<br />

This clearly indicates our strong commitment to continue<br />

cles, Fortescue, TikTok, Koppert, Emerson, etc.). Currently, the<br />

Code will mainly focus on ensuring the stability of tax legislation<br />

the “People’s IPO” mechanism. The Comprehensive Privatization<br />

reforms to transform the country, in the political and economic<br />

government is holding substantive negotiations on relocation<br />

simplifying and digitalizing of tax administration.<br />

Plan for 2021-2025 includes 669 objects owned by the state and<br />

realms. The key goal of the country’s political modernization is<br />

to Kazakhstan with more than 50 other companies (Skoda<br />

quasi-public sector.<br />

to increase the role of citizens in governing the state, including<br />

Transportation, GE Healthcare, Philips, Carlsberg, Canon<br />

What is more, we undertake various systematic measures to<br />

through electoral processes.<br />

Medical Systems, EMAG Gruppe and others). We expect that<br />

improve conditions for doing business. By the end of 2023, we<br />

In December 2022, Kazmunaigaz successfully completed its<br />

the migration of international and Russian companies to<br />

plan to launch a regulation from scratch to reduce the burden of<br />

initial public offering. The company attracted around 150 billion<br />

We embarked on an unprecedented decentralization of state<br />

Kazakhstan will continue.<br />

starting and running a business radically. Besides, we are also<br />

Tenge. This was one of the largest deals for our country’s stock<br />

power. Currently, we are also working on implementing a set of<br />

undertaking a large-scale reduction of irrelevant and unrea-<br />

market with a positive effect for the development of the domestic<br />

administrative reforms. This year, we will adopt Constitutional<br />

Macroeconomic stability, low inflation, predictable fiscal policy<br />

sonable regulatory requirements. We plan to abolish and revise<br />

financial market and the citizens. We expect other national com-<br />

Law and Law on Administrative Reform. The government will get<br />

and balanced public finance are the main conditions for fur-<br />

about 10,000 restraining business requirements in 44 areas of<br />

panies to become public through IPOs in 2023-2025. To develop<br />

rid of the unnecessary functions and will strengthen its supervi-<br />

ther development. Since last year, the Government has been<br />

regulation to increase the number of people employed by SMEs<br />

rural areas, we have developed the Concept of developing rural<br />

sory and coordinating role. These reforms will decentralize more<br />

implementing the concept of lean, responsible, and transparent<br />

to 3.8 million. In January 2023, we have already introduced the<br />

territories in Kazakhstan in 2023–2027. The main goal of the<br />

than 500 functions and eliminate 188, subject to regulation at the<br />

budget policy to strengthen long-term fiscal sustainability.<br />

mandatory requirements register. Together, these measures<br />

Concept is to improve the quality of life and create a comfortable<br />

by-law level, and 100 formal functions.<br />

will increase the number of people employed in SMEs up to<br />

living environment in rural areas by ensuring the growth of the<br />

Fiscal policy aims to reduce the non-oil deficit to 5 percent of<br />

4.7 million by 2029.<br />

population’s incomes, and the development of social and engi-<br />

We are also working on empowering local executive bodies.<br />

GDP by 2030 and maintain a budget deficit of no more than<br />

neering infrastructure.<br />

Thus, we are currently developing a law on redistributing compe-<br />

2 percent of GDP. In addition, we plan to reduce withdrawals<br />

One of the priority directions is competition development. To<br />

tences between central and local state bodies and transferring<br />

from the National Fund by providing new sources of budge<br />

promote competition, we are working on the further reduction<br />

We now have an understanding and long-term vision of our<br />

of functions to a competitive environment.<br />

revenues and ensuring their growth of up to 18 percent of GDP<br />

of state participation in the economy. We expect to reduce the<br />

country’s economic development trajectory. We have developed<br />

by 2030. These measures will increase the National Fund assets<br />

state’s share in the economy to 14 percent by 2025.<br />

a new economic policy, its goal being sustainable, high-quality,<br />

Ongoing political reforms will strengthen the institutional<br />

to USD 100 billion by 2030.<br />

and inclusive economic growth that ensures a real rise in the<br />

framework, policy credibility, economic strength, and resiliency<br />

As part of the enhancing management efficiency in the qua-<br />

level of national income and its fair distribution. The main princi-<br />

to event risk. To sum up, despite instability in the global eco-<br />

Moreover, we are currently developing a new Budget Code and<br />

si-public sector, Samruk-Kazyna National Welfare Fund will be<br />

ples include guarantees of private property security, transparen-<br />

nomic environment, Kazakhstan has all the necessary tools and<br />

Tax Code, which will be introduced next year. The new Budget<br />

transformed into an investor owning only a majority stake, suffi-<br />

cy of decision-making, fair competition, predictability of public<br />

resources to adapt more effectively to new conditions, create<br />

Code will simplify the budgetary process, ensure a transition<br />

cient to control key sectors of the economy.<br />

policy, business tax compliance, and social responsibility of<br />

a basis for further sustainable growth and overcome possible<br />

towards performance budgeting, expand budget independence<br />

entrepreneurs.<br />

negative consequences.<br />

106 107


II TASHKENT INTERNATIONAL<br />

INVESTMENT FORUM<br />

On April 27-28, 2023, the second edition of the Tashkent<br />

International Investment Forum was held in in the Congress<br />

LIBERALIZING FOREIGN TRADE<br />

Hall “Tashkent City” of the Uzbek capital. It brought together<br />

In particular, customs duties on raw materials and goods of more<br />

2,500 participants from the USA, EU, UK, CIS countries, Türkiye,<br />

than 7,000 items have been abolished for investors. A simplified<br />

China, Southeast Asia, India, Egypt, Middle Eastern countries<br />

procedure for the customs processing has been introduced. The<br />

for more than 30 discussion meetings of experts, including panel<br />

work on accession to the <strong>World</strong> Trade Organization (WTO) is<br />

sessions, round tables and B2B negotiations.<br />

intensifying in order to develop new markets. In this regard, the<br />

harmonization of national legislation with WTO rules and stand-<br />

During the Forum, 164 investment agreements and contracts<br />

ards is in full swing.<br />

were signed, amounting to USD 11 billion. In last year’s edition,<br />

for comparison, 105 documents worth USD 7.8 billion were<br />

signed.<br />

Among the high-level attendees were the Chairman of the<br />

REFORMING THE SYSTEM OF EXECUTIVE POWER<br />

AND REDUCING BUREAUCRACY<br />

Cabinet of Ministers and Head of the Presidential Administration<br />

Uzbekistan has embarked on an ambitious administrative reform<br />

of the Kyrgyz Republic Akylbek Japarov; President of the Islamic<br />

to reduce bureaucracy, eliminate corruption and introduce com-<br />

Development Bank Muhammad Sulaiman Al Jasser;<br />

UN Deputy Secretary-General Olga Algayerova; Minister of<br />

Energy and Infrastructure of the United Arab Emirates Suhail Al<br />

pact, efficient management in the executive branch of power. In<br />

this regard, all ministries were reformed, their number was reduced<br />

from 61 to 28, and their responsibilities and powers were<br />

Any arising uncertainties will be resolved in favour of investors. In<br />

particular, the International Commercial Court will start its activi-<br />

GREEN ECONOMY<br />

Mazroui; Minister of Economic Development of Hungary Marton<br />

clearly defined. 500 functions of the state to regulate business<br />

ties for the first time.<br />

The world’s most prestigious companies, such as ACWA Power;<br />

Nagy and Chairman of the Board of ACWA Power Mohammad<br />

have been cancelled. Another 70 functions have been transferred<br />

Masdark and TOTAL Eren, are implementing large-scale solar<br />

Abunayyan.<br />

At the opening plenary session, President of Uzbekistan Shavkat<br />

to the private sector through public-private partnerships and<br />

outsourcing.<br />

ACCELERATING ECONOMIC DIVERSIFICATION<br />

and wind power plant projects in Uzbekistan, in order to advance<br />

Uzbekistan’s target to decarbonise 35 percent of its energy project<br />

by 2030. This year alone, more than 2,000 megawatts (MW)<br />

Mirziyoyev noted the utility of the Forum in strengthening bilateral<br />

Most importantly, an integrated system of work with investors<br />

In one year alone, nearly 100,000 new enterprises have been cre-<br />

of capacity will be commissioned, and in 2024, 8,000 MW.<br />

and multilateral cooperation and opening up new business<br />

has been introduced. The Ministry of Investments, Industry and<br />

ated; the annual volume of attracted foreign investments reached<br />

opportunities. First, he noted the systemic reforms to further<br />

Trade has established a system to assist investors at all stag-<br />

USD 10 billion (in other words, it has tripled compared to 2017,<br />

ACWA Power, specifically, has its largest investment portfolio<br />

liberalize the Uzbek economy, and create an enabling environ-<br />

es – from project initiation to its launch – based on the “single<br />

when reforms began); and nearly one million people have been<br />

outside Saudi Arabia in Uzbekistan. During the EBRD 2023 An-<br />

ment for businesses, among which the following:<br />

window” principle.<br />

lifted out of poverty, with the poverty rate dropping from 17 to 14<br />

nual Meeting and Business Forum held in Samarkand in May, an<br />

percent (this rate was over 30 percent at the outset of the reform<br />

agreement ACWA Power signed with Uzkimyosanoat, the nation-<br />

CREATING THE MOST FAVOURABLE FISCAL<br />

SYSTEM<br />

PROTECTING AND STRENGTHENING THE RIGHTS<br />

OF INVESTORS<br />

process).<br />

President Mirziyoyev also noted that the legal foundations of<br />

reforms are strengthened in the updated Constitution, which was<br />

al holding company for chemicals in Uzbekistan, to decarbonise<br />

the sector through innovative green hydrogen projects.<br />

Enterprises producing solar panels, wind turbines, inverters and<br />

The value added tax rate has been reduced from 20 to 12 per-<br />

The conditions for foreign investors to purchase real estate, enter<br />

approved in a nationwide referendum a few days after the Forum,<br />

other electrical engineering products are being established in<br />

cent. The income of foreign investors in the form of dividends on<br />

and leave Uzbekistan, as well as residence permit procedures<br />

on April 30. In particular, the state assumes obligations to ensure<br />

Uzbekistan. Specifically, President Mirziyoyev mentioned USD 8<br />

shares is exempted from income tax for a period of three years,<br />

have been radically simplified.<br />

a favourable investment and business climate, the inviolability<br />

billion worth of opportunities for investors.<br />

and the actual profit tax for them has been reduced from 20 to 12<br />

of property, the development of market relations, the creation<br />

percent. A strict ban on the introduction of new or harsher sanctions<br />

in the tax and customs legislation has been established.<br />

A 7-day VAT refund system has been introduced for exporters.<br />

Lastly, mutual accounting has been established in the tax and<br />

Significant steps are being made in terms of guaranteed judicial<br />

protection of investors’ rights. In this regard, the competencies of<br />

administrative courts were increased and given significant powers.<br />

From now on, entrepreneurs and investors do not need to<br />

of conditions for fair competition, and the independence of the<br />

judiciary.<br />

In the second half of his speech, President Mirziyoyev identified<br />

THE DEVELOPMENT OF PUBLIC-PRIVATE<br />

PARTNERSHIPS<br />

customs services. Until now, investors were stranded between<br />

prove the legitimacy of their claim in court. Instead, it is the state<br />

the new opportunities for expanding cooperation between Uz-<br />

As a result of reforms, private investments are actively flowing<br />

two separate systems.<br />

agency which will need to prove the legality of its decision.<br />

bekistan and foreign investors.<br />

into previously “closed” areas. For instance, there are ample<br />

108 109


opportunities for the private sector in the aviation industry, which<br />

was previously considered fully state-owned. For example, by<br />

setting up five private airlines and inviting an external operator<br />

company to the Samarkand airport has led to the increase in the<br />

number of flights 2.5 times. Additionally, this year, the management<br />

of Andijan, Namangan, Bukhara and Urgench airports will<br />

be transferred to the private sector.<br />

Along with this, in such rapidly developing areas as IT, tourism,<br />

education, medicine, Uzbekistan is becoming a regional hub,<br />

which also opens up a wide road for investment.<br />

This year, with the assistance of international financial institutions,<br />

separate programs have been developed in the field of<br />

Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) totalling USD 14 billion. These<br />

programs cover such important spheres for the state as transport,<br />

public utilities, water, and healthcare.<br />

A POLICY OF GOOD NEIGHBOURLINESS<br />

TOWARDS THE STATES OF CENTRAL ASIA TO<br />

FURTHER PROMOTE ECONOMIC COOPERATION<br />

Joint investment funds are being created, major regional projects<br />

in the fields of industry, energy, transport and water management<br />

are being implemented. President Mirziyoyev called for the<br />

establishment of cooperative ties in industry and the agricultural<br />

sector on the principle of complementarity of the Central Asian<br />

economies.<br />

Taking Uzbekistan-Kyrgyzstan cooperation as an example: in<br />

recent years the volume of mutual trade has increased 5 times,<br />

and the number of joint ventures has grown 8 times. In particular,<br />

large-scale joint projects ha been launched in the following sectors:<br />

textiles, automobile production, geology, chemical industry,<br />

agriculture and water management, and animal husbandry.<br />

PRIVATIZATION OF STATE PROPERTY<br />

This year, the program “1000 + 1000 + 40” has been adopted.<br />

This means that 1,000 enterprises with a state share and one<br />

1,000 properties owned by the state will be put up for public<br />

auction, 40 enterprises of strategic importance for our economy<br />

will hold an Initial Public Offering (IPO). In particular, shares of<br />

large gold and copper producing enterprises, telecommunication<br />

and insurance companies, as well as banks will be offered to<br />

investors.<br />

As an example we can mention the sale and purchase agreement<br />

between OTP Group, the leading financial organisation in<br />

Hungary, and Ipoteka Bank, the fifth largest bank of Uzbekistan,<br />

with a market share of 8.5 percent and a retail clientele of more<br />

than 1.6 million.<br />

INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT<br />

At present, the textile, leather and footwear industries; the production<br />

of building materials; electrical and mechanical engineering<br />

have a sufficient raw material base and qualified personnel.<br />

In these areas, all the prerequisites are present for doubling<br />

production and exports. In this regard, it is necessary to establish<br />

cooperation with large brands, gain access to foreign markets,<br />

innovations and modern technologies.<br />

Uzbekistan stands ready to create all the conditions, organize<br />

dedicated technological parks and industrial zones and provide<br />

other additional benefits for the relevant investors.<br />

All of these projects are financed through the Uzbekistan-<br />

Kyrgyzstan Development Fund established in 2021. Intensive<br />

work is underway projects such as the construction of<br />

“Kambarata HPP-1” hydropower plant and the China-<br />

Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway.<br />

“I am convinced that the upcoming negotiations and meetings<br />

will allow you to see the endless opportunities for business in<br />

New Uzbekistan. In our country you will find everything you need<br />

for business – peace, stability, a favourable investment climate<br />

and reliable guarantees. I am sure that New Uzbekistan will<br />

become the best country for your business activities and leave a<br />

bright mark on it,” President Mirziyoyev concluded.<br />

During the two-day Forum, discussions continued in the<br />

breakout sessions, covering topics such as the risks of a global<br />

economic recession, modern monetary policy, trade finance,<br />

infrastructure development, digitalization of the economy, investment<br />

in transport and alternative energy. A particular attention<br />

was paid to studying the experience of creating international<br />

financial centres, transforming state-owned enterprises, developing<br />

agriculture, healthcare, education, tourism and e-commerce.<br />

The Tashkent International Investment Forum was initiated last<br />

year with the objectives of gaining a comprehensive understanding<br />

of the government’s economic liberalization program; identifying<br />

and executing specific projects capitalizing on the massive<br />

logistics infrastructure build-out germinating from regional<br />

initiatives, including Eurasian trade route infrastructure projects;<br />

exploring new developments in the country’s business environment;<br />

helping shape and actively participate in the development<br />

of the next generation of Uzbekistan’s entrepreneurs and serving<br />

as spring-board for access to the Central Asian market.<br />

Photos: <strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong><br />

110 111


A NEW CONSTITUTION FOR<br />

A NEW UZBEKISTAN<br />

Alberto Turkstra,<br />

Project Manager, <strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong><br />

On April 30, Uzbek citizens were called to the polls to vote on a<br />

new Constitution, the first major change to the country’s Basic<br />

Law since the Central Asian country gained independence in<br />

1991, with the exception of some minor amendments which<br />

have taken place over the years, mostly related to administrative<br />

reforms. This time around, 65 percent of the existing Constitution<br />

was affected, which has seen the number of articles increase<br />

from 126 to 155, and the number of constitutional norms raised<br />

from 275 to 434.<br />

The outcome of the referendum was perhaps never in question<br />

(the voter turnout was 84.54 percent, with 90.21 percent voting<br />

in favour), a reflection of the broad support President Shavkat<br />

Mirziyoyev enjoys, and constitutes a natural step in the largescale<br />

process of reforms initiated in 2017 by President Mirziyoyev,<br />

who will seek a fresh mandate on 9 July after calling for snap<br />

presidential elections.<br />

International observers were unanimous in praising the good<br />

technical organisation of the referendum, which was conducted<br />

in full compliance with international norms and standards,<br />

although it fell “short of genuine political pluralism and competition”,<br />

according to the OSCE Statement of Preliminary Findings<br />

and Conclusions. There were a few cases of violations in a<br />

number of polling stations (including a widely circulated video<br />

in which a polling station member is seen filling several ballot<br />

papers and stuffing them in the ballot box). The Central Election<br />

Commission of Uzbekistan has promptly investigated such cases<br />

and invalidated the results on a number of polling stations due to<br />

such infringements – which in any case did not alter the outcome<br />

of the referendum.<br />

The process leading to the referendum has been a lengthy one,<br />

to give the public the opportunity to communicate their opinions<br />

and feedback, and familiarize themselves with the proposed<br />

changes. The setting up of the National Commission for Constitutional<br />

Reforms in May 2022, comprised of 47 members<br />

(deputies, senators from all regions, representatives from various<br />

social strata, civil society institutions, leading lawyers, political<br />

scientists, and other experts) quick-started a lengthy national<br />

dialogue process. Various parliamentary committees, overseen<br />

by the Commission, reviewed over 220,000 proposals from<br />

Uzbek citizens, many of which are reflected in the new Constitution,<br />

drafted in line with a range of international laws including<br />

the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International<br />

Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.<br />

The 1992 Constitution was very much state-centric, written at the<br />

time of the country’s independence, a period in which Uzbekistan’s<br />

future as an independent sovereign state was uncertain and state<br />

institutions needed to be built from scratch. Its main goal, therefore,<br />

was to strengthen statehood and organize the activities of<br />

state bodies. The new Constitution places the welfare of the citizens<br />

first and subordinates the state institutions to the service of<br />

this goal. It can be understood as a new “social contract” which<br />

is expected to create socio-economic and political dividends.<br />

On social guarantees, for example, the new Constitution triples<br />

the number of obligations of the state to its citizens. For example,<br />

it outlines the right to housing and prohibits the confiscation<br />

of one’s home without a court decision and proper compensation<br />

(Article 47). Everyone has the right to employment under safe<br />

working conditions and above minimum wage (Art. 42), and<br />

there is a special prohibition on discrimination against women<br />

in employment based on parental status (Art. 43). It furthermore<br />

guarantees access to free education at the pre-school, secondary<br />

and higher education stages. In this context, it should be<br />

noted that over the past six years, the number of universities in<br />

Uzbekistan has increased from 77 to 210, and enrolment has<br />

quintupled.<br />

112 113


The new Constitution is not only good news for Uzbek citizens<br />

but for foreign investors too. As President Mirziyoyev stated at<br />

the Second Tashkent International Investment Forum, held a few<br />

days before the referendum, under the new Constitution, for the<br />

first time the state assumes obligations and accountability vis-àvis<br />

assuring a comfortable investment and business environment;<br />

ensuring the inviolability of property; developing market relations<br />

and creating conditions for fair competition; and ensuring the<br />

independence of courts.<br />

Predictability, continuity and political stability are important in a<br />

rapidly changing country like Uzbekistan facing many geopolitical,<br />

economic and societal challenges. One such set of challenges<br />

relates to demographics: over half of Uzbekistan’s 36 million<br />

people are under the age of 30, which puts pressure on the education<br />

system, the labour and the housing market, for example.<br />

Such challenges call for long-term political vision, a situation very<br />

different in some advanced democracies where political leaders<br />

fail to look beyond the next election cycle.<br />

Considering the scope of the new Constitution, it is perhaps<br />

unfortunate that a high number of Western media have chosen<br />

to single-handedly focus on one aspect of the referendum: the<br />

extension of the presidential mandate from 5 to 7 years with the<br />

possibility of running for two terms.<br />

Uzbekistan is in the midst of an ambitious, multi-speed, reform<br />

process. Social and economic reforms dominated the first phase<br />

of reforms (opening the country for foreign investments; eradicating<br />

forced labour in the cotton fields, etc.) and political reforms<br />

have proceeded more gradually. We can speak of the liberalisation,<br />

but not yet of the democratization of Uzbekistan’s political<br />

system. Furthermore, liberalisation needs to go hand-in-hand<br />

with the preservation of stability. The state is reforming but must<br />

preserve the ability to steer reforms and implement them progressively,<br />

so that the population can gradually take ownership of<br />

these changes.<br />

Looking ahead, implementation will be key. In the coming weeks<br />

and months, the government will adopt a programme of measures<br />

to bring the country’s legislation in line with the new Constitution<br />

align other legal documents (such as the Criminal Code)<br />

with the Constitution to ensure they are not in contradiction to<br />

each other.<br />

Looking ahead, expectations are high: under the new Constitution,<br />

the state’s obligations towards its citizens are much<br />

increased, in terms of social privileges and the protection of civil<br />

liberties. This increases the responsibility and accountability of<br />

those in power and redefines citizens’ expectations towards<br />

the state. But one thing is certain: with a new Constitution – by<br />

the people and for the people – the process of building a “new<br />

Uzbekistan” rests on solid foundations.<br />

Photos: <strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong><br />

114 115


GULNOZA ISMAILOVA<br />

VICE-RECTOR FOR SCIENCE AND INNOVATION,<br />

UNIVERSITY OF WORLD ECONOMY<br />

AND DIPLOMACY (UWED)<br />

MEMBER OF THE CENTRAL ELECTION<br />

COMMISSION<br />

HEAD OF THE TASHKENT JEAN MONNET<br />

CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE FOR EU STUDIES<br />

Under the new Constitution, citizens will<br />

enjoy greater accountability from the State<br />

ON APRIL 30, UZBEK CITIZENS OVERWHELMING-<br />

LY VOTED IN FAVOUR OF A NEW CONSTITUTION,<br />

ONE WHICH PUTS THE PEOPLE, NOT THE STATE,<br />

FIRST. WHAT WILL BE ITS MOST IMPORTANT<br />

PROVISIONS?<br />

The top priority of the entire constitutional reform process is to<br />

strengthen the guarantees that protect the rights and freedoms<br />

of all citizens from birth – including freedom of speech, media,<br />

and assembly – in addition to ensuring a decent life for everyone.<br />

Citizens will also enjoy greater accountability from the State,<br />

which has been made responsible for delivering sustainable<br />

economic growth, implementing measures to reduce poverty,<br />

creating decent living conditions for the population and providing<br />

food security.<br />

HOW DOES THE NEW CONSTITUTION ENABLE A<br />

MORE EFFECTIVE FUNCTIONING OF THE DIFFER-<br />

ENT BRANCHES OF GOVERNMENT – EXECUTIVE,<br />

LEGISLATIVE AND JUDICIAL?<br />

The Legislative Chamber’s powers have be strengthened, thanks<br />

to new powers previously belonging to the Presidency, such as<br />

approving prime ministerial candidates and reviewing reports<br />

made by members of the Cabinet of Ministers.<br />

Similarly, the Senate will focus on the development of local representative<br />

bodies, and the formation of the highest bodies of state<br />

power, including the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court,<br />

and the Supreme Judicial Council. The reduction in the number<br />

of senators from 100 to 65 will make the Senate more effective<br />

by allowing it to focus on specific issues.<br />

The Senate has gained more control over law enforcement by<br />

electing the heads of the anti-corruption and anti-monopoly<br />

agencies, ensuring greater independence of these agencies.<br />

Also, the constitution strengthens local government by giving<br />

executive governors (khokims) more defined powers and responsibilities.<br />

Finally, the new constitution strengthens the independence of the<br />

judiciary and prevent judges from being influenced by political<br />

considerations or interests by introducing a new procedure for<br />

electing judges to the Constitutional Court, giving them a single<br />

10-year term without the right to re-election.<br />

In addition, the introduction of a new legislative initiative would<br />

enable proposals supported by 100,000 citizens to be presented<br />

to parliament. This would increase public participation in the legislative<br />

process and make it more responsive to the needs and<br />

concerns of the citizens.<br />

WHAT CHANGES CAN WE EXPECT IN TERMS<br />

OF UZBEKISTAN’S FOREIGN POLICY? WILL<br />

MULTI-VECTORISM REMAIN THE KEY GUIDING<br />

PRINCIPLE?<br />

The Constitution enshrines the foreign policy of Uzbekistan as<br />

one based on the principles of sovereign equality of the states,<br />

non-use of threat to use force, inviolability of frontiers, peaceful<br />

settlement of disputes, as well as non-interference in the internal<br />

affairs of other states.<br />

Multi-vectorism will indeed rule the day, as the Constitution<br />

clearly calls for comprehensive development of bilateral and multilateral<br />

relations with states and international organizations and<br />

gives the country the right to enter into alliances, as well as join<br />

or withdraw from commonwealths and other inter-governmental<br />

institutions on the basis of the national interest.<br />

Photo: Istock<br />

116 117


ELDOR TULYAKOV<br />

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR,<br />

DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY CENTRE<br />

OF UZBEKISTAN<br />

Uzbekistan’s new constitution, civil servants and social protection<br />

Uzbekistan has recently held a referendum on adopting a new<br />

aim to strengthen the guarantees and mechanisms for protecting<br />

version of its Constitution by nationwide voting. This important<br />

human rights and freedoms.<br />

political event attracted millions of Uzbek citizens, resulting in<br />

the participation of 84.51 percent of the population with voting<br />

If we touch on the most important of them, the concept of the<br />

rights. According to official data released by the Central Election<br />

social state is being introduced in the newly revised Constitution.<br />

Commission of the Republic of Uzbekistan, the new version of<br />

This state model aims at the fair distribution of material wealth<br />

the constitution was supported by 90.21 percent of votes.<br />

per the principles of social justice to achieve decent living standards<br />

for every citizen, reduce social inequalities, and help people<br />

Both local and international observers oversaw the entire pro-<br />

in need. To implement this concept, Uzbekistan has already<br />

cess. A total of 383 international observers, 184 individuals from<br />

launched several important initiatives which need further consti-<br />

Photos: <strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong><br />

international organizations and 199 international observers from<br />

tutional guarantees. For example, poverty reduction was defined<br />

45 countries, directly observed the preparation and holding of the<br />

as the state policy with the highest priority, the payment of the<br />

referendum. They expressed their opinions about the activeness<br />

full pension amount to all working pensioners was resumed, and<br />

For example, rights such as pension amount, allowances, and<br />

tions of all workers and, most importantly, makes it possible to<br />

of the population, the organization of the entire process and, very<br />

the activity of “monocenters” (vocational training centres) was<br />

other types of social assistance defined by the law cannot<br />

legalize informal labour relations. After all, many citizens working<br />

importantly, the new Constitution of Uzbekistan.<br />

established to train unemployed people so that they could find a<br />

exceed the officially designated minimum consumption ex-<br />

in informal labour relations are forced to work in conditions of ex-<br />

job with a certain qualification.<br />

penditures. No one can be deprived of housing without a court<br />

ploitation with no paid time off. In this respect, the constitutional<br />

Some of the grounds for updating the Constitution are presented<br />

decision.<br />

amendments should improve Uzbekistan’s image and position in<br />

below. First, the constitutional reforms underway in the country<br />

Moreover, the number of higher education institutions has more<br />

international rankings.<br />

are significant in that the aim to enshrine the principle of “per-<br />

than doubled. As such, within the last six years, the enrolment<br />

In addition, the Basic Law stipulates that the state should create<br />

son-society-state” as a constitutional norm. This is an important<br />

rate for higher education increased from 9 to 40 percent. Private<br />

conditions for the full use of social, economic, and cultural facili-<br />

The Basic Law will also contain the dictates for ensuring access<br />

principle considering the overall change in the accountability of<br />

medical institutions have increased from 3,800 to 6,500.<br />

ties and services for persons with disabilities, assist them in their<br />

to education, healthcare, and culture. Uzbek citizens’ right to<br />

state bodies vis-à-vis the population.<br />

employment and education, and provide them with the opportu-<br />

receive the guaranteed amount of medical care at the state’s<br />

In this regard, the newly revised Constitution includes several<br />

nity to obtain the necessary information without hindrance.<br />

expense is being strengthened. This is an essential development<br />

The principle’s implementation should serve to change the long-<br />

articles based on social justice and solidarity.<br />

as the state supports the guaranteed free medical care coverage<br />

time paradigm. One of the core principles of the new constitution<br />

Also, introducing norms to strengthen the guarantees of the<br />

of its citizens, regardless of their financial status. In this way, the<br />

is that “public bodies should serve the people; the people should<br />

labour rights of citizens is vital to ensuring that citizens’ wages<br />

state does not stop caring for the population’s health, especially<br />

not serve the public bodies”.<br />

reflect their labour, and to raising the population’s living stand-<br />

of those experiencing financial hardship.<br />

ards and providing the principle of social justice in the country.<br />

Second, one of the main goals of the constitutional reforms is<br />

A separate article on the status and place of the teacher in<br />

ensuring their irreversibility. Building a people-friendly state, and<br />

Very importantly, from now on, it will be forbidden to refuse<br />

society is being introduced. This will create an opportunity to<br />

ensuring human rights, interests, and dignity, require creating a<br />

employment to women, fire them, and reduce their wages due to<br />

strengthen the social position of more than 685,000 pedagogues<br />

new constitutional and legal space to guarantee further reforms<br />

pregnancy or parenthood. Prohibiting the labour discrimination<br />

working in the country, strengthen their state support and ensure<br />

in the country.<br />

of women in our Basic Law is a prerequisite for making changes<br />

their professional growth.<br />

and additions to the relevant laws aimed at implementing the<br />

One should note that almost all previous amendments and<br />

new constitution.<br />

Overall, we believe changes to the new Constitution of Uzbekistan<br />

additions to the Constitution were primarily related to public<br />

should further support the social well-being of persons and<br />

administration and administrative reforms. At the same time,<br />

Enshrining the prohibition of forced labour at the level of the con-<br />

increase the accountability of state bodies.<br />

more than half of the principles included in the new Constitution<br />

stitution serves as a legal basis for improving the working condi-<br />

118 119


Photo: Shutterstock<br />

120 121


THE NEW CONSTITUTION<br />

OF UZBEKISTAN:<br />

STRENGTHENING THE RIGHTS<br />

AND FREEDOMS OF SOCIETY<br />

Saida Mustafaeva, Senior Coordinator<br />

of the Civil Society Department<br />

& Nigora Karimberdiyeva, Head of Community<br />

and Business Communications Department<br />

Yuksalish Nationwide Movement<br />

The new Constitution of Uzbekistan adopted in 2023 has marked<br />

Strengthening of human rights is another important change. The<br />

a new stage in the development of the state and society. It<br />

new Constitution guarantees the right of everyone to life, liberty<br />

strengthens the rights and freedoms of civil society and aims at<br />

and personal integrity. Article 17 of the Constitution enshrines<br />

creating a strong and prosperous country.<br />

that everyone has the right to life, and Article 19, to liberty and<br />

personal integrity. It also prohibits torture, ill-treatment and other<br />

The expansion of the rights and freedoms of citizens ranks<br />

among the key amendments in the new Constitution. From now<br />

forms of violence. This means that the state should create conditions<br />

for the protection of human rights and stop any manifesta-<br />

Saida Mustafaeva, Senior Coordinator of the Civil Society Department<br />

on, everyone has the right to freedom of expression, freedom<br />

tions of violence against them.<br />

of religion, freedom of assembly and demonstration. The new<br />

Interference of public agencies and officials in the activities of<br />

Constitution guarantees freedom of assembly without permis-<br />

Meanwhile, Article 21 states that human rights and freedoms<br />

non-governmental non-profit organizations, as well as interfer-<br />

sion, as long as it is peaceful and does not violate the rights of<br />

may be limited solely in accordance with the law and solely to<br />

ence of non-governmental non-profit organizations in the activi-<br />

others.<br />

the extent necessary to protect the constitutional order, public<br />

ties of public agencies and officials, is not allowed.<br />

health, public morality, the rights and freedoms of others, ensure<br />

Citizens also have the right to freedom of association, including<br />

public security and public order.<br />

Article 148 of the Constitution states: “Citizens and civil society<br />

the possibility of founding public organizations, parties and trade<br />

institutions exercise public oversight over the formation and<br />

unions. Article 29 of the Constitution guarantees freedom of<br />

In addition, the new Constitution of Uzbekistan strengthens the<br />

execution of the State Budget of the Republic of Uzbekistan. The<br />

thought and speech, as well as freedom of the media: “Citizens<br />

rights of small nationalities and ethnic minorities. It guarantees<br />

procedure and forms of participation of citizens and civil society<br />

have the right to access information and to freely disseminate it”.<br />

the equality of all citizens before the law, regardless of nationality,<br />

institutions in the budget process are established by law.” This<br />

This means that the state cannot restrict freedom of speech and<br />

religion or social status. Article 14 of the Constitution establishes<br />

creates a solid foundation for further improving the well-being<br />

opinion, as well as control the information that the population<br />

that all citizens of the Republic of Uzbekistan are equal before<br />

of the people, putting into practice the principle “in the name of<br />

receives.<br />

the law and the courts, and Article 15 that the state guarantees<br />

human dignity”, accelerated development of the state and civil<br />

equality of rights and freedoms regardless of nationality, religion<br />

society.<br />

The new Constitution also strengthens women’s rights. It guar-<br />

or social status. This means that the state should create con-<br />

antees gender equality and prohibits sex-based discrimination.<br />

ditions for the protection of the rights of small nationalities and<br />

Article 36 states that citizens of the Republic of Uzbekistan have<br />

Article 18 of the Constitution establishes that men and women<br />

ethnic minorities.<br />

the right to participate in society and state governance, both<br />

are equal before the law and have equal rights and freedoms. In<br />

directly and through their representatives. Such participation is<br />

addition, the Constitution obliges the state to take measures to<br />

For the first time, the status of non-governmental non-profit<br />

carried out through self-governance, referenda and democratic<br />

protect women from violence and acts of violence.<br />

organizations is separately enshrined in the Constitution.<br />

formation of state bodies, as well as public oversight over the<br />

Article 72 states that the state ensures the observance of the<br />

activities of state bodies.<br />

This means that the state should create conditions for the<br />

rights and legitimate interests of non-governmental non-profit<br />

protection of women’s rights and stop any manifestations of<br />

organizations, creates equal legal opportunities for them to par-<br />

The Constitution of Uzbekistan, adopted in 2023, recognizes<br />

violence against them.<br />

ticipate in the life of society.<br />

the equality of everyone before the law and the state, and also<br />

Nigora Karimberdiyeva,<br />

Head of Community and Business Communications Department<br />

122 123


protects the rights and freedoms of every person. For the first<br />

and the new Constitution places particular emphasis on the<br />

The new Constitution prohibits discrimination in relation to sex,<br />

Meanwhile, despite these measures, there are still problems<br />

time ever, the Constitution dedicated separate articles to persons<br />

rights of entrepreneurs and workers.<br />

age, nationality, language, religion and other grounds in employ-<br />

associated with insufficient protection of workers’ rights, lack<br />

with disabilities. Thus, Article 14 of the Constitution guarantees<br />

ment and at work. The state is committed to creating conditions<br />

of social protection and low wages. To address them, there is a<br />

equality before the law and the prohibition of any discrimination,<br />

One of the main changes in the new Constitution is the recog-<br />

for the development of trade unions and the protection of the<br />

need for further reforms in the field of labour and employment,<br />

including that related to disability.<br />

nition of the right to private property. This means that entrepre-<br />

rights of workers.<br />

aimed at improving working conditions, ensuring social protec-<br />

neurs have the right to own, use and dispose of their property<br />

tion and protecting the rights of workers. It is necessary to elabo-<br />

The right of every person to life, health, decent living and social<br />

without interference from the state. This is an important step for<br />

The new Constitution stipulates that all contradictions and ambi-<br />

rate on improvement of labour legislation, raising qualifications of<br />

protection is established. This means that the state has an obli-<br />

the development of entrepreneurship in Uzbekistan.<br />

guities in legislation arising between a person and a public agen-<br />

employees of the Labour Inspectorate and trade unions, as well<br />

gation to provide services and support measures for those who<br />

cy are interpreted in favour of a person. At the same time, the<br />

as strengthening control over observance of labour legislation by<br />

need help, including persons with disabilities.<br />

In addition, a wide range of measures are being taken to create<br />

updated Constitution enshrined all the rights of citizens regarding<br />

the state.<br />

enabling business climate for entrepreneurs to freely develop<br />

labour and the rights to work, including:<br />

The state also ensures access to education for all citizens, in-<br />

their business. One of the most remarkable measures come to<br />

The rights and interests of entrepreneurs and workers in<br />

cluding persons with disabilities, and creates conditions for their<br />

simplification of business registration procedures. Now entrepre-<br />

• Everyone has the right to state compensation for damage<br />

Uzbekistan are an important component of the country’s eco-<br />

integration into the educational process, guarantees the right to<br />

neurs can register their business in one day, as well as obtain all<br />

caused by illegal decisions, actions or inaction of public agen-<br />

nomic development. The state is expected to improve the busi-<br />

work and social protection of workers. The state is obliged to<br />

the necessary licenses and permits online.<br />

cies or their officials.<br />

ness climate and working conditions, support them and protect<br />

create conditions for the employment of all categories of citizens,<br />

• The state takes measures to ensure the employment of citi-<br />

their rights. In turn, entrepreneurs and workers must comply with<br />

including persons with disabilities, and to ensure social protec-<br />

The state provides a favorable investment and business climate,<br />

zens, protect them from unemployment, and reduce poverty.<br />

the law and demonstrate accountability in their activities. This is<br />

tion of workers.<br />

and creates enabling conditions for the development of market<br />

• Everyone has the right to social security in old age, in case of<br />

the only way to achieve stable economic growth and prosperity<br />

relations and fair competition.<br />

disability, unemployment, loss of a breadwinner and in other<br />

of the country.<br />

Thus, the Constitution of Uzbekistan protects the rights and free-<br />

cases provided for by law.<br />

doms of people with disabilities, guarantees their equality before<br />

Uzbekistan guarantees the unity of the economic space, the free<br />

the law and provides support measures and participation in the<br />

movement of goods, services, human and financial resources.<br />

life of society and the state on an equal basis with other citizens.<br />

The new Constitution entitles entrepreneurs to free business,<br />

In general, the new Constitution of Uzbekistan is an important<br />

which means, that they can run any legal activity without restric-<br />

step in the development of the state and society. It strengthens<br />

tions from the state. Entrepreneurs also have the right to freely<br />

the rights and freedoms of civil society and creates conditions<br />

choose the form of ownership and legal form for their business.<br />

for the prosperity of the country.<br />

The new Constitution also assigns a special part to consumer<br />

These changes reflect a new approach to rights and freedoms,<br />

protection. Entrepreneurs are obliged to respect the rights of<br />

which is based on the respect and protection of these rights<br />

consumers and bear responsibility for violations of those rights.<br />

as integral parts of citizenship and human dignity. However, for<br />

At the same time, the state is committed to protecting the con-<br />

these changes to become a reality, it is necessary that the state<br />

sumer rights and fight against entrepreneurs violating integrity.<br />

and society work together and abide by the Constitution. Only<br />

in this case, Uzbekistan will be able to achieve its goals and<br />

The new Constitution entitles entrepreneurs to defend their rights<br />

become an even stronger and more prosperous country.<br />

in court. This means that they can go to court if their rights are<br />

violated, and receive a fair decision. The state ensures the inde-<br />

NEW CONSTITUTION EXPANDS BUSINESS AND<br />

EMPLOYMENT RIGHTS<br />

pendence of the judiciary and observance of the law.<br />

Ultimately, the new Constitution of Uzbekistan pays close attention<br />

to support for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs).<br />

The rights and interests of entrepreneurs are seen as funda-<br />

The state guarantees the creation of conditions for the develop-<br />

mental in modern society. Entrepreneurs play an important role<br />

ment of SMEs, provision of financial and technical support, as<br />

in the economy by creating new jobs, growing businesses and<br />

well as simplification of registration and licensing procedures.<br />

improving the quality of life for many people. However, despite<br />

the importance of their role, entrepreneurs often face various<br />

Along with major amendments for entrepreneurs, the new<br />

obstacles that may limit their rights and interests. Some of these<br />

Constitution of Uzbekistan spotlights the rights and interests<br />

barriers include bureaucratic procedures, tax burdens, competi-<br />

of workers. In its policies, the state is guided by the principle<br />

tion, and more.<br />

“Ensuring human rights and freedoms is the highest goal of the<br />

state.” The Constitution recognizes the right to freedom of labour<br />

Uzbekistan has been actively developing entrepreneurship<br />

and prohibits forced labour. Workers have the right to equal<br />

and creating conditions for business growth. In recent years,<br />

pay for equal work, to health and safety at work, and to social<br />

Uzbekistan took certain legislative and administrative measures,<br />

protection.<br />

Photo: Shutterstock<br />

124 125


SUNA PARK<br />

ADVISER TO THE MINISTER<br />

OF NATURAL RESOURCES<br />

OF THE REPUBLIC OF UZBEKISTAN<br />

H.E. AZIZ ABDUHAKIMOV<br />

This is a government that listens and tries to address<br />

the concerns of the people in a timely manner<br />

COULD YOU ELABORATE ON THE MEASURES<br />

TAKEN BY UZBEKISTAN FOR THE ECOLOGICAL<br />

RECOVERY OF THE ARAL SEA REGION?<br />

Resolution declaring the Aral Sea region a zone of ecological<br />

innovations and technologies. The Multi-Partner Human Security<br />

Trust Fund for the Aral Sea Region in Uzbekistan (MPHSTF) was<br />

The greening of the bottom of the Aral Sea, including active<br />

afforestation efforts, is supported by numerous NGOs and inter-<br />

hotels and 20 new guest houses were established. During festival<br />

itself, the number of guest houses grows to 150. Each tourist<br />

also established. The political will Uzbekistan has shown so far<br />

national organizations, including the UN. A range of NGOs and<br />

leaves in the city approximately USD 350. In 2022, 1,550 regis-<br />

When it comes to environmental issues, not only in Uzbekistan<br />

will be important in terms of shaping future policies and actions.<br />

funds are supporting people in terms of their health, education<br />

tered visitors came. In total, the economic impact for Muynaq<br />

but in the region, the first thing that comes to everyone’s mind is<br />

and mitigating the negative effects of the Aral disaster.<br />

from this two-day event amounts to USD 0.5 million.<br />

the Aral problem, a human-caused disaster which has become<br />

a symbol of the extent to which human activity can have such a<br />

It is also valuable to know that the Aral Sea has shaped diploma-<br />

When we look at initiatives like these, it is important to note that<br />

devastating effect on the environment.<br />

cy between the countries, it is good to see how these efforts are<br />

they are not only top-down. The government is actively support-<br />

being done collectively by neighbouring countries.<br />

ing bottom-up initiatives too.<br />

For Uzbekistan, the Aral disaster is something which is one of the<br />

top priorities. Our entire environmental agenda is driven by what<br />

has happened to the Aral Sea. We are therefore not in a position<br />

of romanticising the issue, because on a daily basis, the people<br />

of Uzbekistan and Karakalpakstan have to deal with health<br />

issues; environmental degradation derived from the pollutants in<br />

the bottom of the dried sea, etc.<br />

When it comes to the efforts that Uzbekistan is taking alongside<br />

the Autonomous Republic of Karakalpakstan and our neighbours,<br />

We are also looking at enhancing the socio-economic situation of<br />

the people. A lot has been done by the government to enhance<br />

liveability, provide jobs, attract investments, organise cultural<br />

events, etc. In fact, culture has become one of the key drivers<br />

for Muynaq. Since 2018, the annual two-day Stihia music festival<br />

takes place there, organised by the independent creative sector.<br />

The then Minister of Tourism, H.E. Aziz Abdukhakimov, was one<br />

of the pioneers who supported the festival. And it is incredible to<br />

see what this festival has done to the economy of Muynaq.<br />

WHAT ARE THE MAIN CONTOURS OF THE<br />

STRATEGY FOR UZBEKISTAN’S TRANSITION<br />

TO GREEN ECONOMY 2019-2030 AND THE<br />

APPLICATION OF GREEN TECHNOLOGIES IN<br />

ORDER TO DECARBONIZE THE INDUSTRIAL,<br />

AGRICULTURAL, TRANSPORT AND TOURISM<br />

SECTORS?<br />

these are very substantial. Most importantly, we have political<br />

These efforts are quite new for Uzbekistan, but have become a<br />

will. President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has numerously raised this<br />

Since its inception, with the key mission to bring attention to<br />

top priority. With the recent administrative reforms, the Ministry<br />

topic from a range of international arenas including the United<br />

the Aral Sea problem, the festival has achieved the following for<br />

of Natural Resources was established uniting under its umbrel-<br />

Nations. In 2021, a UN General Assembly passed a unanimous<br />

Muynaq. The year 2022 saw the construction of four brand new<br />

la three previously separate agencies – State Committee on<br />

126 127


Ecology and Environmental Protection, Forestry Agency and<br />

• Introduction of carbon credits and green investments: we have<br />

One of the key success of this government is the recognition that<br />

In fact, environmental issues have become one of the most<br />

UzHydromet. This has significantly widened our mandate and<br />

been actively speaking to our counterparts in various countries<br />

you cannot do things in an old manner; because people see, talk<br />

widely and openly discussed topics among Uzbekistanis. I would<br />

what is most important is that now we are able to address envi-<br />

to help us this legal framework of green financing.<br />

and bring up issues on social media and through other channels.<br />

like to stress that not only the Ministry of Natural Resources but<br />

ronmental issues in a holistic manner. In addition, the Ministry is<br />

If we speak about a specific problem, for example the number of<br />

this government as a whole, considers listening and addressing<br />

also responsible for overseeing the transition processes to the<br />

Collectively, we think that if we look at several aspects at the<br />

active construction sites in Tashkent and the reduction of green<br />

people’s concern as a top strategic priority.<br />

Green Economy. was reformatted and from the previous three<br />

same time, starting with environmental education and culture;<br />

spaces, people speak up about it and bring it to the attention of<br />

agencies are all now gathered under the umbrella of this Ministry,<br />

to top governmental decisions; and the involvement of private<br />

the government.<br />

Photos: <strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong><br />

including the mandate to lead the processes of transition to the<br />

sector, this would give a cumulative effect. Green economy is not<br />

green economy. The Ministry has now the mandate to oversee<br />

something that is just written and implemented; these are incre-<br />

not only certain parts of environmental protection, but to look at<br />

mental steps one needs to take across a number of areas. That<br />

it holistically and manage it in an integrated manner.<br />

is why we work closely with other ministries – Energy; Geology;<br />

Water resources – because this is a collective effort.<br />

When we talk about green economy, it includes everything from<br />

the way we plan our cities and villages to the way we attract<br />

investments – and what kind of investments.<br />

Furthermore, active efforts are being undertaken in the direction<br />

of alternative sources of energy. Last winter, we faced an energy<br />

crisis, and this gave a signal to everyone within the political establishment<br />

and the private sector that there is a strong need to<br />

HOW CAN UZBEKISTAN BALANCE ECONOMIC<br />

AND POPULATION GROWTH, ON THE ONE HAND,<br />

WITH THE MORE SUSTAINABLE AND EFFICIENT<br />

USE OF (LIMITED) NATURAL RESOURCES, ON<br />

THE OTHER?<br />

review the way we approach energy issues. For example, every<br />

This is not only about planning, but about the overall vision and<br />

single governmental building is instructed to install at least one<br />

understanding of where we are heading towards. We do recog-<br />

type of alternative source of energy, starting with solar panels.<br />

nise that our population is growing, and it is putting pressure on<br />

It is a fairly obvious choice, considering that the majority of our<br />

the environment and natural resources, because we are one of<br />

days are sunny.<br />

the fastest growing economies and we have the largest population<br />

in the region.<br />

During the opening of the II Tashkent International Investment<br />

Forum, President Mirziyoyev mentioned that we are working with<br />

Number one priority then is how do we manage population<br />

Masdar (a renewable energy company based in Abu Dhabi) and a<br />

growth in terms of our territorial planning. How to reduce pres-<br />

range of other companies to help them explore various alterna-<br />

sure from big cities and how do we enhance liveability and bal-<br />

tives that can be applied.<br />

anced growth in other regions? We have been quite successful in<br />

this. Five or six years ago, everyone would come to, and stay in,<br />

Our ministry is exploring energy schemes, we are having active<br />

Tashkent. Young graduates would either wish to stay in Tashkent<br />

conversations with companies which are able to provide us with<br />

or move abroad. Right now, every major city in each of the dis-<br />

technologies, institutional support and capacity building on how<br />

tricts of Uzbekistan is thriving. We are therefore seeing a different<br />

to take accumulated waste and turn it into energy as well.<br />

dynamic, due to the economic opportunities across the country,<br />

not only in the capital.<br />

Overall, the green economy presupposes that there is a stronger<br />

involvement of private sector, and we are very pleased to see not<br />

This balanced growth is one of the key issues on how we man-<br />

only international but also local companies are actively seeking<br />

age population growth and how we balance resource distribu-<br />

to make their production and overall business processes more<br />

tion. When it comes to the usage of natural resources, it is about<br />

sustainable through the introduction of ESG standards and vari-<br />

optimising everything from supply chains to agriculture and live-<br />

ous certification programmes.<br />

stock, how we grow our food, what alternative sources of energy<br />

we can introduce, and what kind of economic opportunities we<br />

Right now, we are in the process of passing a new presidential<br />

are introducing as a government.<br />

decree which will fully transform not only the Ministry of Natural<br />

Resources but the entire approach to environmental protection.<br />

To sum up our vision and strategy:<br />

Some key points are worth mentioning:<br />

• Balanced territorial development;<br />

• Creation of socio-economic opportunities and enhanced<br />

• Introduction of ESG standards;<br />

liveability in different regions;<br />

• Creating a model of incentivization for large polluters to intro-<br />

• Making food supply chains more sustainable through the<br />

duce such emission-reducing technologies and make them<br />

introduction of water-saving technologies in the agriculture<br />

more prone to carbon neutrality;<br />

sector, for example.<br />

128 129


AKMALKHUJA MAVLONOV<br />

CHAIRMAN OF THE CUSTOMS COMMITTEE<br />

UNDER THE MINISTRY OF ECONOMY<br />

AND FINANCE OF THE REPUBLIC<br />

OF UZBEKISTAN<br />

As a result of large-scale reforms carried out in Uzbekistan in<br />

This year, new normative legal documents designed to radically<br />

recent years, today customs officials are conducting systematic<br />

improve the customs sphere were adopted. In particular, more<br />

work on providing practical assistance to enterprises, identify-<br />

than 10 permits issued by customs and other government agen-<br />

ing and resolving bottlenecks. All current changes are aimed at<br />

cies were annulled. In order to simplify the implementation of<br />

supporting entrepreneurs and ensuring their free operation, as<br />

import-export operations, a new procedure with the effective use<br />

well as filling the domestic market with competitive products and<br />

of the risk management system was introduced.<br />

increasing the volume of exports.<br />

With the help of the new information systems “E-transit” and<br />

“Risk Assessment of Passengers”, as well as improving the<br />

SIMPLIFICATION OF CUSTOMS PROCEDURES<br />

FOR BUSINESSES<br />

existing information systems “Risk Management” and “Autoregistration”:<br />

1. During 2022, the number of border crossing trucks increased<br />

by 11 percent compared to the year before, and the average<br />

The main directions of reform of the customs administration as<br />

travel time was reduced in half, from 65 minutes to 35 minutes;<br />

part of Uzbekistan’s Development Strategy 2022-2026 are to<br />

2. 666,000 declarations were submitted by more than 15,000<br />

create favourable conditions and incentives for investors. As a<br />

entrepreneurs through the created mobile applications;<br />

result of the reforms implemented in the customs sector, many<br />

innovations are being introduced in order to facilitate the poten-<br />

3. 78 percent of cargo customs declarations were issued in a<br />

simplified manner.<br />

Photo: The Customs Committee<br />

tial participants of foreign economic activity, including:<br />

With the help of information systems, such as “Cargo opera-<br />

3. Advance decisions were made on determining the customs<br />

In 2021, Uzbekistan became the 127th Contracting Party to the<br />

Remote electronic declaration posts have been installed in the<br />

tions”, “Advance decision on customs duties” and “Customs<br />

value and for the Harmonized System (HS) code of the 111<br />

Revised Kyoto Convention. Great attention is being paid to is-<br />

regions. As a result:<br />

inspection”:<br />

entrepreneurs’ goods, and the time for review of applications<br />

sues such as the simplification of customs control; strengthening<br />

1. 126,000 cargo customs declarations of about 8,000 business<br />

1. 344 warehouses and 882 users were registered,<br />

regarding this was reduced from six to three days.<br />

cooperation in the digitalization of the customs sphere; measures<br />

entities for the export and import of goods with a legal address<br />

2. 1,234 entrepreneurs were given the opportunity to unload more<br />

to improve infrastructure; introduction of advanced methods for<br />

in another region in the amount of 73.6 trillion Soums was<br />

than 23,000 consignments of goods into customs warehouses<br />

With the help of the newly introduced interactive services<br />

customs administration and deepening cooperation with cus-<br />

processed remotely by customs posts;<br />

without the permission of the customs authority. Out of these,<br />

“E-Queue” and “E-Archive”:<br />

toms authorities of foreign countries. Also during the meetings<br />

2. The number of such declarations has increased by 15 percent<br />

3<strong>71</strong> electronic applications for the placement of goods in their<br />

1. 10,707 vehicles of 2,336 entrepreneurs were placed in the<br />

held with the Secretary General of the <strong>World</strong> Customs Organiza-<br />

while direct contact between entrepreneurs and employees of<br />

own warehouse were reviewed;<br />

electronic queue;<br />

tion (WCO) Kunio Mikuriya, the directions for future cooperation<br />

customs posts has decreased.<br />

2. Queues of vehicles transporting agricultural products through<br />

were identified.<br />

border checkpoints have been minimized;<br />

The practice of the institute of authorized economic operators,<br />

3. 1,087 entrepreneurs were able to submit about 673,000<br />

As a result of practical visits to the customs authorities of foreign<br />

which was introduced in order to encourage Participants of<br />

documents through the system in a single format and only<br />

countries, advanced methods of customs control are being intro-<br />

Foreign Economic Activity (PFEA) that complies with customs<br />

once.<br />

duced in our national customs offices.<br />

regulation, has been radically improved:<br />

1. To date, 57 business entities have this status and carry out<br />

customs clearance and simplified customs control;<br />

2. 326 billion Soums was be given as deferred customs payment;<br />

3. About 6,000 consignments of goods have been placed directly<br />

in the warehouses of entrepreneurs.<br />

Photo: The Customs Committee<br />

COOPERATION WITH WORLD CUSTOMS<br />

ORGANIZATION (WCO) AND OTHER INTERNATION-<br />

AL ORGANISATIONS ON CUSTOMS DIGITALIZA-<br />

TION<br />

During visits to Uzbekistan, studies were carried out with the<br />

processes of customs clearance, notarial regulation, customs<br />

and cargo operations. Regarding this, a delegation of international<br />

consultants from the <strong>World</strong> Bank and representatives of<br />

the WCO, positively assessed the modern methods of customs<br />

control at regional customs posts and risk management system<br />

130 131


amount of seized goods, worth 389 billion Soums, increased by<br />

2. Saves passengers’ time;<br />

suitable for difficult climatic conditions, such as sudden dis-<br />

54 percent.<br />

3. Eases movement through the airport;<br />

parities in temperatures, strong winds and sandstorms. There-<br />

4. Serves to reward law-abiding passengers.<br />

fore, during the reconstruction of border customs posts, great<br />

INTRODUCTION OF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE<br />

AND HIGH-TECH IN CUSTOMS CONTROL<br />

Implementing favourable conditions for passengers and goods<br />

across the customs border of the country requires a reduction in<br />

the time of customs operations and the systematic automation of<br />

importance is given to the movement of passengers crossing the<br />

border through closed buildings, and the creation of an opportunity<br />

for drivers to go through customs control processes without<br />

leaving the cabin of a cargo vehicle.<br />

The widespread introduction of the “Digital Customs” principle<br />

customs clearance. New ways of working in accordance with the<br />

in the system of State Customs Committee helps to save PFEAs<br />

best practices of foreign countries, as well as the introduction of<br />

Customs clearance rooms are organized by an open and trans-<br />

time and money. With customs information systems such as<br />

modern and advanced Information Communication Technologies<br />

parent system according to the “Open Space” principle. In the<br />

“Risk Management system”, “Single Window” and electronic<br />

(ICT) in digital customs framework, provide such advantages as<br />

future, the throughput of posts will also increase several times.<br />

Photo: The Customs Committee<br />

services being implemented on a large scale, the time spent on<br />

ensuring transparency and efficiency of the customs authorities.<br />

Currently, 300-450 trucks and cars move per day, and in the<br />

customs control and customs clearance is being reduced.<br />

future this number is expected to increase up to 1,000-1,200.<br />

using information and communication technologies. It has been<br />

Today, customs posts are equipped with modern and advanced<br />

noted that such a process implemented in customs control com-<br />

In addition, an opportunity has been introduced to send an ap-<br />

technical means, and new technologies are being consistently in-<br />

All reforms carried out in the customs sphere serve to gain sus-<br />

plies with international standards.<br />

plication more simply and conveniently through a new improved<br />

troduced. These include auto-scales installed at border customs<br />

tainable development of entrepreneurship, increase the volume<br />

version of the official website of the State Customs Committee.<br />

posts, a system for identifying vehicle numbers, portal monitors<br />

of foreign trade turnover, strengthen the economic stability of the<br />

RESULTS IN THE FIELD OF CUSTOMS PAYMENTS<br />

AND ANTI-SMUGGLING<br />

There, the applicant just needs to enter basic information, such<br />

as, date of birth, passport series and number. Most importantly,<br />

the applicant has the ability to track the status of the application<br />

and information about the executor online.<br />

for detecting radioactive substances, modern X-ray machines for<br />

screening hand luggage, and an inspection complex for screening<br />

vehicles. The use of a device for scanning the whole body<br />

“Body Scanner” has begun. Recent developments in low-dose<br />

country, increase investment potential, create more favourable<br />

business environment for PFEA, and ensure the transparency of<br />

the activities of customs authority.<br />

During the year 2022, 33.2 trillion Soums of customs duties were<br />

X-ray technology provide a high level of safety.<br />

The State Customs service of the Republic of Uzbekistan will<br />

credited to the state budget. This is 40 percent more than in the<br />

Also, customs posts were provided with 770 technical means<br />

always remain a reliable defender of the economic interests and<br />

year prior. PFEA were given 40.3 trillion Soums of exemption<br />

of control (such as tablets; Face ID cameras; mobile radiation<br />

Particular attention is paid to the fact that customs posts are<br />

security of our country and people.<br />

to goods from customs duty, and more than 15,000 business<br />

portal monitors; inspection complex). As a result of the use of<br />

entities were left in working capital. Privileges for customs duties<br />

advanced customs control technologies, the time for processing<br />

increased by 54 percent compared to the year prior.<br />

a customs declaration:<br />

1. Was decreased by 1.7 times for exports, and by 1.4 times for<br />

By tackling the black economy, additional customs fees were<br />

imports.<br />

collected to the amount of 1.16 trillion Soums. One of the main<br />

2. 76 percent of cargo customs declarations were processed in a<br />

activities of the customs authorities is combatting smuggling and<br />

simplified manner, this figure is 84 percent for exports and 74<br />

customs offences. During the operational activities, in 2022 more<br />

percent for imports.<br />

than 689 kg of narcotics were seized. The seizure cases increased<br />

by 2.3 times compared to 2021. Approximately 244,000<br />

Previously, Samarkand International Airport served 400 pas-<br />

hard drugs and 4,000 psychotropic substances were also seized.<br />

sengers per hour, and the recently commissioned airport can<br />

In more than 12,800 cases, the illegal circulation of goods worth<br />

serve 1,200 passengers per hour. For the first time, the “Remote<br />

682 billion Soums was detected.<br />

Customs Control” system has been introduced in order to create<br />

more comfort for guests, tourists and passengers visiting our<br />

Furthermore, the illegal transportation of foreign currency in the<br />

country through this airport. In this case, passengers leave the<br />

equivalent of 47.9 billion Soums, jewellery in the amount of 12<br />

territory of the republic without having to deal directly with cus-<br />

billion Soums and 1,516 items of cultural property was stopped<br />

toms officers, not having to notice their presence.<br />

in a timely manner.<br />

Customs control is carried out based on the classification of<br />

The average customs clearance time, excluding automated dec-<br />

border crossing passengers based on deep analysis through the<br />

larations, was reduced by 33 percent, to 40 minutes for exports<br />

use of smart cameras. These cameras are based on AI and other<br />

and by 22 percent, to 3.5 hours for imports.<br />

modern control equipment, advance information (API, PNR) and<br />

a risk management system.<br />

At the same time, the efficiency of customs inspection of goods<br />

increased by 10 percent, the efficiency of detecting errors in the<br />

This system provides the following benefits:<br />

HS code increased by 16 percent, levied additional customs du-<br />

1. Increases the number of tourists arriving on the territory of our<br />

ties worth 62 billion Soums. The efficiency of detecting violations<br />

republic by ensuring the effective movement of law-abiding<br />

during customs inspection of goods increased by 60 percent, the<br />

and conscientious passengers through the post office;<br />

Photo: The Customs Committee<br />

132 133


III INTERNATIONAL BAKHSHI<br />

ART FESTIVAL GULISTAN,<br />

UZBEKISTAN<br />

The III International Bakhshi Art Festival, organized under the<br />

auspices of the President of Uzbekistan Shevkat Mirziyoyev, took<br />

place in Gulistan, capital of the Syrdarya region, in May 2023.<br />

The festival is aimed at preserving, developing and popularizing<br />

the art of bakhshi. Previous editions were held in Termez<br />

(Surxondaryo Region) in 2019 and Nukus (Autonomous Republic<br />

of Karakalpakstan) in 2021.<br />

Secretary General of International Organization of Turkic Culture<br />

(TURKSOY) Sultan Raev was the Guest of Honour of the festival,<br />

which gathered musicians, singers and guests from more than<br />

30 countries, including Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan,<br />

Turkey, Hungary, South Korea and Japan.<br />

The festival held was held in the central square of the city of<br />

Gulistan and the surrounding streets, which featured promotional<br />

stands set up by participants who came from abroad and<br />

from different regions and provinces of Uzbekistan. The stands<br />

introducing music, handicrafts and culinary culture as well as<br />

agricultural products grown in various regions gave a festive<br />

atmosphere to the event.<br />

The Opening Ceremony of the Festival, hosted by the Minister of<br />

Culture and Tourism of Uzbekistan Ozodbek Nazarbekov, began<br />

with the reading of the message by President of Uzbekistan<br />

Shavkat Mirziyoyev to the participants by adviser of President<br />

Odil Abdurakhmanov.<br />

In his message, President Mirziyoyev remarked “the importance<br />

of the art of Bakhshi, which is at the origin of oral tradition<br />

primarily lies in the fact that it reveals the inner world of mankind<br />

and describes its noblest feelings and qualities.<br />

of any national culture is unfortunately decreasing. The President<br />

drew attention to the fact that in recent years Uzbekistan has<br />

been working on the further development of the cultural sector,<br />

including the art of bakhshi. Thus, the Republican Bakhshi Art<br />

Center and the Bakhshi Art Development Fund, established in<br />

2019, operate in Uzbekistan today.<br />

Bakhshi was inscribed in 2021 on the UNESCO Representative<br />

List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Epic poetry<br />

plays a crucial role in the musical and poetic heritage of the<br />

Uzbek and Karakalpak people of Uzbekistan.<br />

Called dostons, the traditional centuries-old poems are based<br />

on myths, legends, folk tales and legendary chants, and address<br />

varied themes such as patriotism, commitment, love, friendship<br />

and solidarity. Bakhshi refers to the performance of these epic<br />

stories and original pieces with the accompaniment of musical<br />

instruments including the dombra (a long-necked stringed<br />

instrument) and the kobuz (a bowed instrument).<br />

The storytellers, also called bakhshis, perform the stories from<br />

memory, incorporating cultural traditions and practices. The<br />

practice is passed on within families and through formal bakhshi<br />

schools. The art of bakhshi is a vital part of the Uzbek lifestyle,<br />

and the storytellers are always welcoming guests in family ceremonies,<br />

rituals, public holidays and local festivities.<br />

Photos: Qadriyatfilm<br />

In these difficult times we are going through, the sound of these<br />

melodies and songs, which emphasize the existence of human<br />

beings, is all the more so meaningful for us in so far as it calls<br />

upon all countries and peoples of the world to live in harmony,<br />

friendship and cooperation by recognizing that humanity has<br />

common roots.”<br />

He furthermore remarked that in the current times of globalization,<br />

the ever-growing malicious influence “mass culture” and<br />

show business, the attention and interest to folklore as a source<br />

Photo: Gareth Stamp<br />

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MAISON LEEA<br />

FURNITURE THAT TRANSCENDS TRENDS<br />

AND STANDS THE TEST OF TIME<br />

WHAT DEFINES MAISON LEEA?<br />

Maison Leea’s commitment to excellence lies in the meticulous<br />

hand craftsmanship, attention to detail, fusion of form and function,<br />

implementing boat design elements in the aesthetic present<br />

in the furniture pieces.<br />

Using a wide range of rare materials, Maison Leea is executing<br />

bespoke creations that seamlessly meet the demands of<br />

exclusive properties and boat world with a contemporary nautical<br />

aesthetic. This ensures their owners can enjoy the perfect fusion<br />

of form and function, where style is never compromised.<br />

Through Maison Leea, I aim to create a synergy between the<br />

interior and exterior aspects of houses and boats, blurring the<br />

boundaries and ensuring a harmonious design flow.Each piece of<br />

furniture is carefully curated to enhance the ambiance of the interior<br />

spaces, creating a luxurious retreat that reflects the owner’s<br />

individuality and personal style.<br />

DOES YOUR INTERNATIONAL BACKGROUND<br />

PROVIDE AN ADVANTAGE IN THE ART SECTOR?<br />

It is a great privilege for Maison Leea to be featured alongside<br />

iconic artists such as Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Tom<br />

Wesselmann, Keith Haring, Robert Indiana, and Alex Katz<br />

thanks to the partnership with Wynn Fine Art Gallery and Aktion<br />

Art in Palm Beach. This highlights the success of our efforts to<br />

create furniture pieces that would seamlessly integrate within<br />

the art realm.<br />

Maison Leea’s ultimate goal for these pieces was to complement<br />

and harmonise with the revered icons exhibited in the gallery.<br />

Its discerning clientele, who are art connoisseurs themselves,<br />

appreciate and collect art, choosing to proudly display their<br />

pieces within their residences. Consequently, they seek furniture<br />

that exhibits the same level of distinction and artistic sensibility<br />

to enhance their curated collections.<br />

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Our clients consistently express their admiration for our furniture.<br />

Each piece undergoes thoughtful and meticulous handcrafting,<br />

eschewing mass production in favour of a bespoke approach.<br />

This allows us to cater to the unique vision of every interior we<br />

curate, ensuring a seamless alignment between our furniture and<br />

the art it accompanies.<br />

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO DELVE IN THE WORLD<br />

OF FURNITURE DESIGN?<br />

After studying in art school, I immersed myself in the world of<br />

architecture. This groundwork established a solid foundation for<br />

my comprehension of design principles and played a pivotal role<br />

in shaping my artistic vision in creating interiors and furniture.<br />

HOW DID YOUR DIVERSE BACKGROUND IN<br />

BUSINESS, ENTREPRENEURSHIP, ARCHITECTURE<br />

AND ART DRIVE YOU TO ESTABLISH MAISON<br />

LEEA?<br />

Having degrees in international business and entrepreneurship<br />

my path was somehow decided, but I was advised to not just do<br />

it’s the result of me wanting to encompass everything I know in<br />

a brand of high-end furniture for a high end state of spirit.<br />

WHAT PROJECTS ARE YOU CURRENTLY<br />

WORKING ON?<br />

Through its unwavering dedication to impeccable craftsmanship<br />

business but to follow my passion, so did I.<br />

Currently we are engaged in an exceptional project in Palm<br />

and artistic sensibilities, Maison Leea establishes a profound<br />

Living on a boat for quite a while, played a big role in making me<br />

Beach, completely redesigning a grand property among our<br />

connection to the art world. It offers furniture that not only em-<br />

realise that the interiors of yachts have a unique charm and ele-<br />

But by having been studied architecture before, that was a pas-<br />

portfolio of bespoke projects. Our team has embarked upon a<br />

bodies creativity and functionality but, most importantly, serves<br />

gance that is very distinct from traditional home interiors. I loved<br />

sion that could not be forgotten. Subsequently, I embarked on a<br />

comprehensive reimagining of the interior spaces, using the<br />

as a perfect complement for the art collections of its clientele<br />

the lines present in the yacht aesthetic, that inspired me to create<br />

journey of studying international business and entrepreneurship,<br />

Maison Leea’s style. It is our esteemed clientele’s preference to<br />

with a sharp ability to perceive and distinguish quality, value.<br />

the Maison Leea’s furniture pieces and interiors concepts.<br />

in Switzerland and in the UK (London and Oxford).<br />

have the style of their boat present in their residences too.<br />

Having a multilingual background, I have the possibility of connecting<br />

with people from various cultural backgrounds, understanding<br />

their unique preferences. Ultimately, this process grants<br />

me a deeper comprehension of clients and their requirements,<br />

Furthermore, this passion extended beyond the confines of the<br />

sea, inspiring me to reinterpret these concepts and seamlessly<br />

incorporate them into traditional houses as well.<br />

Drawing upon my educational background in business and my<br />

artistic inclinations, together with my team, I embarked on a<br />

mission to bring a new style in furniture defined by impeccable<br />

handcraftsmanship and boat aesthetic lines.<br />

WHICH ARE THE LEADING FORCES IN YOUR<br />

VISION FOR A FURNITURE DESIGNER?<br />

taking into account not only their aesthetic vision but also their<br />

As a furniture designer and entrepreneur, I believe in the power<br />

unique backgrounds, ensuring that their wants are brought to life<br />

I started by designing the interior of my personal home, that led<br />

of passion and following one’s personal vision. By venturing<br />

through Maison Leea’s bespoke creations.<br />

me to more projects that ultimately, on this passion flow, would<br />

into the niche market of high end furniture, I have been able to<br />

make me create Maison Leea, which is a combination of my<br />

combine my love for interiors with the beauty of boat design, and<br />

backgrounds on business, entrepreneurship, architecture and art,<br />

more important with the influence that art has had in my life and<br />

138 139


still does. Maison Leea strives to bring a breath of fresh air in the<br />

employing a dedicated team of over 200 skilled individuals.<br />

In addition to our furniture line, Maison Leea has extended our<br />

We firmly believe that every piece of furniture we create should<br />

conventional approach to furniture, revolutionising the way we<br />

Each factory focuses on a specific aspect of production,<br />

production to encompass a comprehensive range of other inte-<br />

not only exude elegance but also embody durability. Our dedi-<br />

perceive and experience this essential aspect of our lives, but<br />

including wood craftsmanship for intricate marquetry, upholstery,<br />

rior essentials, including carpets, curtains, lighting and outdoor<br />

cation to excellence extends beyond the present moment and<br />

never losing sight of the artistic one. Furthermore, I am motivat-<br />

chair manufacturing and accessory production. This strategic<br />

furniture. We believe that every element of interior design contrib-<br />

serves as a guiding principle for our future endeavours.<br />

ed by the desire to leave a lastly impact. I want to create furniture<br />

move has allowed Maison Leea to leverage the expertise and<br />

utes to the overall ambiance and aesthetic of a space, and thus<br />

that transcends trends and stands the test of time. Designing<br />

craftsmanship found within Romania’s furniture manufacturing<br />

we strive to offer our clients a holistic experience.<br />

With every furniture piece that leaves our factories, we aim to<br />

pieces that have a timeless appeal and continue to bring beauty<br />

heritage. It enables us to have the highest quality standards<br />

provide our clients with a lasting sense of satisfaction and pride,<br />

and utility to people for years to come is a fundamental aspect of<br />

my vision as a furniture designer.<br />

TELL US ABOUT THE PRODUCTION PROCESS<br />

In the beginning production was taking place in England, more<br />

exactly in Surrey as I wanted to be able to have a hands on pro-<br />

while ensuring efficient production that bring our exquisite<br />

designs to life.<br />

With the main focus on keeping the highest standard, Maison<br />

Leea sources raw materials from Italy, Brazil, and Iran, while incorporating<br />

systems from Germany into our production process.<br />

This global approach ensures that we have access to the finest<br />

quality materials and technologies to create exceptional furniture<br />

CAN YOU PROVIDE A FEW WORDS UPON THE<br />

FUTURE YOU ENVISION FOR MAISON LEEA?<br />

In the future, I envision expanding Maison Leea’s reach, not only<br />

in the realm of interior spaces and boat furniture, but also in the<br />

field of aircraft interiors. By staying true to our commitment to<br />

simplicity, exclusivity and impeccable design, Maison Leea aims<br />

knowing that they have acquired a truly remarkable piece that<br />

embodies not only our vision, but their needs also. Our pledge to<br />

quality is a testament to our constant pursuit of ideal, ensuring<br />

that Maison Leea will bring refinement to any curated interior.<br />

ABOUT LEEA A. STEFANESCU<br />

cess approach as I was living in London, however valuable ad-<br />

pieces.<br />

to become synonymous with elegance and sophistication in the<br />

Leea A. Stefanescu is the founder of Maison Leea. Originally<br />

vice led me to explore the rich furniture manufacturing tradition in<br />

world of high-end furniture.<br />

from Transylvania, she was brought up in Switzerland, following<br />

my home country, Romania, dating back to <strong>World</strong> War I.<br />

At our production facility, each piece undergoes a meticulous<br />

her education path in London getting two university degrees in<br />

crafting process, involving over 60 precise steps. From the initial<br />

Regardless of what lies ahead, one thing remains unwavering:<br />

International Business with French, one Master in Entrepreneur-<br />

As a result, we made the strategic decision to relocate produc-<br />

design concept to the final finishing touches, our skilled artisans<br />

our commitment to maintaining the highest level of quality and<br />

ship and afterward continuing expanding her economics horizons<br />

tion to Romania, where we collaborate with established manu-<br />

work on each detail to achieve our standards for design, func-<br />

design. At Maison Leea, we understand that quality and differ-<br />

at Oxford. Speaking five languages, Leea’s diverse linguistic<br />

facturers boasting over 25 years of experience in the industry.<br />

tionality, and durability.<br />

ent design are the cornerstones of our success and the keys to<br />

skills enable her to connect with a global audience and navigate<br />

Our furniture is now hand crafted in four specialised factories,<br />

exceeding the expectations of our clients.<br />

international markets with ease.<br />

140 141


142 143


144 145


TER HAM CASTLE<br />

LAUNCH OF DIPLOMATIC WORLD EDITION 70<br />

In the presence of His Royal Highness, Prince Laurent of Belgium;<br />

members of the <strong>Diplomatic</strong> and Consular Corps; representatives<br />

from business, arts & culture, the 70th edition of<br />

<strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong> magazine was festively launched at Castle Ter<br />

Ham in Steenokkerzeel on April 24. Holding the reception in this<br />

location was largely possible thanks to the work of Mr Michel<br />

Vanstallen, the person responsible for transforming a beautiful<br />

15th century castle into a top-notch location for meetings, events<br />

and receptions.<br />

The evening provided an opportunity to thank all contributors,<br />

partners and sponsors; as well as to all the diplomatic missions<br />

which have collaborated in making Edition 70 of <strong>Diplomatic</strong><br />

<strong>World</strong> magazine a reality. The reception also provided an opportunity<br />

to do something which we enjoy doing the most, bringing<br />

people together; bringing representatives from friendly nations<br />

from the four corners of the world together; to build bridges of<br />

understanding and cooperation, something which unfortunately<br />

is in short supply in today’s world.<br />

We would like to express our special thanks to the Embassies<br />

of Kazakhstan; the Kyrgyz Republic; Tajikistan; Turkmenistan;<br />

Uzbekistan and Mongolia for their support in organising today’s<br />

event and for our regular and long-standing partnership with<br />

each and every one of them. It is very gratifying to accompany<br />

these countries in their journey of reform and transformation,<br />

which is opening plenty of new opportunities for cooperation<br />

with the European Union and its Member States. We moreover<br />

thank the Embassies of the Central Asian countries and Mongolia<br />

for preparing a sample of their national dishes for the guests to<br />

enjoy throughout the evening. Our last word of appreciation is to<br />

the Embassy and Mission of Armenia, which generously treated<br />

attendees with a selection of Armenian dried fruits.<br />

During the evening, CEO of <strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong> Barbara Dietrich<br />

presented His Royal Highness Prince Laurent of Belgium, an<br />

artwork from Belgian-German artist Ulrike Bolenz, as a token of<br />

appreciation for His presence and support.<br />

Ter Ham Castle<br />

De Maillé de la Tour Landrylaan 2, 1820 Steenokkerzeel<br />

T +32 2 751 37 00 - info@kasteelterham.be<br />

For more information, visit www.kasteelterham.be<br />

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HOTEL BRITANNIA KNOKKE<br />

TAKING ICONIC LUXURY TO THE NEXT LEVEL<br />

FRESH ENTHUSIASM<br />

The iconic and characteristic Anglo-Norman premises of Hotel<br />

Britannia have adorned Het Zoute for decades. Now, after going<br />

through an extensive renovation, guests can once again fully<br />

unwind in its warm interior. However, Hotel Britannia is also the<br />

perfect location for corporate events and business meetings.<br />

Stefan Vanhollebeke, hotelier and enterprising visionary, took the<br />

decision to purchase the characteristic building from his sister,<br />

Caroline, right in the middle of the COVID pandemic. For generations,<br />

the hotel has been the port of call for scores of tourists, but<br />

the thorough and intense renovation has now taken<br />

the atmosphere and hospitality experience to a higher level.<br />

Stephan opened the doors to the revamped boutique hotel in<br />

Knokke-Heist in June 2021.<br />

WARM AND ATMOSPHERIC<br />

The warm colours and characteristic lighting create a sophisticated,<br />

luxurious and refined interior. The beautiful Charrel furniture is<br />

shown off at its best in the stylish and timeless rooms arranged<br />

over the hotel’s two floors.<br />

A PLEASANT STAY<br />

Guests and passers-by can enjoy an opulent high tea or a sophisticated<br />

aperitif on the amazing outdoor terrace or inside on<br />

the plush, velvet chairs. Are you already in Knokke-Heist? Why<br />

not pay us a visit? You will be pleasantly surprised by this fantastic<br />

boutique hotel. You will be in safe hands with the friendly and<br />

trusted team who will provide you with the highest levels of personal<br />

service and hospitality. There is a reason why their motto is<br />

‘hospitality runs in our veins’.<br />

Welcome to our hotel!<br />

A HOTSPOT FOR COMPANIES<br />

Stefan’s enterprising vision meant that the business community<br />

soon also found its way to the hotel. The private and high-tech<br />

meeting room has space for around 55 people. The segregated<br />

terrace is the icing on the cake and makes the hotel a top<br />

location for a wide range of corporate events and congresses.<br />

Companies from all over Belgium choose Hotel Britannia as a<br />

unique and creative location for holding their meetings.<br />

The hotel also caters to smaller groups and business people on<br />

the move. The luxurious and discrete meeting room is the ideal<br />

place to fully concentrate on the work at hand.<br />

HOTEL BRITANNIA<br />

KNOKKE<br />

Elizabetlaan 85<br />

8300 Knokke-Heist<br />

www. hotelbritannia.be<br />

info@hotelbritannia.be<br />

+ 32 50 62 10 62<br />

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DE HEERENHUIZEN:<br />

ESCAPE THE ORDINARY<br />

WHERE HIGH-END LIVING TAKES ON AN EXTRA<br />

DIMENSION<br />

Unique lofts in central Vilvoorde where character and sustainability<br />

go hand in hand. When you walk into the Witherenstraat, the<br />

beautiful façade of the Heerenhuizen immediately catches your<br />

eye. This authentic building forms the backdrop for ten unique<br />

lofts in the centre of Vilvoorde. A place where history and future<br />

go hand in hand. You can enjoy ‘the best of both worlds’ thanks<br />

to the distinctive façade and the sustainably built homes.<br />

10 UNIQUE LOFTS<br />

De Heerenhuizen is not just another real estate project. It consists<br />

of only 10 unique lofts, each with their own character and<br />

layout. Each loft has its own character and layout. High ceilings<br />

and separate rooms, a room to practice your hobby or work from<br />

home in, with that spacious loft feeling? At de Heerenhuizen, all<br />

your dreams will come true.<br />

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YOUR GREEN OASIS<br />

De Heerenhuizen’s great communal garden is one of the largest<br />

green, private spaces in downtown Vilvoorde. This beautiful setting<br />

offers you an oasis of calm in the middle of the city centre.<br />

The old painter’s studio in the garden will be restored to a place<br />

where you can really relax. You will be able to enjoy a summer<br />

cocktail, have a barbecue with friends or watch the setting sun<br />

after a hard day’s work. It is also an ideal place to get to know<br />

your neighbours. In addition to the spacious communal garden,<br />

each flat is equipped with an outdoor area.<br />

Due to the proximity of the railway station and bus stops, anyone<br />

who wants to use public transport can find travel very easy.<br />

VISIT THE MODEL LOFT, A PERFECT REFLECTION<br />

OF STYLE AND CRAFTSMANSHIP<br />

Together with renowned interior design brand Flamant, every<br />

detail was carefully chosen to create a warm atmosphere that<br />

provides an oasis of calm in the heart of the city of Vilvoorde.<br />

Come take a closer look at the model loft.<br />

EXCEPTIONAL LOCATION, IN THE HEART OF<br />

VILVOORDE<br />

Living in the Witherenstraat means living in a place where it is<br />

very easy to manage your life. You are right in the centre of<br />

Vilvoorde and only a stone’s throw from many major cities.<br />

Imagine never having to drive to the bakery, the park or town<br />

centre for shopping again. When you live in de Heerenhuizen,<br />

that becomes a reality as Witherenstraat is right in the middle<br />

of Vilvoorde. Whatever you need, it’s never far to walk.<br />

Vilvoorde is also a departure point for other cities. In less than<br />

half an hour’s drive you are at the main markets of Brussels and<br />

Mechelen, and within ten minutes you can be at Brussels Airport.<br />

YOU CAN SCHEDULE A VISIT BY<br />

SENDING AN EMAIL TO<br />

INFO@IMOYA.BE<br />

OR BY PHONE +32 (0)2 787 02 05<br />

FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT<br />

WWW.DEHEERENHUIZEN.BE<br />

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A real estate project developed by Imoya. www.imoya.be<br />

158 159


CINQUANTENAIRE PARK 2030<br />

The Federal Government intends to transform<br />

the Cinquantenaire Park and its Institutions<br />

into a New Sociocultural Flagship for Belgium<br />

On the initiative of the Secretary of State in charge of Science<br />

Policy Thomas Dermine; the Minister in charge of the National<br />

Lottery Vincent Van Peteghem; the Minister of Defence Ludivine<br />

Dedonder; the Minister in charge of Beliris Karine Lalieux and<br />

the Secretary of State in charge of the Public Buildings Administration<br />

Mathieu Michel are joining forces to make the Brussels<br />

Cinquantenaire site an attractive, socio-cultural and scientific<br />

Belgian flagship once again by 2030, the bicentennial of<br />

Belgium.<br />

The Royal Museum of Art and History, the Royal Museum of<br />

the Armed Forces and Military History, the Royal Institute for<br />

Cultural Heritage, and Autoworld are committed to developing,<br />

together with the non-profit association Horizon 50-200, an ambitious<br />

master plan for the Cinquantenaire site under the banner<br />

‘Cinquantenaire 2030’ culminating with two hubs focusing on<br />

Innovation and Heritage. The Cinquantenaire site and its institutions<br />

will become places of encounters, participation, multi-voice<br />

dialogue and constant exchange with a strong European orientation.<br />

National and foreign stakeholders will be involved, as well<br />

as citizens.<br />

EUROPE’S MOST AMBITIOUS HERITAGE PROJECT<br />

The master plan will open the vast collections of existing institutions<br />

to the public. A large-scale renovation of the buildings will<br />

ensure integration of state-of-the art infrastructures for research<br />

and scientific work. The construction of depot space and largescale<br />

redevelopment of the Museum Art and History is planned.<br />

The Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage will be integrated into a<br />

new master plan. The new master plan will initiate a reflection on<br />

how to optimize the two halls and to explore synergies in terms<br />

of collection management and public activities on a site-wide<br />

basis.<br />

The first floor of the Bordiau Hall will be transformed on a transitional<br />

basis into a temporary exhibition space. This hall will host<br />

the exhibition “Towards New <strong>World</strong>s” on the occasion of the<br />

Belgian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Also,<br />

an European competition will be organized for young architects<br />

to propose solutions for covering the traffic tunnel that cuts the<br />

park in two. The renovated Cinquantenaire site also aims to be a<br />

model of sustainability, ecological renovation, and innovation.<br />

A NEW SOCIO-CULTURAL FLAGSHIP<br />

To realize this ambition, on September 1, 2022 State Secretary<br />

Dermine created the non-profit Horizon 50-200, an enthusiastic<br />

team led by Board President Sophie Le Clercq. Their task,<br />

together with their colleagues within the Belspo institutions as<br />

well as other institutions present on the Cinquantenaire site, is<br />

to reinvigorate the Site effective immediately, building towards<br />

2030, under the banner ‘Cinquantenaire 2030’. The ambition is to<br />

turn the site and its institutions into a new socio-cultural flagship<br />

in Brussels.<br />

To set this process in motion, Cinquantenaire 2030 created an<br />

“Outdoor Lab” where artists and park visitors can meet each<br />

other. Cinquantenaire 2030 also welcomes the Art Nouveau Year<br />

and a Hoffmann exhibition in 2023. In addition, two large-scale<br />

projects at the intersection of art and science, heritage and<br />

innovation will be launched from 2024: one questioning the role<br />

of a museum in the 21st century and the other “Towards New<br />

<strong>World</strong>s: Belgian exploration through time and space”, led by the<br />

Belgian scientific institutions. Many more are in the pipeline. The<br />

programming that is helping to set the transformation of the site<br />

in motion is possible thanks to the support of National Lottery<br />

players. The aim is for Cinquantenaire Park to become a historic<br />

place where history is made every day by everyone together.<br />

Photo: Cinquantenaire Park<br />

To achieve this ambitious goal, the non-profit association is<br />

working with the Brussels authorities, Europe, the federal and<br />

the Brussels governments and their institutions, as well as many<br />

partners, private stakeholders, and public agencies, under the<br />

banner Cinquantenaire 2030.<br />

ALEXANDER DE CROO, PRIME MINISTER:<br />

“Together we want to make the Cinquantenaire site the place<br />

where everyone can meet. It is a collective Moonshot, we do<br />

this together with our scientific institutions, with the different<br />

museums that are here, with the buildings Administration and<br />

with Beliris”.<br />

JOHANNES HAHN, EUROPEAN COMMISSIONER<br />

FOR BUDGET AND ADMINISTRATION:<br />

“The Cinquantenaire Park is the green heart connecting people<br />

from all across Brussels and Europe. We feel lucky to have<br />

such a unique park so close to us. Therefore, the Commission is<br />

happy to be involved in the new plans which reflect a true Belgo-European<br />

cooperation. Together with the Belgian authorities,<br />

we just launched a European competition for young architects<br />

to design innovative solutions covering the tunnel. I am looking<br />

forward to seeing European creativity in action in the Cinquantenaire<br />

site. This could become a flagship project under the New<br />

European Bauhaus”.<br />

THOMAS DERMINE, STATE SECRETARY:<br />

“The ambition is great. The current site is still too much a mirror<br />

of how Belgium handled its heritage in the last century. Our<br />

country’s 200th anniversary is therefore a unique moment to<br />

come up with a future vision for the site and embody a vision for<br />

our country. The revamped Cinquantenaire site thus becomes<br />

perhaps the most challenging heritage project in Europe. We<br />

have the opportunity to transform the historic site into a campus<br />

of museums and institutions that share stories of a super-diverse<br />

society, with exhibitions with which to inspire future generations<br />

and institutions that provide a platform for research and encounter<br />

in the heart of Europe.”<br />

Photo: Cinquantenaire Park<br />

Photo: Cinquantenaire Park<br />

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I THINK THAT ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI)<br />

IN VISUAL ARTS WILL CREATE<br />

A GREAT NUMBER OF TOOLS THAT REPLACE<br />

CREATIVITY PRODUCED<br />

BY REAL PEOPLE TODAY<br />

Univ. Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Jan DE MAERE<br />

Jan de Maere is an art historian and a neuroscientist with the<br />

His way of handling the brush in a painting is exceptional and in-<br />

Vrije Universiteit Brussels (VUB). He is also one of the co-found-<br />

novative. Geniuses take shortcuts and see a design where others<br />

ers of <strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong> Institute and he talked with his peer,<br />

only see chaos. In some cases, it is possible to build a conclu-<br />

Director of Innovation Dieter Brockmeyer, about the challenges<br />

sive argumentation about quality in art. However, there is always<br />

of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the true quality and uniqueness<br />

a subjective aspect to that, linked to our beliefs, our experience,<br />

of art.<br />

and our specialised domain knowledge. This must be reviewed<br />

by an independent peer-review by other specialists.<br />

GIVE US A SHORT OVERVIEW OF HOW YOU CAME<br />

TO WHO YOU ARE NOW. YOU ARE REALLY<br />

COVERING A LOT OF DIFFERENT FIELDS<br />

I’m a dilettante. I was born in Flanders a family with an 800-year<br />

THERE SEEMS TO BE A LINK BETWEEN ART<br />

CONNOISSEURSHIP AND THE “NEURO” ASPECT<br />

AS I UNDERSTAND YOU. AM I RIGHT?<br />

Photo: <strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong><br />

documented history and a fine art collection. I started in sports<br />

There is a link to it by quality perception. The definition I gave to<br />

and after a short career, I became early-on a collector (at 16<br />

aesthetic quality in art in my PhD is limited to the experience of<br />

years) and an art dealer (at 20 years). I studied Law. I became<br />

visual arts, more specifically to meaningful drawings and paint-<br />

about the painting, while using only little energy in the prefrontal<br />

discussed the possibilities and problems arising with ChatGPT. It<br />

president of the Royal Chamber of Antiquarians of Belgium; of<br />

ings, including abstract art. With my colleague Guy Cheron at the<br />

lobes. Novices explore rationally many more possibilities before<br />

is not an analytical intelligence. It produces a statistical probabil-<br />

Ordinex, a Geneva-based NGO with consultative status with<br />

ULB Laboratory of Neurophysiology and Movement Biomechan-<br />

reaching an opinion. The second finding was that each of us,<br />

ity of the next word and the next step, mining all what appeared<br />

the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations; and of<br />

ics, we study the visual impact of painting and not its message,<br />

when we read a painting, build a scan path of eye movements,<br />

on the Internet. You cannot rely on its validity. Data have to be<br />

CINOA, the principal international confederation of art & antique<br />

discussed by art historians.<br />

an alternation of focal and peripheral view, to stabilize the ambi-<br />

collected by a peer review of specialists, such as the ongoing<br />

market professionals.<br />

guity of many possible outcomes of what we think reality is. The<br />

discussion upgrading of data in Wikipedia step by step.<br />

With Semir Zeki (University College London), Lionel Naccache<br />

brain formulates immediately out of the first incoming stimuli an<br />

I wrote some books on history and art history. Later, I obtained a<br />

(Sorbonne University) and Jean-Pierre Changeux (L’Institut<br />

opinion, which is upgraded through ‘backlash’ and new incoming<br />

Gradually precision goes up, but there is still a lot of incorrect<br />

PhD in Art History and Neuroscience at Ghent University. I taught<br />

Pasteur and Collège de France) who were part of the jury of my<br />

visual stimuli. Our sense of proprioception is the judge of the<br />

data on internet, slowly corrected by scientific correspondence.<br />

at many different universities, ranging from Emory University<br />

PhD, I was able to build a neurophysiological model of the cogni-<br />

(subjective) validity of the outcome. A rational critical approach is<br />

That is in contrast to the nature of ChatGPT and other functions<br />

to Duke University, VUB, ULB, Klausenburg, Vinnytsia, Odessa<br />

tive-perceptive the art experience in connexion with masterpiec-<br />

the second step to enable a correction.<br />

of ‘so-called’ Artificial Intelligence and deep machine learning.<br />

and others. I write since more than 20 years for L’Eventail and<br />

es. Eric Kandel, who discovered how we can learn by creating<br />

I wrote an essay on it, the “Victor Frankenstein Syndrome and<br />

<strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong>.<br />

Art and neuroscience are connected through connoisseurship<br />

seen as the highest visual experience of art. It explains how we<br />

can argue about the quality of two versions of a painting, which<br />

look similar as is often the case in Northern Renaissance and<br />

Baroque. With the help of scientific material analysis, I worked on<br />

specific cases of multiple versions to be able to distinguish the<br />

new synapses, told me once: “We have to analyse your brain<br />

and see how you come to your decisions as a connoisseur about<br />

quality in art”.<br />

I examined my brain and that of a few dozens of the world’s best<br />

connoisseurs at the Wellcome Centre for Human Neuroimaging<br />

with f-MRI. The first finding was that the energy-saving brain<br />

of specialists, automatized by experience a great number of<br />

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI) IS ONE OF THE<br />

BUZZWORDS OF THE TIME. ARE YOU STUDYING<br />

THE ALGORITHMS OF AI PRODUCING ALREADY<br />

TO SOME DEGREE SIMILAR ANALYSIS? DOES IT<br />

PROCEED DIFFERENTLY FROM HOW OUR BRAIN<br />

IS WORKING?<br />

Artificial Intelligence”. It analyses the possibilities of a valid use<br />

of AI. All its algorithms are initially based on human input and its<br />

flaws and bias. They combine things we would not combine. AI<br />

and deep machine learning comes to other outcomes and other<br />

procedures by changing the algorithms themselves. That’s what<br />

we cannot control, except by a complicated retro-engineering. It<br />

is the dangerous aspect of it. But as long as we can pull the plug<br />

of the machine, there is no reason to panic, but it will make many<br />

genius of the artist from the craftsmanship of his assistants.<br />

critical observations. It used only our incident-learning intuition<br />

With a colleague, Professor Raskin (Mons University), we<br />

people redundant.<br />

162 163


THAT ALREADY HAPPENED. THERE WAS THIS<br />

FACEBOOK EXPERIMENT WHERE THEY HAD<br />

THESE TWO AIS COMMUNICATING WITH EACH<br />

OTHER DEVELOPING THEIR OWN LANGUAGE NO<br />

ONE COULD FOLLOW. THEY HAD TO PULL THE<br />

PLUG<br />

The question is how long are we mastering it. As long as we can<br />

stop it, it is no problem. As soon as the machines become their<br />

own master, that will be a problem. It will be hard to regulate. We<br />

know from history that all great inventions were used for both<br />

good and bad.<br />

One day we will have to think about how we can regulate the use<br />

of Artificial Intelligence. And the big problem is the combination<br />

of tools like ChatGPT and social media, which is an exponential<br />

factor promoting populism. Since it gives the most probable<br />

combination of information, it manipulates people without critical<br />

sense. Since history, humanism and philosophy are barred from<br />

education by short-sighted politicians, there is no historical perspective<br />

for normal people left. Once I asked ChatGPT a question:<br />

“Is the gastronomic value of an egg from a cow greater than<br />

that of a chicken?” It gave a whole list of arguments in favour of<br />

eggs from cows, before telling that they were rare.<br />

in Rembrandt’s style, but even from 30 meters distance I could<br />

see it was not original when they showed it for the first time at<br />

the Breda Antiques Fair. It fools a great number of people, but it<br />

will not fool the experts. They took about 15,000 elements from<br />

Rembrandt paintings, and mixed them, before projecting it on a<br />

portrait of a Caucasian male. It produced the portrait of a man<br />

with a white ruff. It was common and kitsch. If you stand in front<br />

of a real masterpiece, you feel the flow of the emotional impact<br />

since it supersedes the horizon of your expectations. Art can only<br />

create aesthetic emotion on such a level. The novelty in art is<br />

more than a combination of plausible factors.<br />

AI will make a great number of creativity redundant, unfortunately.<br />

But the top masterpieces will always prevail to a critical<br />

eye of a connoisseur. Today unfortunately, the way the politically<br />

nominated cultural administration and the art market measure<br />

quality in art is at the price at which it sells. In the 1960s, paintings<br />

by Vincent van Gogh were not that expensive (equivalent to<br />

a Pierre Bonnard). In the 1980s, Japanese collectors started to<br />

buy Van Gogh. Prices went up. Everybody was impressed and<br />

the increasing price became a self-fulfilling prophecy.<br />

THAT BRINGS US TO THE QUESTION, WHAT IS THE<br />

ESSENCE OF ART?<br />

On Monday, May 8, Prof. Dr. Guy Cheron and Prof dr. Dr. hc Jan<br />

De Maere invited the artist Jan Fabre and some personalities to<br />

demonstrate the power of brainwaves and telekinesis in their<br />

ULB Lab of the Science of Neuro Mobility, Erasmus Hospital<br />

(Anderlecht).<br />

THE POWER OF<br />

BRAINWAVES AND TELEKINESIS<br />

Jan Fabre volunteered to move a little electric car and to fly a<br />

drone by means of his amplified dominant alpha brainwaves and<br />

achieved it brilliantly. Other optic tests linked with Electroencephalography<br />

(EEG) recording were conducted in connexion with<br />

connoisseurship and the neuroscience of cognitive perception of<br />

paintings. One of the research projects studies the scan path of<br />

the thousands of eye movements computed by specialised brain<br />

clusters (Brodmann zones) which compose finally a stable image<br />

of what we see when we look at a painting.<br />

De Maere explained how the brain physiology functions to<br />

propose a meaning to what we see: “We do not have a direct<br />

link with reality; only a subjective link computed by the brain, its<br />

bias and inferences”. Therefore, everybody sees his own reality.<br />

Cheron demonstrated also the integrated superposition of two<br />

faces at each side of a mirror, giving an opportunity to Fabre, his<br />

companion Joanna and the other personalities to merge faces<br />

optically by vibrating light.<br />

BUT ONCE YOU CONNECT IT TO SEARCH<br />

ENGINES IT CAN BECOME A VERY POWERFUL<br />

TOOL<br />

Yes, it can become very powerful but for what purpose? Professor<br />

Raskin and his group at the University of Mons are working<br />

hard to make procedures so that in certain fields of ChatGPT<br />

can work, based on verified info. That will make a lot of human<br />

workers redundant. Its evolution goes so fast that nobody really<br />

has an overview where it will take us. There is not much we<br />

can do about it. Research will go on and things will be used for<br />

peace, for war and for economic development, and for all kinds<br />

of situations, since we are evolutionary creatures promoting the<br />

survival of the fittest. I’m an optimist reading Francis Galton.<br />

Human culture and good sense will prevail, I hope.<br />

LET’S GO BACK TO THE FIELD OF ART AND CRE-<br />

ATIVITY. THEY ARE ALREADY DISRUPTED BY AI.<br />

THE PIECES OF ART (AND DEEP FAKES) CREATED<br />

BY AI ARE AMAZING. DO WE NEED TO FEAR THE<br />

DEATH OF HUMAN CREATIVITY?<br />

Its power provokes a lasting aesthetic emotion that we recognize<br />

as ours through our proprioception and our cultural identity,<br />

since it brings us hope for the future. I think that AI in visual arts<br />

will create a great number of tools that replace creativity produced<br />

by real people today. Creative jobs on a global level will<br />

suffer. The top will always prevail, because there is an aesthetic<br />

consensus on what is exceptional if you look at the historical<br />

perspective last 500 years. Nobody will question the quality of<br />

the Da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, Rubens, or Van Dyck’s<br />

masterpieces.<br />

These great old masters prevailed and will last forever, because<br />

they bring for every new generation some insight in the sense of<br />

our human destiny. That ambiguity in the brain keeps us puzzled<br />

and interested. Sublime beauty must be trustworthy, good, open<br />

to all and able to deliver hope for the coming generations. It<br />

tells more about its observer than about itself, since it keeps its<br />

mystery. When somebody buys a painting with his ears for its<br />

reputation, social prestige or to make money, he buys an illusion<br />

about himself. If afterwards it reveals being a fake, he is disappointed<br />

and angry. From that moment on, he feels insulted each<br />

time he looks at it.<br />

No, I do not think that AI combined with visual cues will one<br />

day create a new Michelangelo or Raphael. I observed the<br />

experiment of the Leiden Technical University and Rembrandt<br />

specialists in the Netherlands to make a quite plausible painting<br />

Jan Fabre directing a little electric car with his dominant brainwaves analysed by EEG on the screen<br />

Photo: Jan De Maere<br />

164 165


The faces of Jan and Joanna Fabre integrate under<br />

subliminal light flashes.<br />

Photo: Jan De Maere<br />

Prof. Dr. Dr. hc. Jan De Maere while under EEG analysing<br />

his eye movements when looking at paintings<br />

Photo: Jan De Maere<br />

Prof Dr Guy Cheron, Jan Fabre and Pro.f Dr. Dr. h.c. Jan De Maere, Université Libre de Bruxelles at the Lab for Neuro Mobility<br />

Sciences, campus Erasmus Anderlecht<br />

Photo: Jan De Maere<br />

166


DR. ROBERT SUZIC<br />

IS ELON MUSK’S<br />

AI MORATORIUM A SUBTERFUGE<br />

TO AID OTHERS IN CATCHING<br />

UP WITH CHATGPT?<br />

By Dr. Robert Suzic - PhD, The Royal Institute of Technology,<br />

Thus, is ChatGPT a new AI brain? The answer is no. Howev-<br />

Sweden. Over 20 years professional experience in the Informa-<br />

er, it can supplement aspects of our brain’s linguistic centre’s<br />

tion Technology (IT) field.<br />

capabilities. The key distinction with rational humans is that it is<br />

not designed to make decisions. Nevertheless, AI in general and<br />

Whereas ChatGPT is an innovative AI tool, it does not produce<br />

ChatGPT can offer valuable insights for decision-making. These<br />

ground-breaking content and is not a new AI brain. Despite its<br />

insights should always be scrutinized, just as we would with any<br />

benefits in language enhancement, coding efficiency, and story-<br />

advice received from an advisor. We, humans should mentally<br />

telling, prominent figures such as Elon Musk and Steve Wozniak<br />

adjust that what computer says is not always necessary fact or<br />

express deep concerns about potential risks of the technology<br />

and are calling for its six-month long moratorium. However, some<br />

true, it is just an output to be interpreted.<br />

Photo: Dr. Robert Suzic<br />

motives for their concerns may be impeding competition or<br />

Then why are notable figures like Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and<br />

over-hyping the technology in order to acquire additional funding<br />

co-founder of OpenAI; Steve Wozniak, Apple co-founder who<br />

1. Biases in training data, which can perpetuate stereotypes,<br />

take the AI-lead. Instead of slowing down, we should focus on<br />

for their ideas.<br />

praised ChatGPT in a recent CNBC interview; and Professor<br />

spread abusive language, and inflict psychological harm. In<br />

AI-utilization as well as increasing productivity in the context of<br />

Stuart Russesl, a general AI pioneer, voicing their concerns in an<br />

the case of ChatGPT, OpenAI dedicated considerable effort to<br />

an already fragile global economy.<br />

Risks such as biased training data, commodification of knowl-<br />

open letter titled “Pause Giant AI Experiments 2 ”?<br />

cleaning the text used for training. While one might argue that<br />

• Educate yourself – Rather than hindering AI development, why<br />

edge that may jeopardize information, and personal data<br />

OpenAI’s approach was exemplary, Time magazine report-<br />

not embrace the inclusion of responsible (ethical) AI in universi-<br />

protection issues are valid AI-specific concerns. The proposed AI<br />

Although ChatGPT’s algorithms are largely open, OpenAI has<br />

ed that some of ChatGPT’s contractors were remunerated a<br />

ty curricula? AI companies should also be more transparent<br />

development moratorium is likely an illusion. Instead of stopping<br />

devoted an immense amount of time to training and fine-tuning<br />

meagre wage of 2 USD per hour in Kenya, and subsequently<br />

about their data handling practices and algorithms they use.<br />

AI-development, embracing change, educating oneself about<br />

it. Competitors appear to be trailing behind and may want to<br />

experienced psychological harm while cleaning the text used<br />

Additionally, professional courses on this subject should be<br />

ethical AI, and improving the responsiveness of watchdog organ-<br />

catch up. Mr. Musk, in particular, might be even more discon-<br />

for training.<br />

offered. Becoming informed before forming an opinion on a<br />

izations can be more effective in addressing these challenges<br />

tented since he sold OpenAPI for 30 times less than its current<br />

topic should be a guiding principle.<br />

while maintaining AI’s positive contributions to society.<br />

valuation. He announced just a month ago that he is considering<br />

2. Easier security breaches with ChatGPT – Since ChatGPT<br />

• Watchdog organizations should be able to react more quickly –<br />

starting a rival AI business.<br />

simplifies software development and can mimic “company lan-<br />

AI (or for that matter Blockchain) regulation should address the<br />

Many who have delved deeper into ChatGPT realize that it does<br />

guage”, it may also be exploited by less tech-savvy malicious<br />

most prominent risks. Lawmakers, industry experts, and public<br />

not produce ground-breaking, awe-inspiring content. Although<br />

Thus, why not first impede the competition? The second motive<br />

actors. In other words, one does not need to be an expert to<br />

representatives should collaborate to regulate only the most<br />

innovative, it remains a somewhat mediocre tool when compared<br />

could be over-hyping ChatGPT and chatbot technology, turning it<br />

compromise information security.<br />

urgent aspects, rather than indiscriminately prohibit anything<br />

to truly creative content creation by a human. Indeed, it can be<br />

into something it is not – an all-powerful vicious and uncontrolla-<br />

with a self-improving nature that could ultimately help humani-<br />

highly beneficial for language enhancement, coding efficiency,<br />

ble AI brain. In this way it is easier to securing funding for a new<br />

3. Intellectual and personal data protection – This issue calls for<br />

ty cure diseases, or make the world a better place.<br />

storytelling, and fact presentation. Yet, it also can be likened<br />

“holy grail” technology project.<br />

greater transparency in AI model training to ensure that no<br />

to an average politician who lacks expertise in every issue but<br />

legal violations occur.<br />

1<br />

CBS interview with Geoffrey Hinton https://www.youtube.com/<br />

always has an opinion, and can deceive without remorse.<br />

Upon examining the references in the Open Letter, it becomes<br />

watch?v=qpoRO378qRY<br />

Geoffrey Hinton, often considered the godfather of artificial intelligence<br />

for his early advocacy of neural network-based machine<br />

clear that many of the risks apply to any information system,<br />

whether AI-based or a conventional one, such as producing<br />

inaccurate or unreliable outputs. Many old (10+ years) informa-<br />

IN CONCLUSION<br />

2<br />

Pause Giant AI Experiments: An Open Letter https://futureoflife.<br />

org/open-letter/pause-giant-ai-experiments/<br />

3<br />

OpenAI Used Kenyan Workers on Less Than $2 Per Hour to<br />

learning, also asserts, in his CBS interview 1 , that ChatGPT is not<br />

tion systems contain millions of lines of code where oversight of<br />

• Embrace change and boost productivity – The proposed<br />

Make ChatGPT Less Toxic - https://time.com/6247678/ope-<br />

particularly impressive from an AI reasoning standpoint. OpenAI,<br />

business logic is almost impossible to grasp. Nonetheless, three<br />

moratorium or slowing down of AI development is more of an<br />

nai-chatgpt-kenya-workers/<br />

the organization behind ChatGPT has never claimed that the<br />

primary AI-specific risks should not be simply overlooked, and<br />

illusion and a call for media attention to initiate a much-needed<br />

ChatGPT is an all-powerful AI.<br />

those are:<br />

broader discussion. If we slow in down in the West, China will<br />

168 169


LIVING TOMORROW’S<br />

NEW INNOVATION CAMPUS:<br />

BUILDING A SUSTAINABLE<br />

FUTURE TOGETHER<br />

How can technology and innovation contribute to a better, more<br />

sustainable world? This has been the core mission of Living<br />

Tomorrow, a Brussels-based innovation platform, since its establishment<br />

more than 30 years ago. With the opening of its new<br />

Innovation Campus in September, Living Tomorrow is strengthening<br />

its commitment to creating an environment that fosters<br />

collaboration to build sustainable communities, while putting<br />

the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into<br />

Photo: Living Tomorrow<br />

Yin Oei, CEO Living Tomorrow and Marijke Verhavert, Director TomorrowLab<br />

Photo: Living Tomorrow<br />

practice. Yin Oei, CEO of Living Tomorrow Group, and Marijke<br />

Verhavert, Director of TomorrowLab, the innovation and strategy<br />

consultancy pillar of the Living Tomorrow group, provide insights<br />

into this endeavour.<br />

The challenges we face today are numerous and formidable,<br />

ranging from climate change and accessible healthcare to smart<br />

mobility and data security. At Living Tomorrow, these challenges<br />

fuel the drive and enthusiasm to create partnerships that<br />

have a real and meaningful impact on society. By attracting and<br />

empowering partners, Living Tomorrow aims to build ecosystems<br />

that improve sustainability within organizations, across<br />

companies, and across industries. Within these ecosystems,<br />

they explore future scenarios, develop foresight and insights,<br />

and devise strategies and tools to jointly address the challenges<br />

of the future. Yin Oei explains: “You cannot do it alone anymore.<br />

Too many systems are interacting simultaneously, and they are<br />

moving faster than ever before. Moreover, change will only accelerate.<br />

Our current and common challenges require a collective<br />

effort from all stakeholders. We reach out to companies, NGOs,<br />

government agencies, knowledge institutions and sector associations.<br />

Over the years we have evolved, by gradually engaging<br />

more B2B partners and umbrella organizations. Why? Because<br />

many companies are struggling to implement sustainability in<br />

their growth strategies. The intent and ambition are there, but<br />

they lack insights into how to overcome barriers or even where<br />

to begin. Moreover, chain collaborations are required to address<br />

challenges of this systemic complexity. We can help them chart a<br />

path forward. By working together with all stakeholders, including<br />

their counterparts, and sometimes even competitors, they<br />

can address common obstacles and define a course of action.”<br />

“WITH A FOCUS ON<br />

COLLABORATION, DELIVERING VALUE,<br />

TECHNOLOGY, AND PRAGMATIC ACTION,<br />

LIVING TOMORROW EMPOWERS<br />

ITS PARTNERS TO MAKE A REA<br />

IMPACT ON SOCIETY.”<br />

YIN OEI, CEO<br />

170 1<strong>71</strong>


EMBRACING THE UN SDGS<br />

Marijke Verhavert adds: “The UN SDGs are an essential guideline<br />

in that undertaking. In fact, they have been directly embedded<br />

in our DNA since the start. There are three core SDGs where we<br />

excel, since they are so truly embedded in who we are: Responsible<br />

Consumption and Production, Partnerships for the Goals,<br />

and Sustainable Cities and Communities. We demonstrate<br />

sustainable technologies, products, and services that reduce<br />

waste, energy consumption, and carbon emissions. We facilitate<br />

collaboration and partnerships to achieve sustainability within<br />

and between organizations. Additionally, we showcase innovative<br />

urban solutions that improve quality of life, reduce environmental<br />

impact, and promote social inclusion as the future we all strive<br />

for is a human future.”<br />

Yin Oei continues: “Living Tomorrow offers a platform by providing<br />

resources, expertise, and a collaborative environment. We<br />

bring together experts, thought leaders, and innovators from various<br />

backgrounds to tackle different topics related to sustainable<br />

development. They address important aspects such as the safe<br />

and ethical use of data, healthier workplaces, and smart mobility<br />

solutions. From exploring new ways of working to reimagining<br />

mobility solutions, these workgroups foster interdisciplinary collaboration<br />

and generate practical solutions.”<br />

INSPIRATION ON THE SPOT: NEW INNOVATION<br />

CAMPUS<br />

Marijke Verhavert: “At the new Innovation Campus that opens<br />

in September, we will have different demo areas where visitors<br />

can catch a glimpse of the future regarding Smart Mobility,<br />

Smart Home, Smart Building, Smart Cities, Smart Health & Care,<br />

and the future of work. From these focus areas, we enable and<br />

encourage our partners to make tangible contributions to the<br />

achievement of the SDGs. It is a very pragmatic approach to sustainability<br />

and the future. The platform aims to make it easier for<br />

its partners to align their efforts with the SDGs.”<br />

Yin Oei: “At the same time, the new Innovation Campus will<br />

showcase what we are already doing today. Living Tomorrow<br />

believes in sharing the success stories of its partners and<br />

highlighting their efforts to inspire others. For example, Schüco,<br />

a Living Tomorrow partner, focuses on aluminium recycling and<br />

promotes circular economy practices that contribute to SDG 12<br />

(responsible consumption and production). They have 48 systems<br />

which are already certified with the Cradle to Cradle Silver<br />

status. The inspiring examples of partners are numerous, take an<br />

other example, BWT with their mission “Change the <strong>World</strong> – sip<br />

by sip”. They have a Bottle Free Zone philosophy and with their<br />

innovative filter technology, they are getting closer to their goal<br />

every day. By the way, no plastic bottles will be used for water on<br />

our innovation campus either. And what to me is a hugely hopeful<br />

Photo: Living Tomorrow<br />

Photo: Living Tomorrow<br />

message: everyone can make a difference. AFAS, a software developer,<br />

offers meals made from cultured meat on their campus.<br />

It is so enriching to exchange those success stories with each<br />

other. You also notice with the partners: they realize that more is<br />

possible than they initially thought.”<br />

THE HUMAN FACTOR… AND ITS DIGITAL TWIN<br />

While placing a strong emphasis on technology, AI and data,<br />

Living Tomorrow recognizes the importance of maintaining a<br />

balance between technological advances and human-centred<br />

values. Marijke Verhavert: “One of the most important things to<br />

watch over is that technology and data serve the human goal.<br />

We understand that people today can feel overwhelmed by<br />

its rapid development, but together with our partners, we are<br />

very careful that it is used to create a more human world, not<br />

a robotic one. On the contrary, rather than to replace humans,<br />

data can be a valuable tool to relieve individuals from repetitive<br />

or administrative tasks, enhancing them as human beings and<br />

enabling people to focus more on their core talents. Making the<br />

future tangible, helps people to understand and create better<br />

human-centred solutions.”<br />

Yin Oei: “Just look at the healthcare sector, where the implementation<br />

of a ‘digital twin’ can significantly contribute to time<br />

management and enhance personal care. These digital twins<br />

can simulate various aspects of patient data, processes, or even<br />

medical scenarios, providing healthcare providers with valuable<br />

insights and support in decision-making. To conclude: technology<br />

cannot be an empty box for its own sake. By actively engaging<br />

communities and seeking their input and feedback, we aim to<br />

create sustainable communities. Together, we can create a future<br />

that is smarter, healthier, more convenient, more sustainable, and<br />

safer for all. And above all: more human.”<br />

“BY EMBRACING THE SDGS AND<br />

SHARING SUCCESS STORIES,<br />

LIVING TOMORROW INSPIRES OTHERS<br />

TO JOIN THE MOVEMENT TOWARDS A<br />

SUSTAINABLE FUTURE.”<br />

172 173


BAYBARS ALTUNTAS<br />

SMART ENTREPRENEURS WILL<br />

ALWAYS SUCCEED<br />

Baybars Altuntas is the founder and chairman of the <strong>World</strong><br />

So, why don’t we invite all governments to consider developing a<br />

Business Angel Investment Forum (WBAF), a global platform to<br />

professional angel investment ecosystem with a legal instructor<br />

promote so-called angel investment. Over the years it has devel-<br />

in the verge and why don’t governments accredit qualified angel<br />

oped into much more than that. He talked to <strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong><br />

investors and entrepreneurs to invest in startups and match the<br />

Institute co-founder and director of innovation Dieter Brockmeyer<br />

investments, converting public money into smart money.<br />

about his vision for a global innovation ecosystem.<br />

President Obama liked this idea very much. I proposed a summit<br />

in Türkiye. We mobilized the Turkish entrepreneurial ecosystem<br />

DIPLOMATIC WORLD HAS STRONG RELATIONS<br />

WITH THE WORLD BUSINESS ANGELS INVEST-<br />

MENT FORUM (WBAF) BUT MANY OF OUR READ-<br />

ERS MAY NOT BE FULLY AWARE OF WHAT IT IS.<br />

PLEASE, GIVE US A BRIEF INTRODUCTION OF<br />

WHAT YOU ARE DOING<br />

including policymakers and we initiate an angel investment law.<br />

And we piloted incentivising angel investors who put their money<br />

into startups. We made Türkiye a pilot country to show it as a<br />

best practice to all other countries. The angel investment law<br />

passed the Turkish parliament. Today in Türkiye, angel investors<br />

are getting 100 percent tax incentives.<br />

Kosovo, Thailand and other governments also followed. I invited<br />

The latest statistics before the pandemic showed that there<br />

my angel investor institutional partners like Qatar Development<br />

were 320,000 business angels investing EUR 9.6 billion, only in<br />

Bank and in other countries such as Singapore and Indonesia,<br />

Europe. The figure was USD 26 billion in the United States and<br />

and I initiated a business investment forum as a platform where<br />

Canada. So in these regions, angel investment is very popular<br />

all the verge, early-stage equity market players, innovation<br />

as an alternative, innovative financial tool. But when you start<br />

travelling around the rest of the world, you can see there was no<br />

agents, governments and entrepreneurs could meet. Angel<br />

investors, corporate venture departments, wealth management<br />

Photo: Baybars Altuntas<br />

awareness about it. It was a very new idea for many countries,<br />

institutions, family offices, we are all coming together and brain-<br />

United Kingdom and have published 28 books, course books on<br />

in action for entrepreneurs, with many presidents and ministers<br />

including China, Thailand, Pakistan, Bangladesh, or India, and<br />

storming what we can do.<br />

angel investment and entrepreneurship.<br />

on the board. Our global efforts are creating an impact in the<br />

these are big countries.<br />

entrepreneurial ecosystems and for education from a policy<br />

I wanted to create global awareness for the importance of angel<br />

investments. Angel investment is what startups, policymakers,<br />

governments and investors need. Everybody, all stakeholders do<br />

benefit from the system. This is what I saw in 2009. I expressed<br />

this personal view in my articles in Türkiye and in some magazines<br />

in Europe, the US, etc. When President Obama organized<br />

THIS IS HOW WBAF STARTED?<br />

Yes, almost eight years ago. And the first global conference was<br />

in Istanbul seven years. Since then, it has became a global entity<br />

and also became an affiliated partner of the G20 Global Partnership<br />

for Financial Inclusion (GPFI), which is chaired by Queen<br />

Currently, we have around 1,500 international partners, senators,<br />

high commissioners, senior associates in 132 countries and<br />

10 country offices. Our Thailand country office is represented by<br />

the National Science Technology Development Agency, one of<br />

the biggest in Asia. For the grand opening ceremony in Bangkok,<br />

the Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand and almost all ambassadors<br />

of ASEAN countries joined.<br />

development point of view.<br />

LET US LOOK INTO THE FUTURE. WHAT WILL BE<br />

THE NEXT STEPS AND WHERE DO YOU WANT<br />

WBAF TO GO?<br />

an entrepreneurship summit in Washington, he invited me and<br />

Maxima of the Netherlands, and we are now the only institution<br />

We are focusing on three important issues.<br />

I was the only angel investor he met personally.<br />

LET ME GUESS, WHAT WAS THE ISSUE?<br />

advocating the importance of early stage equity markets and<br />

angel investment to boost economies.<br />

While the idea was to create only a platform where people are<br />

getting together and discussing, over time, we made more than<br />

THAT’S QUITE A LOT OF ACTIVITIES OF WBAF, BUT<br />

NOT THE ONLY ONES YET?<br />

There is one more thing, which is very important. We created five<br />

One: We want all science and technology parks and innovation<br />

agencies in the verge to engage with the WBAF financial inclusion<br />

program.<br />

I wanted to highlight the importance of angel investment for<br />

this. We opened a business school, we opened the Global Start-<br />

international committees, an exclusive group. One is the Global<br />

Two: Universities are very important higher education and we<br />

global entrepreneurial ecosystems and I saw that many govern-<br />

up Investment Promotion Agency, we established our own angel<br />

Women Leaders Committee, chaired by the former president of<br />

want higher education to engage with the program. The Azerbaijan<br />

ments around the world were making a mistake: They under-<br />

investment fund and started investing in startups. We developed<br />

Croatia, H.E. Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, and the Global Science,<br />

State University of Economics started implementing our web<br />

stood that people supported entrepreneurs and small business-<br />

financial inclusion programs for university for higher education,<br />

Technology and Innovation Committee, chaired by H.E. Syed<br />

program, and the Pakistan Higher Education Council is linking<br />

es, and started injecting public money into small businesses<br />

and another one for science and technology parks. We devel-<br />

Aminul Haque, Federal Minister for IT and Telecommunication of<br />

in the coming weeks. Also, all universities in Bahrain will engage<br />

as a donation. Entrepreneurs do not know what to do with this<br />

oped the financial inclusion centre which is online and open to all<br />

Pakistan. There is also the ethical governance committee and the<br />

with this program.<br />

donated money and spend it wrong and loosely.<br />

business consultants etc. We opened a publication house in the<br />

startup committee. The other exclusive committee is diplomacy<br />

174 175


And three: More country offices across the world. There are<br />

almost 200 countries under the United Nations umbrella and I<br />

think each country deserves a WBAF country office to accelerate<br />

angel investment and innovation ecosystems.<br />

TODAY THE GLOBAL SITUATION AND MANY AS-<br />

PECTS ARE HIGHLY COMPLICATED. AS A RESULT,<br />

INVESTMENTS IN STARTUPS HAVE DROPPED<br />

DRAMATICALLY. ENTREPRENEURS ARE IN A VERY<br />

DIFFICULT SITUATION. IS THERE AN ANSWER TO<br />

THAT?<br />

Your assessment is correct. But we need to make a distinction<br />

between entrepreneurs and smart entrepreneurs. We are in<br />

the 21st century and almost everybody wants to become an<br />

entrepreneur. In the 1990s, when I was studying at the university,<br />

entrepreneurship was not in our daily language. Today, whenever<br />

I come to the internet, watch TV, or when I read a newspaper<br />

article, the words startup and entrepreneur or crowdfunding are<br />

everywhere.<br />

The global situation is now pushing people to become smarter<br />

if they want to be successful entrepreneurs. Today everybody<br />

wants to become an entrepreneur and governments are pushing<br />

universities in this direction. In Türkiye, for example, not<br />

too long ago, faculty members, research and development<br />

teams were not allowed to open their own business. But now<br />

this has become the new normal. Now universities are pushing<br />

for innovation and then to commercialize it. So, the mindset of<br />

management has also changed in institutions like universities or<br />

innovation agencies.<br />

Photo: <strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong><br />

AND THE LAUREATE IS...<br />

Last November, for the first time, <strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong> Institute was object. “We have a long-lasting partnership with Ulrike and we<br />

able to honour the laureates of the Wholistic <strong>World</strong> Innovation<br />

are very happy to have her also involved in our important<br />

Trophy at an exclusive dinner gala event during the Democracy- Trophy”, says <strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong> president Barbara Dietrich.<br />

4All conference, held at the prestigious 13th century hall of the<br />

Casa Llotja del Mar in Barcelona.<br />

The entire WWIT jury board deserves gratitude. Without their<br />

efforts during the last two years in challenging times it would<br />

The 2022 laureate of the Wholistic <strong>World</strong> Innovation Trophy<br />

not have been possible. The President of the jury was Gülden<br />

(WWIT), London-based location tech company what3words, was Turktan, founding chairwoman of W20 – Women 20, the outreach<br />

represented by the company’s partnerships manager Will Irvine, group of G20 as a platform to enhance the women’s status and<br />

who explained the company’s secret of success. The company participation in the respective economies of the G20 countries;<br />

enables rescue teams and logistics companies to reach the destination<br />

and deliver much faster and more precise. what3words represented by Wendy van den Broeck. Her department also<br />

the university partner was the Vrije Universiteit Brussels (VUB),<br />

has divided the globe into 3 times 3 square meter frames that<br />

compiled the nominee dossiers. There is a representative for<br />

each have their unique combination of three words identifying<br />

each of the five continents, including business intelligent power<br />

each address quickly and without doubt. “We are aware we qualified<br />

for the Trophy because of rescue teams worldwide adopting and Jonathon Hutchinson of Sydney University. Nobody can<br />

house Omdia’s Maria Rua Aguete, SoryTech’s Lori H. Schwartz<br />

our technology”, Irvine said (See his full interview in <strong>Diplomatic</strong> apply for this award; the candidates are nominated independently<br />

by the organizations behind the board members representing a<br />

<strong>World</strong> 70).<br />

specific continent.<br />

Also the announced laureate of the previous year, the first one<br />

ever, was honoured at the Barcelona gala event. The amazing<br />

This year’s season has been already launched with some<br />

founder of Sydney-based education technology company<br />

changes in the board including Vasilisa Marinchuk presiding this<br />

Indigital EduTech, Mikaela Jade, explained in a video note how season. The announcement of the laureate will be in November<br />

the company opens new career perspectives for indigenous<br />

again with a complete new concept and additional partners<br />

people via virtual reality – not only in Australia. The model can<br />

in Brussels, Brockmeyer says and adds: “This year is likely to<br />

serve as a blueprint for many cases and groups worldwide.<br />

become a big leap forward to develop this Trophy into a global<br />

This was reason enough for the Trophy’s jury board to give the gem. There will be some announcement soon that will surprise<br />

first-ever trophy in 2021 to this outstanding company.<br />

you, I’m sure.” The Trophy was founded in 2019 and is meant to<br />

highlight outstanding innovations in business and society with<br />

This year’s presentation was jointly moderated by Dieter<br />

the potential of changing the world. It is also meant to foster<br />

Brockmeyer, co-founder and director Innovation of the<br />

a debate on a new innovation culture that will be necessary to<br />

<strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong> Institute, who initiated the trophy and Vasilisa cope with the growing speed of change that will further increase<br />

Marinchuk, co-founder and managing director of Democracy-<br />

in decades to come.<br />

4All, who handed over the certificate and an exclusive art object<br />

by Belgian-German artist Ulrike Bolenz from the Icarus series<br />

illustrating the outbreak of conventional personal borders. “The<br />

Icarus theme is a perfect symbol to give to young successful<br />

entrepreneurs because it shows what is possible when you<br />

think outside the box and at the same time it is a warning not to<br />

become too self-centred”, explains Brockmeyer.<br />

The work of the artist was introduced in a short video that included<br />

a making of the trophy but also showcased the various Bolenz<br />

initiatives including the peace project together with <strong>Diplomatic</strong><br />

<strong>World</strong> <strong>Magazine</strong>. Heads of State and world leaders, including<br />

Emmanuel Macron and Pope Francis, have received a framed<br />

Bolenz peace dove making it today a worldwide distributed art<br />

Photo: <strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong><br />

176 177


AYUMI MOORE AOKI<br />

THREE QUARTERS OF JOBS IN 2030<br />

DO NOT YET EXIST,<br />

AND ALL OF THEM WILL BE RELATED<br />

TO THE TECHNOLOGIES WE DEVELOP TODAY<br />

no age to change careers or industries. We have not only a pipeline<br />

problem, but also a retention problem. We have something<br />

like a three-point difference between the retention rates of men<br />

and women. Another thing is to inspire women who do not even<br />

know what technology is. It is not just coding, it is much more<br />

than that. Even if you do not know what AI is, you do not have<br />

to code to be a woman in technology. There are so many things<br />

you can do today. Three quarters of jobs in 2030 do not yet exist,<br />

and all of them will be related to the technologies we develop<br />

today. This shows that you should be involved in technology in a<br />

broader sense, and everyone is welcome.<br />

Ayumi Moore Aoki is the founder of Women in Tech, a global<br />

platform to promote and support women in technology. She<br />

talked to Dieter Brockmeyer, <strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong> Institute’s director<br />

of innovation, about her secret of success and her vision for<br />

this for the past 40 years! That was back in 2017. It really pushed<br />

me to do something. Sometimes things make you really upset<br />

and if you are able to turn this rage into something positive, that<br />

is when great things can happen.<br />

LET’S TALK ABOUT YOU AND YOUR VERY<br />

DIVERSE CULTURAL BACKGROUND. YOU WERE<br />

BROUGHT UP IN SOUTH AFRICA DURING APART-<br />

HEID. WHAT DID THIS FOR BECOMING THE PER-<br />

SON AND THE ENTREPRENEUR YOU ARE TODAY?<br />

women and humanity.<br />

YOU HAVE AN AMAZING BACKGROUND. SO WHAT<br />

MADE YOU INTERESTED AND HOOKED UP IN<br />

TECHNOLOGY?<br />

IN 2018 YOU FOUNDED WOMEN IN TECH, WHICH<br />

IS AN AMAZING SUCCESS STORY. HOW DID THAT<br />

HAPPEN?<br />

Very often people use women in technology for marketing<br />

I arrived in South Africa when I was 12. I did my high school and<br />

university studies there, so it really is a special place for me. It is<br />

this period in life where you start building those long-term friendships,<br />

you become a woman and you start being independent. I<br />

have only voted once in my life during the first ever South African<br />

democratic presidential elections. It was when Mandela came<br />

Photo: Ayumi Moore Aoki<br />

I was part of the corporate world and spent a lot of time working,<br />

not seeing my children growing up. When they were really small,<br />

I had to be in the office at nine at the latest, came home at seven<br />

I was the marketing director of a big company, part of a group<br />

purposes. If you are a woman in technology, you can get a 50<br />

out of prison. It brought me into a very closed society back then,<br />

or eight in the evening and then often continued to work. At that<br />

that owned casinos, hotels restaurants, nightclubs, well,<br />

percent discount on something. That is not what women want.<br />

at the end of the 1980s. There was this discrimination of race<br />

time there was no remote work. I wanted to be more flexible<br />

everything. But I was no longer satisfied with my job and I could<br />

We do not need discounts on events. Everyone likes it, but that<br />

and colour. It was still apartheid. Girls were not allowed to do the<br />

and to be able to make my own choices, but to make your own<br />

not find any purpose in continuing to do marketing for these kind<br />

is not going to solve the problem. We are not going to close the<br />

same things as boys, not in sports, not at school.<br />

choices you have to be your own boss. Then I got divorced in<br />

of companies. I have always been creative and liked to organize<br />

gender gap by giving women discounts on everything.<br />

2008. I was able to make my own choices in my life, including di-<br />

events. I was good in communication and marketing. I said, I<br />

Coming from Brazil I was used to do sports, play football. In<br />

vorce just because I was financially independent. Because of my<br />

have to start learning how to code because I wanted to be able<br />

We are going to solve the problem by working on it in real life.<br />

South Africa, we had all kinds of sports, like hockey, rugby, ten-<br />

children I need to be so much stronger. When I went to get loan<br />

to work from anywhere in the world with my computer and at<br />

Getting women to break glass ceilings, getting women into the<br />

nis and rowing at school. I wanted to go rowing with my friends,<br />

from the bank to start my company and said that I was divorced<br />

the same time spend more time with my children, travel, etc. It<br />

pipeline, supporting them with digital inclusion and in social pro-<br />

but we were not allowed because it was considered to be a sport<br />

with two children and an immigrant background, the doors were<br />

turned out that technology was the perfect choice for me.<br />

jects, that’s what I decided to do and founded Women in Tech, as<br />

for men. Therefore, girls were not allowed to do the same sports<br />

not very open for an entrepreneur. With my third and fourth kid,<br />

an international non-profit organization on a mission to close the<br />

as boys. Instead, we had to learn how to cook, sew and clean,<br />

people said that I would no longer be able to work. But I have<br />

I started building my own apps and, little by little, created my<br />

gender gap and to help women embrace technology. I imagined<br />

while boys would learn woodwork and metalwork. This gender<br />

always liked to prove people wrong.<br />

first company, a digital agency. I was making websites, digital<br />

it as a catalyst for change, focusing on four core areas that are a<br />

discrimination hit me hard when I was 12. We had to fight for our<br />

campaigns, branding, apps. Then I realized that being a female<br />

entrepreneur was not easy at all. As I started to hire developers<br />

for my team, I discovered that most of the CVs I received were<br />

from men. I could see that there was a space that was either<br />

call to action: education, business, social & digital inclusion and<br />

advocacy. Today we have more then 200,000 members and 45<br />

chapters all around the world.<br />

rights to be able to get on the boats. This was my first manifestation<br />

of activism. I also was not alone. I had a girls’ rowing team.<br />

This taught me the power of sisterhood. Mandela, one of my<br />

all-time heroes, lived in that period of time in South Africa. There<br />

WHAT IS YOUR VISION FOR WOMEN IN TECH,<br />

FOR YOURSELF AND FOR OUR SOCIETY?<br />

hostile for women, or women were very shy to go into it. I was<br />

growing my business and my family. Pregnant with my fourth<br />

child I spent almost six months in bed, I could not walk. At that<br />

time, I needed inspiration more than ever, I wanted to learn new<br />

tech trends, meet other women that had gone through the same<br />

THERE MUST HAVE BEEN A DEMAND FOR WOM-<br />

EN IN TECH BECAUSE OF THE SPEED AT WHICH<br />

WOMEN IN TECH WAS GROWING?<br />

was so much violence, so much instability, so much hatred,<br />

that everyone thought a civil war was about to break out. And<br />

Mandela came out, and the first elections were held, he came to<br />

power and everything went quite smoothly. He dealt with it with<br />

peace and understanding. That is what Mandela taught me. A<br />

My vision for Women in Tech is to impact and empower 5 million<br />

women and girls by the end of this decade. We have already<br />

started journey towards our goal and measure the impact<br />

through analytical reporting which shows how many women took<br />

educational programs, what kind of programs they took, how<br />

challenges that I had. So, I went to one of the tech conferences<br />

There is a huge demand, and a lot of it comes from communities<br />

great inspiration.<br />

many of them were mentored, how many events for women we<br />

and discovered that there were not many women working in<br />

of women who work in tech or want to go there. They want to<br />

have funded and how many women have received scholarships.<br />

technology.<br />

I knew we were largely outnumbered by men, but what I did not<br />

know is that this gender gap was getting bigger every year, and<br />

feel empowered, inspired and at the same time know that they<br />

are not alone. But we are also reaching out to people who are not<br />

yet in the community, students and women of all ages from other<br />

industries, because there is no age to come into technology or<br />

YOU HINTED AT SOME OF YOUR STRUGGLES<br />

LATER ON IN YOUR LIFE. HOW DID THAT IMPACT<br />

YOU?<br />

I want to be able to say we have impacted 5 million women and<br />

girls by 2030.<br />

178 179


PATRICK P. L. TSANG<br />

HONG KONG’S POSITION IN CHINA<br />

WILL BE VERY STRATEGIC<br />

AND IMPORTANT,<br />

EVEN MORE THAN BEFORE THE PANDEMIC<br />

Patrick P. L. Tsang is heading his global family office, Tsangs<br />

Group, that is investing globally into tech companies. He is the<br />

Founder and Chairman of the Hong Kong Ambassadors Club<br />

and is also running a podcast “Anything is Possible with Patrick<br />

Tsang”, interviewing the world’s most successful people with<br />

today nearly 100 episodes. He talks to <strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong> Institute<br />

co-founder Dieter Brockmeyer about his investment strategy<br />

and, along with his outlook on the future of Hong Kong as a<br />

global business hub in a still globalized world that is increasingly<br />

“more regionalized than ever”.<br />

set up the Hong Kong Ambassadors Club, basically to promote<br />

Hong Kong’s image. It is an organization for global investors,<br />

entrepreneurs, to try to deepen ties, build connections and to<br />

help showcase Hong Kong to the world, to bring business here<br />

and vice-versa. Tsangs Group has a Hong Kong office and others<br />

in London, Dubai and Singapore. We do not want to be restricted<br />

by geography. The world has become more and more complex.<br />

Even though there seems to be a kind of de-globalization, I actually<br />

think the world is still very globalized. At the same time, it has<br />

become more regionalized than it has ever been before.<br />

HOW DO ALL YOUR ACTIVITIES FIT TOGETHER?<br />

Photo: Patrick P. L. Tsang<br />

Thank you very much for the interview! Generally, I am quite a<br />

curious person. I like to learn and in all kinds of ways from, you<br />

know, health to business to personal, and I just want to keep<br />

improving. Our family has evolved from starting restaurants in<br />

the UK, to evolving to do and invest into real estate in the UK,<br />

Hong Kong and China. And in the last 13 years or so we have<br />

diversified by investing into technology. We like to keep changing,<br />

improving, and doing better for ourselves.<br />

The mission statement of the family business is to make investments<br />

globally. We invest mostly in technology, and we try to<br />

have a positive impact to create a better world. We do not touch<br />

fields like gambling, tobacco, alcohol, defence or weapons. That<br />

is why we have been doing things from AI to FinTech and more<br />

recently venturing into space tech, food tech, etc.<br />

And then, in my spare time, I started a podcast called “Anything<br />

is Possible with Patrick Tsang”, which is distributed via different<br />

kinds of media. It started during the pandemic. We decided<br />

to interview some of my friends to share their positive stories.<br />

Especially in Hong Kong at the time, with social protests and the<br />

economy as it was, this was one way to spread positive vibes.<br />

We have now done almost 100 episodes.<br />

Last year when Hong Kong was in dire straits, we decided to<br />

Photo: Patrick P. L. Tsang<br />

THE WORLD DEFINITELY HAS BECOME MORE<br />

COMPLEX. INVESTING IN DIFFERENT REGIONS<br />

HAS BECOME MORE COMPLICATED. SO HOW ARE<br />

YOU HANDLING THIS?<br />

Our business tag-line says “Think global. Be local.” First of all,<br />

that means we are very flexible and agile. That is why we do not<br />

have restrictions as to where to invest. Obviously, we cannot<br />

invest in every single country or city because we do not have<br />

the manpower. Locations like the US and China have been the<br />

focus. One thing we learned during the pandemic was that we<br />

need to diversify. Because of the ongoing US-China tensions, we<br />

decided that we need to be more active in neutral places, such<br />

as the Middle East and Southeast Asia, where there are plenty of<br />

opportunities. It means that even though we think global, we still<br />

need local partners.<br />

You need to understand the local markets, the culture and so<br />

forth, to be able not only to get access to deals, but also to be in<br />

a position to protect your assets and the value of your investments.<br />

In China, there are local versions of Uber, Airbnb, Google<br />

or Apple. None of these big brands has really been able to be<br />

successful in China. It took Coca Cola 19 years in China before<br />

they turned profitable. What I am trying to say is that the local<br />

guy always wins.<br />

It is always good to have the right local partner. Otherwise we’d<br />

rather not enter the market, regardless how great the opportunity<br />

is. We have been to different places in Africa, Latin America<br />

and Asia. And in the end, unless you are willing to live there and<br />

be there more than six months a year, you are unlikely to come<br />

out profitable. Because as soon as you are out of sight, you are<br />

out of mind. The local partner may end up thinking that he’s the<br />

owner even when you have put up all the money. This is also<br />

what I take from “The Prince”, the book by Machiavelli: You need<br />

to send your own guys into a new place to govern. That is why<br />

I am a big proponent of saying, you have to have a local on the<br />

management or you need a local partner.<br />

YOU’RE NOT GETTING INVOLVED DIRECTLY WITH<br />

THE COMPANIES YOU INVEST IN?<br />

I would like to emphasize that I do not get involved in our ventures.<br />

We are now in the midst of doing a business combination<br />

with an existing company that does co-working spaces in Asia.<br />

I am not a manager or CEO type of person, not even an entrepreneur.<br />

But I am entrepreneurial, that is to say I know how to<br />

help curate the story and how to bring the right people together<br />

to make business better. In this particular case, we are bringing<br />

extra value to the board and the management team.<br />

180 181


law, which is common law. This is very similar to the Dubai International<br />

Financial Centre (DIFC), where common law is applied<br />

(not local Arabic law), and the official language is English. That is<br />

what Hong Kong is trying to do.<br />

IN YOUR PODCAST YOUR GUESTS ARE<br />

TELLING THE SECRETS OF SUCCESS. WHY ARE<br />

THEY DOING THIS? AND AS A CONSEQUENCE,<br />

WHAT IS YOUR PERSONAL SECRET OF SUCCESS?<br />

I’m also confident that Hong Kong will not compete with Singapore<br />

or UAE. I believe that it is not about competition. And the reason<br />

for that is that all three cities are very similar and that the three<br />

very old cultural trading ports have become powerhouses and<br />

financial hubs.<br />

All three cities have no resources, there is no oil, nothing. They<br />

have been developed purely through professional workforce.<br />

Singapore is the gateway to Southeast Asia. Dubai is the gateway<br />

into the Middle East. And Hong Kong is the gateway to<br />

China. To get into, China you have to go through Hong Kong.<br />

I really believe in energy, I believe that the more you give, the<br />

more you get back. I am not talking about myself, I’m talking<br />

about the guests. These guys have achieved a lot. These guys<br />

are willing to share their knowledge. The older they get, the more<br />

they want to help young people. We want our next generation to<br />

do better. The best way to do this is to teach and to share all our<br />

knowledge, all the mistakes that we have made. Hopefully, they<br />

can learn from them and avoid these mistakes. They can do better<br />

than us. That is how the world and humanity have improved<br />

over centuries and millennia. I do not have a personal definition<br />

of success. I focus on doing something that I enjoy. Once you do<br />

a good job, rewards will come.<br />

Photo: Patrick P. L. Tsang<br />

We bring in money and we bring in our global network of investors<br />

or management to help bring more value to the company.<br />

That’s why we’ve been successful so far.<br />

significantly. We decided that we need to promote Hong Kong<br />

again. Hong Kong 1.0 is pre-1997, before the handover, Hong<br />

Kong 2.0 lasted from 1997 until the pandemic and now we’re<br />

talking about Hong Kong 3.0, a new beginning.<br />

THE HONG KONG AMBASSADORS CLUB YOU<br />

RECENTLY FOUNDED IS A GREAT NETWORKING<br />

OPPORTUNITY, BUT I UNDERSTAND THAT THE<br />

VISION BEHIND IT IS MUCH WIDER?<br />

I started setting it up with a few like-minded people since August<br />

last year. It was the first time I had been in Hong Kong for almost<br />

two years. I was super excited and elated to be back to see family,<br />

friends and smell the Hong Kong air again. At the same time,<br />

I was very sad because the place had lost a lot of people due to<br />

emigration. The pandemic had hit the people very hard. A lot of<br />

the shops were closed, the energy of Hong Kong had dropped<br />

China’s opening up to the world has changed the dynamics and<br />

the entrepreneurship of Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, for instance,<br />

we have a new initiative called the Greater Bay Area, GBA. This is<br />

an area with around 90 million people. It encompasses 13 cities<br />

around the Hong Kong-Guangdong area, one of the most influential<br />

and wealthiest regions on the planet. Hong Kong’s position<br />

in China will be very strategic and most important, even more<br />

than before the pandemic.<br />

The macro opportunity of investing in China is still huge. The way<br />

to do it is to invest into Hong Kong, into the GBA area. You can<br />

invest in a Chinese company in the GBA according to Hong Kong<br />

182 183<br />

Photo: Istock


SASHA LUND<br />

CONTROL IS GOOD<br />

BUT TRUST IS BETTER<br />

For many years Sasha Lund has been working with business<br />

the first kindergarten day is upon them. The mother has to learn<br />

families, family businesses and family offices around the world to<br />

to let go – detach herself and leave the child in the care of some-<br />

make them more resilient when transitioning into the next gener-<br />

one else’s capable hands. It is everything but easy.<br />

ation. She talked to <strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong> Institute’s co-founder and<br />

director of innovation, Dieter Brockmeyer, about why family core<br />

The same happens with family businesses when integrating both<br />

values are so important and about multicultural challenges<br />

external managers and next generation family members. For a<br />

transition to go smoothly, plenty of complicated and complex<br />

PLEASE, EXPLAIN YOUR BUSINESS AND WHAT<br />

YOU WANT TO ACCOMPLISH WITH IT<br />

situations need to be overcome. All parties need to be willing to<br />

adapt to “the new normal”. From the matriarch’s or patriarch’s<br />

perspective, it is often challenging to let go and allow for the next<br />

generation to take business decisions that tend to be different<br />

My company is called Core Values Consulting because I believe<br />

than one would have taken oneself. For the next generation it<br />

that doing business needs to incorporate your core values. Big<br />

is a frequent challenge to fill the parents’ shoes.<br />

corporations tend to forget that any business is made up of<br />

human beings and that is what drives us – even with AI on the<br />

Often a nagging feeling of “am I good enough” stops them from<br />

horizon. AI should be a helping tool. It will never replace humans<br />

fulfilling their full potential. Another common challenge for the<br />

and human emotions, which are very important when it comes to<br />

new young family business leaders is one of respect. You can<br />

Photo: Sasha Lund<br />

business. Hence, the main mission of Core Values Consulting is<br />

regularly observe older employees, who have been with the com-<br />

to help family businesses and business families in managing their<br />

wealth and transitioning it into the next generation.<br />

By wealth, I do not only mean finances and the X’s and O’s in<br />

your bank account. More often than not, family businesses tend<br />

to focus on having some sort of family members run the business.<br />

It is quite rare still that global family businesses externalize<br />

pany since their new boss was a baby, struggling with the new<br />

power dynamic. As you can see, there are many different layers.<br />

Running a family business is everything but straightforward.<br />

WHO ARE YOUR CLIENTS?<br />

boots, whereas in Texas it is almost a sign of respect. Accordingly,<br />

there are many cultural subtleties even within one country that<br />

you have to abide to. You then need to take that a step further<br />

and understand how that translates into the family and business<br />

cultures. If you fail at that, then the business will fail. It is something<br />

you need to be able to depict.<br />

YOU WILL HEAR SOMETHING DIFFERENT WHEN<br />

YOU TALK WITH PEOPLE ALONE INSTEAD OF IN<br />

THE GROUP<br />

This is exactly why it takes time because it is almost a political<br />

discussion or like diplomats having an argument to reach a<br />

management, meaning that they bring in managers from the<br />

I work with business families all over the world, apart from<br />

conclusion or agreement. It is not easy, especially when you have<br />

outside. It happens more and more often, but there is still a significant<br />

proportion of family members running the businesses.<br />

We know, over 90 percent of family businesses get destroyed in<br />

the third generation.<br />

Australia. It is an interesting mix of royalty, relatively new family<br />

business and one that goes back 500 years. A span that comes<br />

with its own set of challenges since, in this business, in a way<br />

it is not scalable. My business is about trust and people. And<br />

WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES YOU ARE<br />

CURRENTLY WORKING ON?<br />

younger family members, having too much respect or fear of older<br />

family members. “It’s okay to tell Sasha that I’m afraid of my<br />

father, but I’m never going to tell him that directly”. The key is to<br />

understand the dynamics to then be able to pull what is actually<br />

building trust takes time. There is a German saying: “Trust is<br />

With two families I am currently preparing a “Family Constitu-<br />

being said out of conversations, present that in a family meeting<br />

The main reason for this is not bad investments or bad business<br />

good, control is better”. I disagree with that: Control is good, but<br />

tion”. It is sometimes referred to as a family charter. You can<br />

and do it in such a way that everyone understands it without<br />

decisions. It is mainly bad dynamics between family members.<br />

trust is better! Having said that, living by this mantra means that<br />

almost describe it as the bible with rules for the family and the<br />

feeling accused or hurt.<br />

We all live in a world where we have conflicts, and resolving them<br />

my work becomes very time-consuming.<br />

family business. Now that sounds very dry.<br />

is often key to both internal and external success and fulfilment.<br />

Communication is key.<br />

WHAT DOES THAT MEAN FOR YOUR APPROACH?<br />

Another layer of my work that I found incredibly challenging but<br />

in a wonderful way is the incredibly multiculturalism. Working<br />

with families all over the globe means you have to both adapt<br />

and understand the sometimes huge and sometimes subtle<br />

cultural differences. Take the United States as an example: if you<br />

If you have rules and laws, almost by-laws set up, how can you<br />

then guarantee that they are followed in order for this document<br />

to become truly a living, breathing document that transcends<br />

generations and that is adaptable? You need to sit down for<br />

hours and hours with the core family members and see what<br />

YOU SAID YOU ARE WORKING FOR SEVERAL<br />

FAMILIES RIGHT NOW. YOU TALKED ABOUT THE<br />

TWO FAMILY CONSTITUTIONS. WHAT ARE THE<br />

OTHER ISSUES YOU WORK ON?<br />

Every single entrepreneur will admit that they have failed. We all<br />

were to approach a family in New York City, the approach would<br />

drives them. What is important to them both from a private, per-<br />

The two families that are doing the Constitution are the ones that<br />

hate it, but we learn from it. Growing a business is like raising a<br />

be very different than talking to a family in Texas. You would<br />

sonal perspective as well as from a business perspective.<br />

take pretty much of my time right now. I am currently leading<br />

child. Think of a mother who has been raising her baby and then<br />

never walk into a business meeting in the Big Apple in cowboy<br />

184 185


their next generation chapter, a council of next generations who<br />

are all shareholders of the family business. When you are in a<br />

shareholders’ meeting you want to carry the values of the family.<br />

Some big families have around 300 members. Not everyone is<br />

involved in the business and most of them do not even have the<br />

surname of the famous family anymore. What I try to do is bring<br />

them all together once a year for a retreat for up to three days<br />

where they all bond. This is what many of the next generation are<br />

struggling with because in today’s age with social media it has<br />

become much more complex to find your true calling.<br />

THE WAY WE ARE COMMUNICATING TODAY IN<br />

SOCIAL MEDIA AND HOW FAST WE SHOOT OUT<br />

THINGS CAN CREATE A LOT OF PROBLEMS THAT<br />

ADD A NEW LAYER OF COMPLEXITY TO FAMILY<br />

RELATIONSHIPS<br />

That’s true – and transparency. I agree with you on that; it can<br />

be a small comment taken out of context, in a stupid setting that<br />

someone records on a phone and next thing you know, it is a<br />

tweet on Twitter – and it changes everything. One person’s life<br />

can be ruined within seconds. You know how the saying goes:<br />

it takes 30 years to build a reputation and less than 30 seconds<br />

to destroy it.<br />

WHAT IS IT THAT YOU WANT TO ACCOMPLISH IN<br />

THE FUTURE?<br />

First of all, I do not like to refer to my work as my business. I see<br />

it more as an institution that helps people. I love seeing people<br />

grow, educate people. And education is also an easily misunderstood<br />

term. I think education is a two-way stream. It is not about<br />

me instilling my knowledge on other people. It is about learning<br />

and learning by doing.<br />

What I would love to do is more educational tasks within the<br />

family business sphere. I am very fascinated and find it incredibly<br />

appealing to work with people who are creators, artists, sports<br />

personas. At the end of the day, family business entrepreneurs<br />

are creators. Birthing new ideas and marrying those with knowledge<br />

from existing businesses and existing frameworks – that<br />

really excites me!<br />

Artwork: Ulrike Bolenz<br />

186


HALL F RENAMED AFTER<br />

CHEF FREDDY VANDECASSERIE<br />

Hall F at Brussels’ Marché Matinal was named after chef Freddy<br />

Vandecasserie on Monday 17 April 2023.<br />

One of the five halls of Brussels’ Marché Matinal was christened<br />

in tribute to Michelin-starred chef Freddy Vandecasserie, a true<br />

pillar of Belgian gastronomy.<br />

Originally from Bruges, Freddy Vandecasserie arrived in Brussels<br />

in 1958 and joined the kitchens of the Hôtel Le Plaza on<br />

Boulevard Adolphe Max, run by his father, just before the<br />

Universal Exhibition. He completed his apprenticeship with<br />

chef Roger Souvereyns and worked for a year at the Roi<br />

Dagobert restaurant in Meise.<br />

In the spring of 1962, he joined La Villa Lorraine, on the edge of<br />

the Bois de la Cambre, as a commis chef. He progressed rapidly,<br />

first working alongside chef Georges Nollet, then chef Camille<br />

Lurquin and Marcel Kreusch, the restaurant’s manager, and became<br />

chef de partie and then assistant chef. During this period,<br />

Freddy Vandecasserie was regularly sent to the Ecailler du Palais<br />

Royal in Sablon, also run by Marcel Kreusch, to reorganise the<br />

kitchen.<br />

In 1972, Villa Lorraine won its third star, making it the first restaurant<br />

outside France to be awarded three Michelin stars. Freddy<br />

Vandecasserie took over from chef Camille Lurquin in 1980, with<br />

Willy Slawinski as assistant chef, with 17 kitchen staff, 54 colleagues,<br />

17 different nationalities; his son Patrick Vandecasserie<br />

joined him in 1991.<br />

On the death of Marcel Kreusch, his spiritual father, Freddy<br />

Vandecasserie took over the reins in 1984. He ended his career<br />

after 50 years at the Villa but continued his family venture in 2012<br />

with the restaurant De Mayeur, opened by his son in Sint-Pieters-<br />

Leeuw.<br />

As a member of the Mastercooks of Belgium association, he<br />

continues to promote Belgian gastronomy throughout the country<br />

and beyond.<br />

After Jean-Pierre Bruneau in 2020 and Pierre Wynants in 2022,<br />

a third large sign on the façade of Hall F and a commemorative<br />

plaque bearing the name Freddy Vandecasserie were unveiled<br />

on 17 April in the presence of HRH Princess Lea of Belgium,<br />

the Minister-President of the Brussels-Capital Region, Rudi<br />

Vervoort, and a delegation of chefs from the Maîtres cuisiniers<br />

de Belgique.<br />

188 189


Freddy Vandecasserie remembers when he used to go twice a<br />

week to the Marché Matinal, where he met many other chefs.<br />

“We’d eat “pistolets au haché” (raw minced meat sandwiches)<br />

and bring back flowers... It really was a ritual!<br />

President Sevket Temiz and Mabru director Laurent Nys took<br />

the opportunity to pay tribute to the remarkable career of Freddy<br />

Vandecasserie, an emblematic Michelin-starred chef who contributed<br />

to Belgium’s gastronomic reputation.<br />

The Marché Matinal of Brussels, wholesale market known as the<br />

Belly of Brussels, offers a very wide range of products available<br />

to small and large retailers, grocers, supermarkets, food specialists,<br />

mobile vegetable growers, community buyers, to caterers<br />

and chefs.<br />

More than 100 growers and wholesalers, divided into five sales<br />

halls, offer fruit and vegetables, scoops, meat, charcuterie, poultry<br />

and game, fish and shellfish, cheese and dairy products, cash<br />

& carry, flowers and plants.<br />

The 14-hectare site receives an average of more than 22,000<br />

visitors per month. Between 8,000 and 10,000 tons of products<br />

are traded on the market each week. Between 700 and 900<br />

people work on the site. Mabru also has the largest photovoltaic<br />

installation in the Brussels-Capital Region, with 26,000 solar<br />

panels.<br />

190 191


192 193


DROPTERRA<br />

OUR VISION HAS BEEN THE SAME SINCE<br />

INCEPTION: TO ENABLE ACCESS TO CLEAN<br />

AND FRESH WATER TO AS MANY PEOPLE<br />

ACROSS THE WORLD AS POSSIBLE<br />

HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE IDEA FOR<br />

DROPTERRA?<br />

IN 2021, DROPTERRA WAS BORN<br />

A quick search on water consumption by sector brings to light<br />

The story of Dropterra is a deeply personal one. During the<br />

what is perhaps not obvious to the naked eye: the problem<br />

pandemic, our three founders were scattered across the world,<br />

extends far beyond human water consumption. It is in fact very<br />

between Latin America, South East Asia and Europe. As the<br />

multi-faceted, involving the agriculture sector fighting its way<br />

COVID-19 crisis unfolded, the magnitude of its impact acceler-<br />

through droughts and local municipalities who will shut off their<br />

ated and threw the world into chaos. We all know how this story<br />

water access during dry months; as well as mining compa-<br />

ended. However, one problem that was not as obvious to every-<br />

nies that need full-circle solutions for water they consume and<br />

one during the pandemic increasingly made it to the forefront:<br />

pollute; data centres that require water for cooling; golf courses<br />

the disappearing access to fresh and clean water.<br />

that struggle with increasing water bills to keep their fairways<br />

green; remote military bases; and ships that need on-board water<br />

This was particularly true in remote areas of the world where<br />

desalination machines as they cross the oceans – the number of<br />

fresh water was delivered in barges to islands or in bottles<br />

applications and use cases is almost as complex and vast as is<br />

on large pallets by transport companies who all of a sudden<br />

the underlying problem itself.<br />

had their own supply chain problems to manage. People were<br />

eventually scared to run out of food or access to healthcare, but<br />

As it turns out, water desalination and purification are technol-<br />

has anyone given any thought to what would happen if the world<br />

ogies we have used for over 75 years. They have in fact been<br />

would ever runs out of fresh water?<br />

widely adopted by countries and cities around the world. Often<br />

part of large infrastructure projects and involving significant<br />

Our founders witnessed the lack of access to fresh water first<br />

CapEx, those large water desalination plants have definitely<br />

hand and with their own eyes: empty supermarket shelves, hotel<br />

contributed to the solution and today provide millions of people<br />

In 2022, Dropterra decided to double down on growth and hired<br />

Dropterra’s vision has thus been the same since inception: be<br />

showers where water merely dripped instead of splashed out the<br />

with fresh water.<br />

David Westall as CEO. Mr Westall, an ex-CEO of both Coca-Cola<br />

part of the solution and not the problem, and enable access to<br />

faucet, and landowners and cities panicking about their future<br />

and Pepsi, brings over three decades of highly relevant expe-<br />

clean and fresh water to as many people and regions across the<br />

if water were to disappear. The thought is both frightening and<br />

rience with him and a successful track record in the precise<br />

world as possible. Innovative and constantly evolving designs<br />

admittedly overwhelming, but it caused the founders to research<br />

industry the firm operates in. Westall has since helped build a<br />

and technology, cheaper cost of manufacturing and improving<br />

existing solutions and to understand both the status quo and the<br />

business that is truly global, servicing and addressing clients<br />

conversion metrics enable Dropterra to convert brackish, salt or<br />

opportunity set in front of them.<br />

on all continents and addressing the water crisis, drop by drop,<br />

even contaminated water into fresh, clean, and drinkable water.<br />

across the world, building on the company’s ethos and as the<br />

This is for the most part achieved through a wide range of<br />

Our founders’ business backgrounds are diverse but comple-<br />

name implies: Dropterra.<br />

cost-effective and scalable solutions consisting of water desal-<br />

mentary, coming from the commodity trading industry on one<br />

ination and purification systems, allowing the client to produce<br />

end and the banking & investment sector on the other. Questioning<br />

the existing narrative thankfully is part of their DNA, which<br />

ultimately led them to ask the following questions: “Given today’s<br />

WHAT IS DROPTERRA’S VISION AND MISSION?<br />

fresh and clean water for as little as USD 0.30 per 1,000 litres<br />

(1 cubic meter).<br />

technology and knowledge, how can it be that such a significant<br />

Access to clean and potable water for everyone on Planet Earth<br />

Our engineers are relentless when it comes to focusing on the<br />

portion of our planet’s population does not have access to clean<br />

is a daunting task. We all know too well from history and past<br />

environment, working on multiple touchpoints to find ways to re-<br />

water? Is there a better way to use the existing body of water<br />

experiences that the journey to success and improvements is a<br />

duce our carbon footprint. For example, we are working on more<br />

and can it be accessed by more people in an economically and<br />

long and arduous one – but nevertheless worthwhile undertaking.<br />

eco-friendly and self-contained units for our systems versus large<br />

environmentally more sensible and sustainable way”?<br />

It is not only important, but vital.<br />

steel containers that are expensive to move and difficult to place<br />

194 195


Hartmann Tresore_right side.pdf 2 13/05/2022 13:16<br />

in remote locations. We use solar power as often as feasible<br />

and constantly look for productive ways to repurpose the brine<br />

discharge in every application.<br />

In real life, the benefits of Dropterra’s work often reach far beyond<br />

the economic and environmental aspects: the firm is highly<br />

engaged with local communities and culturally sensitive. Dropterra<br />

team members often travel far and to all corners of the world,<br />

developing capabilities of system assembly locally, training local<br />

teams directly on maintenance and servicing and thereby leaving<br />

behind a self-sufficient capability to produce fresh water in a<br />

sustainable way.<br />

The result is remarkable: Dropterra is able to offer a wide variety<br />

of production capacities, with hourly fresh water production<br />

between 30 litres/hr to 5 million litres/hr and costs of water<br />

production often significantly below the existing alternative (USD<br />

0.30 per 1,000 litres of fresh water). The output water can be calibrated<br />

to fit the specific needs of clients, whether it be irrigation<br />

water for golf courses and agricultural use or potable water to<br />

fill up water bottles in rural regions – the client can dictate and<br />

measure both their output water quality and volume.<br />

Dropterra believes that its vision and mission carry plenty of<br />

weight and thus takes its responsibilities very seriously. The company<br />

is a firm believer in good ethics and important core values,<br />

and thus strives to be loyal partners to clients as well as key<br />

partners in the communities the company operates in.<br />

A founding member of Dropterra is known for coining the following<br />

phrase: “No one can do everything, but everyone can do<br />

something”. Little by little and system by system, Dropterra is<br />

proud to do its part on a daily basis when delivering on its promise<br />

of “Water. How you need it. Where you need it.”<br />

WHAT MAKES DROPTERRA SPECIAL?<br />

crisis is likely to become worse and not better in the foreseeable<br />

future.<br />

With offices on three continents (North America, Europe and<br />

Asia), Dropterra can provide effective client services and can<br />

furthermore cover developing regions in Latin America, Africa,<br />

the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Pacific Islands including<br />

Australia and its neighbouring countries.<br />

Dropterra’s executives and ambassadors assemble an impressive<br />

array of skills and experiences: decades in the water and<br />

beverages sector, global trade and mining, project financing and<br />

expertise in scaling logistically difficult operations in remote parts<br />

of the world.<br />

The advantage of Dropterra’s approach as well as being able to<br />

scale through modular integration of Dropterra systems makes<br />

the company nimble and highly competitive. Whereas manufacturers<br />

of water desalination machines are restricted by the limits<br />

of their own processes and systems which they offer, Dropterra’s<br />

vendor-neutral approach gives the company a distinct competitive<br />

advantage: it can tackle a much wider array of solutions,<br />

offer systems small and large, simple and complex, off the shelf<br />

or entirely custom-made.<br />

Dropterra systems can be powered according to specific needs:<br />

solar, municipal grid, waves, gravity, wind, or a combination of<br />

types of power. Paired with around the clock monitoring and servicing<br />

and the firm commitment of being with clients throughout<br />

their entire journey, Dropterra provides a much-needed solution<br />

to a growing problem. The firm has invested in technology that<br />

brings to the market an offering that did not exist in this way<br />

before: an integrated one-stop-shop for clients across the globe<br />

that can address a wide array of water needs to provide smart,<br />

cost effective, and well-functioning systems that reliably provide<br />

clients with one of the most precious resources we share on<br />

planet earth: Water.<br />

C<br />

M<br />

Y<br />

CM<br />

MY<br />

CY<br />

CMY<br />

K<br />

It goes without saying that water seems to be everywhere in almost<br />

all parts of the world, whether it be in rivers, oceans, lakes,<br />

rain clouds, in bottled form in supermarket shelves etc. Given<br />

that water is seemingly so accessible, wherein lies the problem<br />

then? Currently, more than 785 million people lack access to<br />

drinkable water – that is more than one out of ten people on the<br />

planet.<br />

Dropterra Limited: +357 22 032689 - office@dropterra.com<br />

Even more, over two billion people live without access to adequate<br />

sanitation water and have to walk miles for clean water.<br />

Add to that the business economics of large players like Nestle,<br />

Danone, and the Coca-Cola company who often own the bottled<br />

water sector; the possible effects of climate change including<br />

droughts; and the fact that we pollute large volumes of water<br />

every day; and one can quickly derive that the existing water<br />

196


EXPEDITION EGYPT<br />

ART & HISTORY<br />

MUSEUM<br />

From 31 March to 1 October 2023, the Art & History Museum<br />

presents the exhibition Expedition Egypt. This exhibition narrates<br />

the story of two centuries of fascinating archaeological discoveries<br />

in the Land of the Pharaohs and the development of the<br />

Egyptian collection of the museum.<br />

Egyptian collection that is among of the most important in<br />

Europe. This collection is the subject of a great deal of multidisciplinary<br />

research as well as of an active restoration policy, which<br />

seeks to bring back to life many treasures of this exceptional<br />

heritage.<br />

The exhibition brings together more than two hundred objects<br />

from its eminent Egyptian collection. Highlights include the<br />

sumptuously decorated coffins from the priestly hideaway of Deir<br />

el-Bahari, and the beautifully illustrated Book of the Dead of the<br />

dignitary Neferrenpet. Objects like funerary stelae, canopic vases<br />

for the entrails of the deceased, and shabti figurines meant to<br />

accompany the dead in the afterlife, will introduce the visitors to<br />

the Egyptian world of the gods and eternal life. Another highlight<br />

of the exhibition is a monumental statue of the goddess Sekhmet<br />

from the Royal Palace, which was transferred to the Art & History<br />

Museum for this exhibition. The exhibition will also be richly<br />

provided with unique historical photographic material portraying<br />

the Egypt of the past.<br />

The exhibition is divided into eight chronological sections that<br />

guide visitors through two centuries of history. The story begins<br />

in the nineteenth century, when Belgian diplomatic and industrial<br />

circles became increasingly interested in Egypt, which at the<br />

time was central to international politics and global economic<br />

expansion. The first Egyptian artefacts in the collection were<br />

mainly private donations or diplomatic gifts. This was followed by<br />

other important additions to the collection, such as the artefacts<br />

brought back from Egypt by Leopold, Duke of Brabant, the future<br />

Leopold II, and the exceptional group of coffins from the priestly<br />

hideaway of Deir el-Bahari, which are on display again for the<br />

first time since their restoration.<br />

In the first decades of the 20th century, the collection grew by<br />

several thousand artefacts thanks to the tremendous energy of<br />

conservator Jean Capart (1877–1947), the founder of Belgian<br />

Egyptology. Through the many initiatives he took, Capart made<br />

Brussels the world capital of Egyptology at that time. After<br />

visiting the inviolate tomb of Tutankhamen in the company of the<br />

Belgian Queen Elisabeth, he established in 1923 the Fondation<br />

égyptologique Reine Elisabeth, a scientific institute of international<br />

renown, which celebrates its centenary this year.<br />

Today, the Art & History Museum houses a remarkably rich<br />

The exhibitions is enlivened by the artistic interventions of Sara<br />

Sallam (born 1991 in Cairo). The artist explores contemporary<br />

Egyptian cultural identity and questions the history and meaning<br />

of Egyptology. Imbued with poetry and influenced by her childhood<br />

memories, Sara Sallam’s work casts a fresh gaze on the<br />

heritage of ancient Egypt.<br />

The exhibition Expedition Egypt is one of the outcomes of the<br />

research project Pyramids & Progress: Belgian Expansionism<br />

and the Making of Egyptology 1830–1952 (EOS, FWO–FNRS).<br />

The aim of this project was to study the development of Belgian<br />

Egyptology, in the context of Belgium’s economic and diplomatic<br />

development. The historical photographic material in the<br />

exhibition comes from the scientific project “Sura: Unlocking the<br />

Photographic Archives of the Pioneering Years of Egyptology<br />

at the Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels” (Belspo,<br />

Belgian Science Policy Office).<br />

A richly illustrated catalogue, published by Ludion, accompanies<br />

the exhibition, describing the story of Belgian Egyptology, as well<br />

Photo: Embassy of Egypt in Belgium<br />

as all the individual artefacts on display. The exhibition is under<br />

the Patronage of Her Majesty the Queen of the Belgians.<br />

ABOUT THE EXHIBITION<br />

1822: Jean-François Champollion solves the mystery of hieroglyphs.<br />

A forgotten civilisation regains its voice, and a new<br />

scientific field is born: Egyptology. This is the start of two<br />

hundred years of expeditions in the world of the Pharaohs. This<br />

era is marked by expeditions to the Nile Valley, from Bonaparte’s<br />

armies to the archaeologists’ explorations.<br />

Thousands of Egyptian objects are transported to Western museums.<br />

Far from their native homeland, these artefacts fascinate,<br />

intrigue, and stir up an unquenchable passion for Egypt. The<br />

Photo: <strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong><br />

objects on display in this exhibition – many of which have never<br />

been shown before – tell the story of the Museum’s Egyptian<br />

collection. This tale is interwoven with romantic characters and<br />

paced by fascinating archaeological discoveries.<br />

Travelling along this story is tantamount to embarking on an<br />

expedition to find our sources of the Nile and our fascination with<br />

Pharaonic Egypt...<br />

This journey is interspersed by the artistic interventions of Sara<br />

Sallam (°1991). Born in Cairo, the artist explores contemporary<br />

Egyptian cultural identities and examines the history and meaning<br />

of Egyptology. Sara Sallam’s artworks feed on childhood<br />

memories, draw on museum and archaeological sources, and<br />

propose a new, poetic approach to the heritage of ancient Egypt.<br />

198 199


BIRTH OF THE EGYPTIAN COLLECTION<br />

In 1830, Belgium becomes an independent country. Five years<br />

later, the government decides to establish a national museum,<br />

which was named the Musée d’Armes anciennes, d’Armures,<br />

d’Objets d’Art et de Numismatique, and subsequently the Musée<br />

royal d’Antiquités, d’Armures et d’Artillerie. At the time, the<br />

Museum was housed in what is now the Royal Library, before<br />

moving to the Halle Gate. Its purpose was essentially patriotic<br />

and military. The first catalogue, published in 1854, lists only<br />

some ten Egyptian objects in the collection, which were donated<br />

by several private collectors.<br />

THE TRAVELS OF PRINCE LEOPOLD<br />

While he was still the Duke of Brabant, the future King Leopold II<br />

(1865-1909) made two state visits to Egypt, in 1855 and 1862-<br />

63. The prince brings back an impressive collection of antiquities<br />

which are displayed in the palace stables on the Place du Trône.<br />

In 1914, the collection is moved to the Musée du Cinquantenaire<br />

and the only two pieces to remain in the Brussels Palace are two<br />

magnificent statues of the goddess Sekhmet. In 1935, Leopold III<br />

sent a few more pieces from the royal collection to the museum,<br />

notably the statuette of Khay, inside which Jean Capart uncovers<br />

the renowned Papyrus Leopold II. This extraordinary document<br />

contains the depositions of thieves involved in the looting of<br />

Theban royal tombs during the reign of Ramesses IX (around<br />

1125 BC).<br />

THE HAGEMANS COLLECTION (1861) AND THE<br />

RAVESTEIN MUSEUM (1874)<br />

In 1861, the Egyptian collection expanded by several dozen objects<br />

from the collection of Gustave Hagemans (1830-1908). As a<br />

member of parliament for the district of Thuin from 1866 to 1878,<br />

he was blessed with a comfortable family fortune.<br />

Photo: Art & History Museum<br />

200 201


Photo: Art & History Museum<br />

Photo: Art & History Museum<br />

Photo: Art & History Museum<br />

In 1861, he sold nearly 1 500 antiquities of all sorts to the<br />

Museum, including nearly 200 Egyptian objects. The most notable<br />

of these is the famous statue of the “Lady of Brussels”.<br />

Emile de Meester de Ravestein (1812-1889) was a diplomat and<br />

Belgium’s representative to the Holy See. He built up a large<br />

collection of Greek, Etruscan, Roman, and Egyptian antiquities<br />

in Italy. In 1874, de Meester de Ravestein donated his collection<br />

to the Belgian state, on the condition that it was presented in the<br />

form of a “Ravestein Museum”. This was the case until the collections<br />

were moved from the Halle Gate to the Cinquantenaire<br />

site in 1889. Some 350 Egyptian objects and groups of objects<br />

are amongst these five thousand items.<br />

1891 – 1897 THE GIFT OF THE KHEDIVE<br />

In 1894, the collection was expanded by an important series of<br />

objects from one of the most fabulous archaeological discoveries<br />

of the 19th century, the so-called “Second Cache” of Deir<br />

el-Bahari. In 1891, Eugène Grébaut, Director of the Egyptian Antiquities<br />

Service, and his assistant, Georges Daressy, uncovered<br />

a huge intact collective tomb near the Temple of Hatshepsut at<br />

Deir el-Bahari, which contained the coffins of the priests of Amun<br />

of the 21st Dynasty and their families. In total, several hundred<br />

coffins were uncovered, along with countless other funerary<br />

objects. Sadly, this major discovery also proved a major archaeological<br />

disaster: the tomb was emptied in just a few days without<br />

any plan having been drawn up.<br />

In the face of such a massive influx of objects, the Cairo Museum<br />

and the government of the Egyptian Khedive (the title of the<br />

Egyptian rulers during the Ottoman period) decided to offer<br />

consignments of coffins from Deir el-Bahari to various countries,<br />

including Belgium.<br />

The Museum thus received an impressive series of ten coffins<br />

and “mummy boards”, as well as a large number of other objects<br />

from this extraordinary cache... Shortly thereafter, in 1897, an<br />

important International Exhibition was held at the Cinquantenaire.<br />

A neo-moorish building was erected to accommodate a painting<br />

by Emile Wauters, the Panorama du Caire. In an era when Egypt<br />

was only accessible to wealthy tourists, the Panorama allowed<br />

everyone to escape to the land of the pharaohs through an<br />

image.<br />

1900 – 1947 JEAN CAPART AND THE<br />

EGYPTOLOGICAL UTOPIA<br />

In 1900, at the tender age of twenty-three, Jean Capart (1877-<br />

1947) was appointed assistant curator of the Museum. He<br />

subsequently became the Museum’s curator and then its Director<br />

General. Through his obstinacy, his perspicacity, his interpersonal<br />

skills and his gifts of persuasion, the unflaggingly enthusiastic<br />

and dynamic Capart gave the Egyptian collection its real impetus<br />

over the next fifty years. He turns Brussels into the world capital<br />

of Egyptology.<br />

1900 – 1947 JEAN CAPART AND THE BRITISH<br />

EXCAVATIONS<br />

As soon as 1900, one of Jean Capart’s main initiatives consisted<br />

in securing financial support from the Museum for the excavations<br />

undertaken in Egypt by the English archaeologists of the<br />

Egypt Exploration Fund (now Egypt Exploration Society). At the<br />

time, the Egyptian Antiquities Service granted archaeological<br />

missions the right to take a portion of the objects collected during<br />

their excavation. The objects were then distributed among<br />

202 203


the institutions and museums that had contributed to the financing<br />

of the campaign, in proportion to their investment. This policy<br />

was successful because, until the late 1930s, Capart managed to<br />

collect large consignments of objects from all the most prestigious<br />

archaeological sites in Egypt – including Abydos, Memphis,<br />

Gurob, Meidum, Deir Rifeh, Deir el-Bahari and Amarna, the<br />

capital of King Akhenaten – and various sites in Nubia, for the<br />

Egyptian collection. These objects found in regular and scientific<br />

excavations now form the bulk of the collection, which is particularly<br />

valuable to researchers. Indeed, for these researchers, any<br />

object found in its archaeological context is much more eloquent<br />

than one the origin of which is unknown.<br />

1947 TO TODAY: NEW PRIORITIES, NEW<br />

CHALLENGES<br />

In the 21st century, the curators of the Egyptian section no<br />

longer focus on adding items to a collection that now boasts<br />

some twelve thousand objects or groups of objects representing<br />

every aspect of Egyptian civilisation. Today, curators primarily<br />

focus on the study and valorisation of the collection. Through an<br />

active scientific research policy, often implemented within the<br />

framework of international research partnerships, our knowledge<br />

of the objects in the collection and the archaeological sites from<br />

which they came constantly grows. These projects bring together<br />

researchers from a wide range of disciplines, as well as the Museum’s<br />

restoration workshops, which bring the objects back to<br />

life through cutting-edge technology.<br />

Furthermore, the days when Egyptian archaeological excavations<br />

contributed to European collections are long gone. Today,<br />

Egypt manages its archaeological heritage independently, and<br />

not a single object discovered in the Nile Valley is allowed to<br />

leave the country. In this respect, the Royal Museums of Art and<br />

History – like all museums – strictly follow the rules set by<br />

UNESCO regarding the respect and protection of national<br />

heritage.<br />

Photo: Art & History Museum<br />

Photos: <strong>Diplomatic</strong> <strong>World</strong><br />

204 205


JEWELLERY IN ANCIENT EGYPT:<br />

TECHNIQUE AND SYMBOLISM<br />

Certain gemstones had symbolic meanings and were believed<br />

to possess protective and healing properties. For example, lapis<br />

lazuli was associated with the sky and was believed to have a<br />

purifying effect on the wearer, while carnelian was associated<br />

with the sun and was believed to bring courage and vitality.<br />

Fine stones were often reserved for the elite and were used to<br />

adorn the pharaohs and other members of the royal family. They<br />

Ms Naglaa Abdelatty, spouse of H.E. Badr Abedlatty, Ambassador<br />

gold exploration was a royal monopoly. Once a gold vein was<br />

were used to make elaborate crowns, headdresses, and collars<br />

of the Arab Republic of Egypt in Brussels, held a lecture at the<br />

found, expeditions of hundreds of people were organised. The<br />

that conveyed power, status, and divine connections.<br />

Ambassador’s residence delivered by Dr Nicolas Gauthier, who<br />

quality of gold varied as well: pure 24-carat gold, called<br />

enlightened the audience on the rich Pharaonic history of Egypt,<br />

“perfect gold” (nebou nefer), was very rare. White gold (Djam)<br />

The difficulty in finding these minerals at times had pushed the<br />

and how it can be observed through jewellery, its symbolism and<br />

is a lower-quality gold containing a high percentage of silver<br />

Egyptians to invent materials that could replace them. As early<br />

the techniques of that time.<br />

(found naturally in the eastern deserts) was also used. Gold<br />

as the Old Kingdom, they knew how to cover soft stones with<br />

was also gifted as tribute from foreign peoples.<br />

blue or green enamel. The secret of “Egyptian faience” had also<br />

Jewellery in ancient Egypt served as a way to express one’s<br />

been discovered, a paste made of pulverized quartz covered<br />

identity, social status, and beliefs. They were also believed to<br />

Silver was also commonly used. Until the Middle Kingdom, silver<br />

with a glaze that copper compounds coloured in blue or green.<br />

have protective and magical powers and were often worn for<br />

was in fact more highly valued than gold. The Treasure of Tod,<br />

It was a paste that could be modelled or molded to obtain vari-<br />

specific purposes such as health, fertility, and good luck.<br />

found in 1936, is the most important discovery of silverware ever<br />

ous elements such as beads, rings, figurines, and inlay pieces.<br />

Jewellery of the most diverse materials can be found from that<br />

made in Egypt (probably of Greek origin). Silver was called «hedj»<br />

time, with the most valuable one being gold, which was considered<br />

“The flesh and skin of the Gods” (Book of Heavenly Cow).<br />

and it was considered a variety of gold.<br />