Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Sophie Wilmès made a bilateral visit to Spain on Wednesday 2 June. In 2021, Belgium and Spain are celebrating the centenary of their respective embassies in Madrid and Brussels. “I am convinced that this momentum will give new impetus to our bilateral relations and further strengthen them,” said Sophie Wilmès.

The mission began with a visit to the first (and only) proton therapy centre in Spain, a site belonging to the private Spanish group Quirónsalud in Pozuelo de Alarcón. Every year, dozens of cancer patients (mainly young children) are treated with machines and technology supplied by the Belgian company IBA, the world leader in proton therapy.

The Minister then held a working lunch with five Belgian entrepreneurs who are very active in the country. These entrepreneurs (specialising in the digital sector, renewable energy and education, among other fields) shared their analysis of the upcoming economic recovery from the health crisis and how the recovery policy can benefit the younger generation and SMEs.

Later in the afternoon, the Deputy Prime Minister was hosted by the Speaker of the Spanish House of Commons, Ms Meritxell Batet, to discuss our cooperation in the management of the pandemic, the Conference on the Future of Europe and, more generally, the political situation in Spain. Ms Batet confirmed the Spanish Federal Parliament’s desire to maintain greater contact and dialogue with the House of Representatives.

The Deputy Prime Minister then met with her counterpart, Ms Arancha González Laya, Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs. A memorandum of understanding was signed at the opening of the meeting. Sophie Wilmès said, “This memorandum of understanding is a clear commitment that Belgium and Spain will consult regularly on bilateral, European and multilateral issues at different levels and work together to tackle global challenges.”

The bilateral meeting and the working session that followed addressed various bilateral and international issues, including economic and trade relations between our countries; our close cooperation in international forums; how Belgium and Spain view the tripartite presidency of the EU Council (2023/2024); the Conference on the Future of Europe; respect for the rule of law around the world; European migration policy; the state of gender equality; the EU’s trade policy – including the free trade agreement with the Mercosur countries; and the situation in various parts of the world, especially the Middle East, Latin America and Belarus. Lastly, the future of NATO and the global pandemic were also points of attention for both ministers.

It should be noted that the Deputy Prime Minister also proposed to her counterpart that a future edition of the Europalia cultural festival be organised on the theme of Spain.