A new Flemish economic mission will head to Saudi Arabia in March, despite Prime Minister Geert Bourgeois’ (N-VA) earlier statements, De Standaard and Het Nieuwsblad wrote Thursday. The business trip is organized by the regional agency of Flanders Investment and Trade (FIT).
In the past, the N-VA repeatedly denounced violations of human rights in Saudi Arabia, deploring, among other things, this country’s election to the UN Women’s Rights Committee in 2017. At the time, Geert Bourgeois had notably announced in Parliament that Flanders would no longer organise any economic missions in that State, as long as the situation did not evolve favourably.
Despite these previous statements, Mr. Bourgeois believes today that this trade mission is not a problem. “It is FIT’s autonomous decision to organise the mission at the request of the companies. In that sense, the Minister-President is not politically involved, and is not therefore inconsistent,” his spokesperson said. The latter emphasises the necessity to distinguish economic missions organised by FIT from those that are government-organised.
Although it has the right to do so, the Flemish Government does not intend to stop FIT’s initiative. “It concerns areas that commercialise harmless products,” the Prime Minister’s spokesperson further stated. “As long as there is no general ban in Belgium, Europe, or the United Nations, and we are not exporting weapons, there is no problem,” the head of the Mohsin Abbas mission stressed for his part.
Even so, opposition parties Groen and sp.a still ask questions.